We've been getting this question a lot recently and rightfully so. Given all the press coverage of the potential dangers of a grain free diet, a lot of people have been asking whether or not a raw food diet is the same thing as grain free diet as they weigh the idea of moving to a raw food diet for their dog.
The short answer is that no, a raw food diet is not the same thing as a "grain-free diet." They are two fundamentally different things, and we'll outline the contrasts across the two below.
What is a "grain-free diet" for dogs?
A grain free diet is typically a kibble (though not always a kibble) that is high in alternative starches like potatoes, pea flour and lentils. A grain free diet is still high in carbohydrates and starches, just like traditional kibble, but instead of including wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye or soy, grain free kibbles use potatoes, lentils and pea flour. And lots of them.
Cardiologists are investigating a potential link between pea flour and DCM, a condition where the heart muscles become weak and leads to a loss of ability to contract and pump blood normally throughout the body.
How is a raw food diet different?
A raw food diet is an entirely different diet from a grain free diet. A raw food diet doesn't contain pea flour, potatoes or artifical starches. A raw food diet is high in protein, moderate in fat and has minimal amounts of carbohydrates mostly from fruits and vegetables. The actual composition of a raw diet is roughly:
- 80% Muscle meat
- 5% Raw meaty bones
- 10% Organ meat
- 5% Vegetables and fruits
- Supplements (such as fish oils for omega-3s, etc. if your dog needs it)
Raw food diets are not linked to DCM and have a wide array of health benefits.
Until research conclusively rules out the link between grain free diets and DCM, it's likely worthwhile to read the nutrition panels on kibble to filter out ingredients such as pea flour.