MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With a growing number of people looking for ways to live a healthier lifestyle, grain-free pet food has lately been perceived as a better-for-your pet alternative. Experts at the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine disagree.

“There’s a lot of misnomers out there as far as why grain-free is better for your pets,” said veterinary technician Cassie Panning. “There are no scientific studies that show that grain-free has any health advantage for our dogs and cats.”

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Prices for boutique food can range from $20-$80 for the same amount of food. The grain-free blends tend to be more expensive, more caloric and protein-dense.

“There’s ongoing research, and it’s one of those trends that came out [where] people wanted to look for something that they thought was more hypoallergenic for their dog,” said Panning. “Grain allergies are actually extremely rare in the dog. Food allergies in general are rare [and] when you look at grains, they’re even more rare.”

A study by Veterinary Dermatology evaluated 278 dogs with food allergies to find the problem ingredient. The vast majority were either beef-or dairy-related. Only seven of those cases were tied to corn.

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More important than the ingredients, Panning says, is the overall nutrition and the company behind the claims. She says trusted veterinarians are a great source of information in finding a credible company back with credentials.

“Somebody who’s gone above and beyond, and studied nutrition in the dog and cat are who we prefer formulating the foods,” said Panning. “We also look for companies that actually own their own manufacturing plants versus just shipping their recipe off to another plant, where it’s manufactured with multiple other brands of dog food and just put in different bags, shipped to a different location.”

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has a list of guidelines, available here.

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