Vegetarian, vegan, organic, ketogenic, raw, lactose-free, gluten-free and, for some time, even without wheat: these are just some of the special diets that pet food manufacturers have launched in recent years. And consumers, or certainly the human buyers, seem to appreciate, given that the value of the “without” food market for the four-legged animals between 2007 and 2017 has grown from 16 to 29 billion dollars.
But are we sure that these special foods (in the ingredients and also in the price) are healthier and better than the traditional ones for our furry friends?
Turning the spotlight on the latest born of dog and cat diets, the one without wheat, is the New York Times, which in a recently published inquiry tries to shed some light.
Wheat does not hurt. The East Coast newspaper cites the conclusions of a 2016 study conducted at the Clinical Nutrition Center of Tufts University, according to which "there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate the dangerousness of wheat in the nutrition of dogs and cats".
But then why on the shelves of specialty stores were wheat-free foods in 2011 only 11% of the total while today, at least in the United States, they are 44%?
Healthy, but for him. According to the NYT, consumers have a distorted concept of what "healthy food" means for a pet and think that foods without wheat can help reduce the risk of allergies. However, it should be emphasized that food allergies in dogs and cats are very rare and in most cases are triggered by animal proteins such as chicken or beef. In short, the article concludes, unless you have been advised by your veterinarian, do not force your friend on a totally wheat-free diet.
Better with … The risk, in addition to throwing money away, is compromising the health of your pets. Last July, the Food & Drug Administration published a study that linked wheat-free diets to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy, a deadly disease that leads to an enlarged heart and is unable to pump the heart blood.
It is an inherited disease that affects some well-identified breeds, for example the Doberman. But when it began to manifest itself in typically immune breeds like the golden retriever, it was discovered that it mainly affected animals subjected to grain-free diets. Although there is still no clear cause-effect correlation, the results of the study are pushing many US veterinarians to advise against this type of food unless absolutely necessary.
Lentils in Fido? Better not . According to the findings of the FDA, in these special foods the grain is replaced with lentils or other legumes: these contain high amounts of oligosaccharides, soluble fibers that ferment in the colon and reduce its ability to absorb taurine, an essential amino acid for heart health of the dog.
And the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association confirms the FDA conclusions.
In a paper published in December, the official organ of the stars and stripes veterinarians states that “In the pet food sector, marketing has surpassed science, pushing owners towards food choices that are not always the best for their four-legged friend ".