Health

Should Weimaraners Eat Grain-Free Food?


No, your Weimaraner shouldn’t eat grain-free food unless they have grain allergy. Grain-free food has no benefits over regular dog food and in some cases might lead to heart problems.

Unfortunately, many human trends in food tend to translate into pet food purchasing habits. Things like “organic” or “GMO-free” or “grain-free”. The last one mentioned has gained popularity over the last few years, the sales of grain-free food have increased by 221% from 2012 to 2016 in the US.

Grains are not bad for dogs. In the last few years corn has been considered a low quality “filler” when in fact it’s a nutritious and affordable source of carbohydrates.

I know that pet owners want the best for their fluffy companions but many have fallen for the marketing ploys and terms such as “all-natural” or even “human grade”. If it’s all natural and is good for humans, it must be good for my dog, right?

Same with terms like “holistic” and “premium”, these terms don’t really mean anything. It’s just a marketing ploy to make you buy. These terms have not been regulated for pet food. While ‘organic’ is an established and regulated term for humans, this term hasn’t been regulated for pet food.

Should weimaraners eat grain-free food

Why Is Grain-Free Food Not Good For Dogs?

There is no scientific reason for a healthy dog to be on a grain-free diet. Less than 1% of pets actually suffer from grain allergy. Most allergies are connected to the protein source rather than grain but bear in mind allergies are linked to the immune system, not to one cause.

Generally, try to avoid dog food which has exotic meats, legumes (peas, lentils, etc.) and potatoes as main ingredients (they are the highest on the list of ingredients).

Does Grain-free Dog Food Cause DCM?

Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM for short) is a nightmare for many dog owners. DCM can lead to congestive heart failure and sudden cardiac death. DCM is a disease that affects the heart muscle, the heart gets enlarged and it’s harder to pump blood. The valves may leak and fluid might build up in the dog’s chest and/or abdomen, causing congestive heart failure.

The cause for DCM isn’t yet 100% known but scientists know that some breeds are more prone to developing DCM than others. However, in the recent years vets have seen an increased amount of other breeds of dogs with DCM.

DCM linked to pet food was first associated in late 1980s with cats. Since then taurine has been supplemented in cat’s food and as a result, DCM in cats is now uncommon.

Taurine Deficiency

The research for nutrition-based DCM is still ongoing. In one study, 23 out of 24 golden retrievers were diagnosed with DCM on a grain-free and/or legume-rich diet, which caused taurine deficiency. Taurine is an aminoacid synthetized in the liver and central nervous system.

In the study, supplementing taurine improved the dog’s condition and in some cases also reversed their DCM. However, bear in mind that taurine deficiency might not be the only cause of nutrition-based DCM, as there are cases of DCM diagnoses with no taurine deficiency.

Unfortunately, manufacturers aren’t required to put in extra taurine or even test for its levels in their food.

A lot of grain-free food replaces grains with legumes such as peas, lentils and other legume seeds, and also potatoes/sweet potatoes. Legumes are rich in fibre and research has found that certain fibre sources can cause taurine depletion.

As for animal protein sources, animal muscle tissue has the highest amount of taurine. However, it’s found that for example rabbit meat is naturally low in taurine.

The cause and effect of taurine deficiency was not proven but the correlation is concerning to many scientists.

What Is a Boutique Dog Food?

Boutique dog food (or pet food, BEG for short) is short for ’boutique, exotic and grain-free’ food. Usually these types of food include exotic protein sources like alligator, ostrich, bison, duck, kangaroo and similar. Grains are swapped for peas, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes and potatoes/sweet potatoes. Boutique dog food is usually manufactured by smaller companies which might have not done any of their own scientific research.

Are Vets Paid To Promote Pet Food?

Absolutely not. I’m not sure where the myth originated, but veterinarians are not paid to promote any pet food. They do not get kickbacks from promoting certain brands. They don’t get free food for their own pets or any kind of compensation.

Vets Don’t Have Nutrition Education Myth

Vets are taught pet nutrition at school. Depending on the school, it’s usually 3-4 hours per week for at least one semester. They are taught by boarded experts in the nutritional field. These experts are paid by the school and not a pet food company.

Why Do Vets Recommend Certain Pet Food Brands Then?

If your vet recommends a certain brand, it means that the brand is scientifically backed and follows WSAVA guidelines. Vets want the best for you and your dog and in their experience the recommended brand is tested and proven to be the best. It’s not about the money.

raw food bowl

What Should a Weimaraner Eat?

Weimaraners (or any dogs, really), should stick to the proven and tested quality food with regular ingredients like chicken, beef, salmon and grains such as corn, wheat and rice.

All the vets that I’ve spoken to recommend following the WSAVA guidelines for choosing the best pet food.

The pet food manufacturer should:

  • employ a board certified nutritionist (either American CVN or European CVCN) or PhD graduate in Animal Nutrition
  • have a nutritionist who formulates the diet
  • should own 100% of the places the pet food is manufactured (if they don’t, there’s a risk of poor quality control)

If you don’t want to deal with feeding raw (B.A.R.F) diet, here are the top dog food brands that are recommended by vets and other Weimaraner owners (in no particular order):

  • Purina Pro Plan
  • Hill’s
  • Royal Canin
  • Iams
  • Eukanuba

If your dog has allergies or other digestive problems, consult the best food with your vet.

Conclusion

Weimaraners shouldn’t eat grain-free diet. In case of grain allergies, consult with your regular vet.

If you want to feed dry food, choose a proven, tested and well-researched brands like Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s, Royal Canin, Iams or Eukanuba.

Grain-free boutique dog food might lead to health problems in the future, including dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which can lead to congestive heart failure.

Sources

  • Kaplan, Joanna L., et al. “Taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy in golden retrievers fed commercial diets.” PloS one 13.12 (2018): e0209112. (link)
  • Freeman, Lisa M., et al. “Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know?.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 253.11 (2018): 1390-1394 (link)
  • Lisa M. Freeman, “Diet-Associated DCM: Research Update” Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tuft University (September 2021) (link)
  • “Q&As: FDA’s Work on Potential Causes of Non-Hereditary DCM in Dogs” (2021), (link)
  • Banton, Sydney, et al. “Grains on the brain: A survey of dog owner purchasing habits related to grain-free dry dog foods.” PloS one 16.5 (2021): e0250806. (link)


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