Translate This Blog

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Corn In Food....No, It's Not Bad

I'll be very surprised if I don't start a bit of a firestorm with this topic, as it's a pretty heated one among dog and cat owners.  So let's get to it!

Recently I had a client whose one year old cat developed a urinary blockage.  They brought him in quickly and he was unblocked, hospitalized, and recovered without any problems.  To prevent further events like this (it is life-threatening and expensive to treat) I recommended a veterinary-only urinary diet.  One of the pair was really hesitant to do so because the food contained corn and she had been under the impression that this was a bad thing.  Eventually I convinced her that the urinary food was the best thing for her pet, but it took some work.  Like many pet owners she has some misconceptions about corn.  I want to spend a little time busting some myths about corn in dog and cat food. 

Myth #1:  Corn Is Filler
You've probably heard this one a lot and it's completely untrue.  "Fillers" have no nutritional value and are there to simply make up bulk in food.  Pet food companies have decades of research to determine the ingredients, and don't put anything in the food that they don't really need to.  Some ingredients may not be as high quality as others, but few are ever "filler".  Take corn for example.  A kernel is about 80% carbohydrates, which are a great source of energy.  This portion of corn is over 95% digestible and is not wasted.  To further improve quality, food companies don't use whole kernels.  Instead they use corn starch which is processed to the point of reaching up to 99.5% purity for carbohydrates.  Corn is also high in carotenoids, which are involved in aiding vision, skin health, bone and muscle growth, and act as antioxidants.  Filler?  I don't think so.

Myth #2:  Corn Is Poor Protein
When most people think of corn they think of the kernels we eat and how they can come out the end opposite the mouth and still appear intact.  These kernels indeed have limited nutritional value.  However, in pet foods on specific forms of processed corn are used, such as corn gluten meal.  This corn product is basically purified protein which has been separated from the other parts of the kernel (such as the hull).  Corn gluten is highly digestible, has a great amino acid profile, and is considered to be similar in quality to fish meal.    While I certainly don't think that corn should be the only source of protein, it does make an excellent compliment to other protein in the diet.

Myth #4:  Corn Causes Food Allergies
While food allergies do occur in pets and there are several ingredients commonly known to cause an allergy in sensitive animals, corn is not one of them.  Overall only about 3% of dogs and cats have food-related allergies.  Of the pets who have a confirmed food allergy, only about 1.5% of them will react to corn.  Putting it another way, 98.5% of pets with food allergies don't have a problem with corn.  And these are the ones with food hypersensitivites!  Corn is actually one of the ingredients least likely to cause a reaction.  Wheat, beef and chicken are much more likely to be allergens, yet we don't see people trying to avoid these ingredients in an average pet.

Myth #4:  Since Corn Isn't Eaten By Wild Dogs And Cats It Shouldn't Be In Their food
If you look at it a certain way, this myth actually has a kernel of truth (*rimshot*).  The wild ancscestors and cousins of our pet dogs and cats don't typically eat plant material and the type corn in human and pet diets isn't found in the wild.  However, remember that wild carnivores eat herbivores and the prey eat plant material.  When a wolf or wild cat catches prey it eats the entire thing, including the digestive tract and its contents.  So predators actually do eat plant material.  The difference is that these plants are partially digested and found in the stomach and intestines.  Besides, if we eliminated everything that a dog or cat wouldn't eat in the wild we'd eliminate virtually every pet food.  Instead we'd be feeding cats whole mice and birds, and dogs would be allowed to dine on deer carcases and rodents.

Reading the ingredient label on pet food bags isn't as simple as it may seem and there is a lot of misinformation that is perpetuated by some breeders, pet owners, and even food companies (to convince people that their competitors are bad).  I'll talk about some of the other hints on pet foods at a later date, but for now you can be assured that corn isn't something you have to avoid in the foods.

72 comments:

  1. Is this like one of those commercials that were on a while back stating that high fructose corn syrup is a good thing?

    Sorry, I totally disagree with your analysis. My house has been grain-free for seven years now. I'm never going back to dog food with corn, wheat, barley or any other grain. My dogs have fabulous coats, stay trim & healthy and don't smell funky like many dogs I know on cheap, corn-filled diets.

    And we can't forget what may be most important. The amount my dogs poo is half that of dogs who eat, say, Science Diet or Purina.

    I'd feed a raw diet ideally, but I can't swing it with the current crew, so I make sure they get the next best thing and mix in fresh foods regularly. I also rotate dog food brands & proteins with every bag to make sure we cover the full nutritional spectrum and avoid hypersensitivity allergies that can devop when people feed the same thing over and over.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree. I also feel that the statistics about allergies are skewed, as people may either not report them or may be completely unaware of them. A dull coat or lack of energy could be caused by an issue with a specific food, but the owner may not show concern because the dog has always been that way.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, but I'd agree with the veterinarian. Huzzah for you and your grain-free household... My cats adore corn, and they're all beautiful and perfectly healthy.

      Delete
    3. A statement that your cats, who are obligate carnivores, "adore corn" is simply the stupidest thing that I have ever read on the web. And it says a lot about a "veterinarian" who doesn't remark on that...

      Delete
    4. If that's the stupidest thing you've seen on the web, you must not get around much. And as far as me not remarking on that, I don't reply to every single comment that is made on my blog. Most of the time I just allow the comments to stand on their own.

      Delete
    5. @Peter. Your response is another presumptuous 'contribution' regularly seen on the web. Well done.
      Meanwhile our cats, those "obligate carnivores", will seize a cob and happily eat every kernel. Is that better for you? "Happily" rather than "adore"?
      Perhaps lay off the meat...

      Delete
    6. In regards to "Myth #1" Corn is Not a Filler:
      The problem I have with your definition is that, in many cases, the animal in question doesn't *need* all those carbohydrates that they get from corn. They would be better served getting carbs from a better food ingredient instead.
      In fact, I seem to remember pretty much the same "argument" proposed back in the late 70s when our barn owner moved our horses from crimped oats to straight cracked corn. It was a long time ago, but, wow, almost word for word.

      The point I'm trying to make is that owners just don't know when to stop feeding their animals and a lot of dogs and cats are obese. IMO, corn is not the answer for them. They need less carbs and more proteins, do they not? Also, isn't a high carb diet a paved pathway for diabetes?

      This is not criticism, I'm asking :)

      Delete
    7. That's a good question, Eileen. For nutritional quality you get good proteins and vitamins from corn gluten and other parts of corn, so it definitely has nutritional benefits. I've written about that specifically in other posts.

      We do know that a lower carb higher protein diet does help maintain lean muscle weight in cats, but it hasn't been studied in dogs. While a good thought, carbohydrates and corn does not have to equal high calories. In fact, there are plenty of "grain-free, filler-free, all-natural" diets on the market that have a higher caloric density than ones with corn and grains. Some of these foods require smaller feeding sizes, which owners typically don't do.

      I see overweight and obese cats and dogs every single day. Most commonly the problem is that people are simply giving too much food and too many treats, combined with too little exercise. That happens regardless of the brand of food or ingredients, and I've seen it happen even with "good" foods. If someone is unlikely to reduce food intake or increase activity it makes it harder to fix a weight problem merely by changing over-the-counter diets.

      Delete
  2. I don't have a problem with grains, and even corn as a PART of the makeup of dog kibble. But when companies use grain, primarily corn, as a (or THE) primary source of protein in kibble that's a big red flag for me. Corn, any grain, should not be in the first 5, much less the first 3, ingredients in kibble...if it is, then I believe the company is using it as cheap primary protein source. Dogs are carnivores...their primary protein source should be a meat, not a grain.

    I believe the reason kibble company makers use grain, primarily corn, in this way is because it's cheap, not because it's good for your dog.

    In my opinion, Science Diet uses corn in their prescription foods is for 2 reasons...1) it's cheap (and therefore uniformly available) as a base for all their diets that are primarily designed to affect one or another organ function, 2) it's not as common of an allergen as other grain, or even protein, sources can be.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually dogs are NOT carnivores...they are omnivores. http://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/carnivore-or-omnivore-mature-adult-dog.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Canines are carnivores, however they can have an omnivore diet. For example, wild coyotes will eat raw melons (watermelons, squashes, etc) and corn (in the milk stage) when they find them in gardens or in agriculture areas. So will bears. But both are still classified as carnivores. They are just not obligate carnivores like felines are.

      Delete
    2. Unfortunately the link you provided can be pulled apart.

      Wolves do not eat the stomach content of large prey according to a leading expert on wolves. L. David Mech's 2003 book Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.

      Cows, deer etc are known to eat small animals, there's a youtube video of a cow chasing and eating chickens.. Does that mean cows are now suddenly omnivores and we should feed them meat. Thought we tried that and ended up with BSE.

      How long does a panda actually have to eat for as the nutritional source when it comes down to it is not ideally suited?

      Taurine.. there's been occasions where dogs, especially Golden Retrievers I believe haven't been able to produce enough taurine naturally. They are not alone.

      Compare a bear or badger's teeth and the molars. They are designed to process plants, not a dogs teeth.

      Delete
  4. I knew this would get people going! ;)

    Karissa, I am completely against raw food diets, as are most veterinarians and the large majority of nutritional specialists. However, that's a discussion I've had before and won't repeat here. Search through my archives and you'll find some of my comments. I also disagree that switching foods frequently is a good thing. This has the potential of causing other problems, and allergies are not the fault of a brand, but rather a sensitivity to a particular protein or carbohydrate source. Lastly, to Zoe, a dull coat is not a sign of an allergy. Yes, this can be related to the food, but is more about the nutrients and not about a "reaction".

    I agree that corn should not be the primary source of protein, even though it is a good one. But did you realize that the first ingredients listed may not be the ones that are the highest percentage? I'll talk about that in another blog entry so look for that. The right kind of grain can actually be a great source of protein. And can be readily used by a dog's body.

    Yes, many pet food companies do use cheaper ingredients. If not, then many pet foods would be out of the price range of many owners. The better companies use better ingredients and this comes out as more expensive foods. I often tell clients that with pet food like most things in life, you get what you pay for. But a single less expensive ingredient doesn't always mean it's bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the post and the discussion :)

      I agree that a single less expensive ingredient doesn't make a food bad and that the ingredient list isn't necessary listing the highest percent of what's in the diet. But if they list a grain in the first few I still don't like that the company is using it as a primary source of protein. Not for my current dogs at least. For other dogs, that might be just what they need, especially if they have sensitivities to other protein sources.

      I also agree that constantly switching foods can lead to troubles with some dogs, but certainly not for all. Every dog is different and I say go with what is working for them. Of course trouble can stem from some people thinking that what they are doing IS working, when to others eyes it's clearly not. For example, I just ended up with a JRT whose former owners thought she was in perfect health. But when I first saw her all I could see was symptoms of food allergies, or at least sensitivity to a food. They had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned it. But now 6 week later, all her itchiness and runny stools are totally gone with a diet change alone. And you'll love this...they were already feeding her a corn free diet :)

      I'm not 100% sold on raw diets because I think getting it truly right is far harder than many people believe AND it isn't right for all dogs. Humans can do a raw food diet too, but should everyone eat that way? No.

      Delete
    2. speaking as someone who works in a pet shop and has done a number of courses on pet food and what is better for them you statements are incorrect. Firstly if a dog for example has always had regularly changing food as long as the food is of good standard then it is perfectly fine for them. Also maize isn't that bad but it shouldn't be the main source of protein in a dogs food, a responsibly sourced meat should be, preferably one that is veterinary approved and where the meat is the good parts and not "derivatives". Last but notherwise least I don't know where you are from but in England most vets recommended raw food diet over anything else.

      Delete
    3. Mersh, I'm in the US, and here even the American Veterinary Medical Association has come out against raw diets. I have yet to see any reliable, unbiased research that shows raw food as superior to processed, and there is absolutely data to show it is riskier.

      What do you consider "good parts" and what do you consider "derivatives"? Organ meat is extremely valuable nutrition, yet by definition this is part of by-products. Muscle meat is nutritionally the same, whether it is tongue, thigh, abdomen, or stomach. Is thigh meat a "good part" and tongue not?

      I would also recommend looking at a more recent post I did and see if your courses and English vets agree or disagree with the large amount of international data: http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.com/2016/09/nutritional-research-corn-in-pet-foods.html

      Delete
    4. The faact that the AMVA has come out against raw diets does not mean a whole lot. The AMA over the years has come against a whole lot of dietary advice that has since been proven wrong. The problem with the AMA and with the AMVA, is that much of what the research they are paying attention is sponsored by big Pharm in the case of the AMA, and in the case of the AMVA the pet food companies. The AMVA is about 20 years behind the times in terms of nutrition as is the AMA.

      Delete
    5. Lisa, search for some of my more recent posts on this topic. You're definitely wrong about the AVMA being 20 years behind in nutrition. Current nutritional specialists support their position and I challenge you to find someone with equal qualifications who disagrees.

      Delete
  5. lol to the link above -- of COURSE Hill's would push for dogs to eat a "balanced diet" chock full of corn and other grains, because they have one of the highest corn contents on the market!

    I'd love to know what "other problems" stem from switching food frequently. My dogs rarely have upset stomachs, which comes in handy considering the amount we travel for our agility schedule. I want dogs who are able to adapt and don't get the runs because their systems go on overload from the slightest change. No brand is perfect and no two brands have exactly the same ingredients (minerals and vitamins, specifically), so by switching often I make sure my dogs are covered by the spectrum and don't overload in one mineral while becoming deficient in another.

    I feel that most veterinarians are against raw diets because either A) they don't know enough about it or B) they see clients who don't know enough about it and attempt to feed their dog a diet consisting of ground beef and chicken breasts, which is not nutritionally adequate. There are many good resources out there for those interested in learning how to feed their dogs properly. I belong to a Yahoo Group titled K9Nutrition and it's been very educational.

    Nobody will ever convince me that there is ANY food on the market that contains corn that is worth feeding my dogs. No, the brands I feed aren't "cheap" (ie: you won't find them at Walmart), but it pays off in the health of my dogs.

    The ingredients are listed on the bag in order of weight. So yes, with some products it can be deceiving -- for example, "chicken" is full of water weight, so if the ingredients list, "Chicken, corn" then you are buying a food with a low quality protein source. That is why people need to be educated about dog food, the ingredients and what they mean.

    I find it remarkably coincidental that so many veterinarians out there sing the tune of this post, while at the same time Hills throws large amounts of money at vet schools and clinics...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karissa, it sounds like you really care about your dogs, and about trying to keep them in the best possible health. I think that's a great thing, whether or not I agree with you on how you do it. I wish all pet owners would be that passionate about trying to find the best diet for their animals. While I would be perfectly willing to feed my own animals a diet with corn ingredients, I would never tell you that you should feed your dogs one if you don't like those diets.

      However, you've made some unfounded and unfair insinuations about the veterinary profession. Most veterinarians are against raw diets because of concerns about contamination with various pathogens. It IS a potential risk - there are studies on it, and there have been a number of raw pet food recalls due to salmonella contamination; I can link them if you would like me to share.

      Raw food seems to be more 'natural,' but then, technically it would be 'natural' for humans to eat raw meat as well. However, we've developed to a point where we know to cook our food, because it's better for us. It's better for our dogs as well for all the same reasons.

      Back to corn and Hills and your concerns over bias in the veterinary profession: In many veterinary schools right now (such as the one that I am attending), industry representatives such as Hills reps are prohibited from providing money or gifts to veterinary students. This is meant to prevent bias. In addition, we receive product information from many competing manufacturers. While in veterinary school we are exposed to all kinds of viewpoints, in my nutrition courses we discussed raw food diets in depth along with many other options. We are asked to critically think about the pros and cons of any diet we propose to feed an animal.

      Delete
    2. I would love to see some of that money all these people claim Hills just throws at us. It's funny how none of the people making this claim are actually veterinary professionals. My point..... You don't know what your talking about and everyone in the vet clinic field knows it. Silly.

      Delete
  6. I've actually looked into raw food diets quite a bit, including reading resources from the proponents of them. I have seen nothing that convinces me that they are the best diet for pets. And the proponents of raw diets are going against the huge majority of nutritional specialists. I realize that there is no way that I'm going to convince you that they are not a good idea and you'll think I'm horrible for contradicting you. But I've looked at this issue from both sides and made my decision based on evidence.

    I'm also not a big supporter of Hill's. I have nothing against them, but I tend to prefer other foods to theirs. I don't even recommend their diets over other veterinary diets. Yes, they have large influence in vet schools, something that irritates me also. But that doesn't mean that we vets can't be independent thinkers, and I don't think there is any way you can be truthful in saying that most vets are in Hill's back pocket. Perhaps most veterinarians are in agreement because that's what the actual science points to. And perhaps the vast majority of nutritional specialists agree on this because the science supports their opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is an awesome post! I don't know how many times I have to explain this to my clients. Unfortunately, by the time they reach me, they have self-diagnosed their pet with food allergies and have switched the food so many times that their pet comes in with pancreatitis, SIBO, etc. The other sad part about it is that most of the time it is flea allergies, environmental allergies, endocrine disorders...while I have been able to get to the bottom of it, many times the pets have suffered for weeks since the internet, breeder, or the person that has owned pets for 40 years told them it was because of the food..most likely the corn. It is very frustrating when people believe what they read online versus reading the articles or talking to the experts in the nutrition field. Out of all the skin issues I have seen (which I see quite a lot because of where I live) I only have 3-5 pets that have a true food allergy. We had a dog food representative (I won't say which one) but they talked about how corn has a bad reputation while it is an excellent source of protein. He said that they started their lines of "organic, grain-free, limited ingredients " because they are trying to play on the fears and emotions of the general public. Needless to say, that showed a lot to my staff about the importance of research versus what people just say online. It is sad to see many of these pet foods that are praised for being grain-free or organic, unfortunately don't put the money in the food to ensure the safety of the pets and many times they get recalled. So thank you for posting this blog, we need to have more blogs like this...I would say articles, but the research articles are already there. ;)
    -The independent thinker veterinarian

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've never been afraid of corn in food. I wouldn't want it as the main protein source, but I don't mind some. I do try to avoid wheat, as I have a breed that is prone to a specific kind of gluten sensitivity, but that's my only concern. There are so many fads now (like the food switching) pushed by they dog food industry. And as said above, they push grain-free foods etc to pander to people's ideas and worries, not because it's really better. And I don't blame them, they're in business to make money.
    I wonder, with some of these super high protein grain free foods, if that might stress the kideys over time.
    As far as raw feeding, as well as the nutritional balance issue, that can be dangerous. I had someone a while ago absolutely blast me becaue I said it wasn't safe, of course they claimed I didn't know what I was talking about. Then, a year later, I see them "begging" on the internet for people to donate for vet expenses for a dog who has - guess what - intestinal blockage from bones. Yet, they still say raw feeding is safe - oh, the bone was big, he didn't chew it well enough, etc. etc. Yeah, that's the point, why it isn't safe. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How do you figure the "fad" of switching foods frequently could possibly be pushed by the dog food industry? What brand out there would ever suggest switching to another brand for a while before coming back to theirs? Doesn't seem like that's where the money-making would be. I don't switch foods because it's a fad; I switch foods because it's best for my dogs.

      As to the stress on the kidneys -- I have a 9 year old, a 5 year old and a 3 year old, all on "high protein, grain free" diets. The younger two have been on this routine their entire lives. The eldest for the last 7 years. Yeah, I'm not going to worry.... My dogs are athletes. They use the fuel I put into their bodies.

      Dogs can choke and/or bloat on kibble diets. Accidents happen.

      Delete
    2. I don't remember the brands (not one I feed) but what some companies are doing now are coming out with different variations of their food, each with a different protein source. And then, recommending that you rotate foods - within their line of course.
      The fact that your dogs are doing fine is great, but doesn't prove anything at all. Many years ago, before I knew anything, I fed my dog kibbles and bits. He did fine too. But that doesn't prove anything either.
      It's interesting, people who believe in raw feeding say that dogs choke on kibble. I don't believe I have ever heard of an actual incident of that, nor have the vets I know. Also, the largest bloat studies done showed no relation of bloating to kibble with one exception - if the kibble contained citric acid AND you moistened it before feeding, there was some increase in the incidence of bloat. But without those two conditions together, there was no increased incidence of bloat with feeding kibble.

      Delete
  9. Love your post. I hate that so many owners assume that they can make better choices for their pets then the trained nutritionalists and veterinarians developing pet foods. And I don't believe that the high end brands are making decisions based on the cost of ingredients, because they are marketing to an audience willing to pay $80 for a bag of dog food.
    However, I think you will have a difficult time making your case, because as well all know, breeders know much more than veterinarians, and they are all saying that "XYZ breed has a known allergy to corn" (or grains). (sarcasm, don't have a melt down)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here's a challenge to those who are against corn....show me studies and data (not opinions) that show corn as inferior or harmful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well here is the first thing that popped up in Google:

      http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-industry-exposed/dog-food-corn/

      That article specifically points out the nutritional deficiencies of corn.

      And if you do a search on "scientific study why corn is bad" you get a whole slew of articles on the subject of genetically modified corn causing cancer -- which is a whole 'nother ball of wax.

      Delete
    2. Seriously. You use Dog Food Advisor. I read a recommendation they made the other day on an organic dog food which had made a number of dog seriously ill. It took one of their readers to actually research the product only to find that the majority of their ingredients came from China. You gotta do better then that. Just read their disclaimer at the bottom of their articles to know that they do not stand behind any of their authors as to accuracy and authenticity of what they are writing

      Delete
    3. Show studies that "proves" corn is beneficial or valuable biologically in preference to other carbohydrates and contradicts the common-sense observation that it is used as part of "least cost mix" protocols...

      Delete
    4. Peter, look at another post I wrote, where I quote specific data on digestibility and bioavailability studies: http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.com/2015/06/read-carefullycorn-isnt-bad-and-vets.html.

      If you want to see the references for the specific studies, the text is Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition, Hand et al, 2010. Get a copy of it and look over the data. I think you'll be surprised. If you think that corn is a poor quality ingredient, please show comparable scientific studies (not opinions...we're talking peer-reviewed research here) that support your viewpoint.

      Delete
    5. There is a difference between "clinical nutrition" and what is good. Modern pet foods are often concocted in the laboratory and nutritional values are met in often dubious ways. Just discuss how "protein" is measured and reflect on the melamine crisis that killed hundreds if not thousands of animals in 2007 and destroyed families. Lets be frank: corn is a preferred carbohydrate because it is effective as part of "least cost mix" protocols. If you want to argue that consumers won't pay for better quality, that may be valid. But to broadly defend corn as a good thing is pretty bad.

      Delete
    6. The premise of your challenge is false. Without doubt there would be no sponsorship for research that undermined the market value of what can be the foundation of modern pet food manufacture. Whereas there will always be funding that supports objectives of those who have a vested interest in products made with cereal grains. It may be fair to contend that corn is “digestible” and provides “energy” and has some value. Corn has energy… but less “energy value” than more costly alternatives (such as meat). These are the realities of “least cost mix” protocols that the pet food industry must pursue as a matter of policy. More importantly, there is difference between digestibility and bioavailability. Further, processed corn (which it must be to be digestible) has a high glycemic index, and high allergenic properties. And it is wrong to steer away from consideration of contaminants, fungus, insecticides, antifungal agents and mycotoxins that are accepted (and must be remediated) in low quality stored bulk feed grains that attract storage mites. The consumer perception of corn is shaped not by reality but by artwork on the bag of Beneful: but that isn’t what “dent” or “field corn” really looks like, is it? Global agribusiness conglomerates must defend the use of cheap grains like corn in pet foods, because these starchy carbohydrates are essential to the process of making dry “kibble” that has dominated the marketplace for decades, (and in which consumers play a role in creating demand). Of course, it may be fair to insist that corn has “nutritional value.” But it is also fair to insist that we can similarly develop “science” to defend sugar cookies, deep-fried doughnuts and pizza. We must remember that the medical community and the AMA had a long relationship defending the tobacco industry and even asserted that cigarettes could be “healthy.” Comon... remember the “independent" and "peer reviewed research” provided by the The Tobacco Industry Research Committee? In the end, it may be reasonable to insist that in a depressed state, you might consume ice cream direct from the carton as an entire “dinner” and not be harmed… but it would be wrong to defend it as a daily diet. Yet that is what consumers are being duped into with corn in pet food. It’s important to acknowledge that absent drenching corn in animal digests and palatants—a “scientific” process in itself—dogs and cats simply wouldn’t eat it.

      Delete
    7. I think you have some misunderstandings about food manufacturing. Several companies test their foods through food trials, where they don't just formulate the foods but test them before and after being fed to actual patients.

      I'm not denying that corn is often used because it is cheaper than some other ingredients. However, that doesn't contradict the scientific fact that properly processed corn can be as digestible and as good of a source of protein as many meat sources. If you don't believe me on this fact I can direct you to the latest veterinary nutrition text book which presents data and studies that support this statement. If you won't believe those studies, well, then there isn't any possibility of you listening to reason and science and changing your viewpoint.

      Delete
    8. As to your second comment, I can see that you believe in the "conspiracy theory" of pet nutrition. There absolutely is peer-reviewed data that supports corn as being a digestible and good source of protein. Where did I ever talk about it as an energy source? That's never been part of my position in this discussion. And processing making it more allergenic? I challenge you to give evidence that this is true, as corn is one of the least allergenic ingredients. Additionally, you are using a "straw man" argument with your comment about eating ice cream as dinner. Nobody is suggesting feeding corn as the sole ingredient. All pet foods are required to meet certain minimal nutritional requirements for a balanced diet, and the better food companies go beyond the minimum. This is quite different from a carton of ice cream, which has no requirement to be a balanced meal.

      It's obvious that you're convinced of your position and won't listen to actual data contrary to your viewpoint. I'm very willing to look at real data and science that would support what you are saying, but I haven't seen any yet.

      Delete
    9. You are in the unenviable position of defending what many manufacturers rely on to achieve "least cost mix" protocols, and further, what is relied upon as a major and even primary ingredient in many prescription foods sold by veterinary professionals.

      Yes... I am certain that you can indeed offer "scientific data" and "studies" to support the benefits of corn.

      This is not a "conspiracy theory" as you suggest: your challenge to "produce scientific research" is falsely premised. You can produce "scientific data" that plastic has "protein value" if you test for nitrogen. It's not a "straw man" argument at all... if corn is the main ingredient in a veterinary prescribed food, then it is fair to argue that the dog is consuming corn at every meal as his primary source of "nutrition."

      That is not "(refusing) to listen to actual data contrary to (my) viewpoint" at all. And your position is that corn is a "good source of protein" as you state above. You can "balance out" the poor ingredients with synthetic additives to achieve a nutritional "profile" that meets "scientific" standards. There are varying ways to "test" and "prove" something meets nutrional profiles that are considerably different from what a consumer might think. I understand that you can point to "veterinary textbooks" and a myriad of "studies" from numerous sponsors. You've said that over and over. We get it, OK? We get it. We get it. Please likewise acknowledge that there is motivation to sponsor these studies... to prop up an industry dependent upon it. And a profession that is dependent upon it. Of course there is likely to be great difficulty to "prove" and find "data" that contradicts what veterinary professionals may prescribe. You surely know that and so your reliance on code words of "reason and science" ring false.

      You ask: "...Where did I ever talk about it (corn) as an energy source? That's never been part of my position in this discussion." But that is precisely in your essay: "A kernel is about 80% carbohydrates, which are a great source of energy." Hello? That is what you wrote, above. I don't have a "misunderstanding about (pet) food manufacturing" as you suggest, and while you mention that "several companies test their foods through food trials..." you don't acknowledge the limitations of those so-called "food trials" at all and that while "several companies" may use them, it is just as common to not, and rely on "nutritonal profiles." That is part of how the "melamine crisis" of 2007 came to being.

      Delete
    10. @Peter: With all 'due' respect, it appears you're in the unenviable position of justifying your claim that "obligate carnivores" don't enjoy corn. Yes, enjoy. Go figure...

      Delete
    11. Enjoying something doesn't mean it's good for you ...

      Delete
    12. I will absolutely agree that just because a cat (or other animal) enjoys eating a given ingredient or food item it isn't automatically good for them. Many people enjoy smoking, but nobody can say that it is healthy. I love cheesecake and hamburgers, but I shouldn't be eating them often.

      Delete
    13. @Peter: Okay, I'll grant you the point on where I did talk about corn and energy levels. I'll admit that I didn't go back and review the words I had written 3 1/2 years ago, and at the time my mind was on protein. Valid criticism of my comment. Mea culpa.

      When I talk about some of these studies, I'm not only talking about analyzing the food to determine its nutrient profile. I'm also talking about digestibility studies that look at how well those ingredients are digested and utilized by the body. Your premise of plastic being tested for good protein value based on nitrogen is false, because protein is more than just nitrogen, and there are numerous compounds that are not protein yet have nitrogen. Also, if put to a digestibility analysis the plastic would completely fail.

      The veterinary industry isn't dependent on pet foods. In fact, they are often quite separate. And many people get their information from someone other than vets, especially vets with good nutritional knowledge. Additionally, the studies certainly don't "prop up" the industry. I don't sell any pet foods in my practice, and I don't get a cut of any food sales elsewhere or any kickbacks from food companies when I recommend a brand. So I have absolutely, positively no personal stake in which food is fed. My only interest is in the health and nutrition of the pet. I get no money or support from the food companies, especially the retail sections.

      So Peter, if you're going to wave a hand and say that all studies on animal nutrition are invalid and untrustworthy, how do we know anything at all? Which studies can we believe in and which must we discount because of conflict of interest? If we can't trust the majority of the scientific data (which support my comments and refute yours), then how do we make any conclusions at all and have any sort of consensus? No, science isn't perfect and knowledge changes over time. But we can't automatically discount it just because we disagree with it or someone has an opinion with no real facts to back it up.

      If you're disagreeing with what I am saying, you're disagreeing with the vast majority of nutritional specialists around the world. People who are far more knowledgeable on these topics than either you or I. Are you prepared to brush away the opinions of these people? Do you really believe that all of them are in the pockets of the food companies?

      Delete
    14. I'm writing a new blog post which will publish on September 28th (I have a couple of others before that). Peter, it will address your specific criticisms of the people whom I look to for my knowledge, and I would be interested in your comments on it. I actually present an extensive list of studies, sources, and specialists that have helped me form my thoughts on pet nutrition. Please read over it and give a reasoned, rational argument based on facts on why those people, papers, and journals cannot be believed.

      Delete
    15. Oh, and one more thought. I've never proposed corn being the sole nutrition for any animal. That's a laughable idea. Can it be used in every meal and provide good quality nutrition AS PART of an ingredient list? Absolutely! You also can't use the "first ingredient" rule, as that's essentially worthless for determining nutritional density, content, or quality. It only says which ingredient weighs more.

      Delete
    16. OK. Their antics with one shared cob every few weeks, in addition to their usual meals, shall be monitored with even closer scrutiny.
      Meanwhile, thanks for your time, CB.

      Delete
    17. Glad to help, LM. ;) I certainly don't mind cats eating whole corn, as long as it's a treat every few weeks like you describe. There's nothing harmful about that. And whole corn is completely different than processed corn, especially the corn gluten.

      Delete
    18. Sincerely, thank you. Yes, whole corn. That's why I came here: for professional advice.
      Your efforts to place pet care 'in context' are much appreciated. One wonders about agendas, otherwise ;)
      Looking forward to your latest publication and again, sincere gratitude to you: Mere human dedicating his life to our furry and/or feathered ones... :)

      Delete
    19. Simply put: we must examine and critically evaluate the myriad of “scientific data” and studies focused on “proving” that corn and other grains are an acceptable base for pet foods that we feed our companion animals every day of their lives. They are necessary to produce kibble—which consumers demand as convenience—and essential to realize “least cost mix” protocols the industry is dependent upon. The industry must justify what ordinary common sense would cause us to question. Your oft-repeated challenge to “produce a study” that is falsely premised, as you must know but refuse to acknowledge. I would ask you to fairly confront the observation that funding of these types of nutrition “studies” are industry funded. I would also ask you to fairly confront the contention that that funding is directed to support agribusiness propaganda as a marketing tool based upon what they want to sell us, and not in what may be good for our pets. And yes, it is fair to suggest that a veterinarian would not want this issue examined when that person is in the position of selling corn-based products through prescription… and without acknowledging the insulin releasing characteristics of these highly-processed (which they must be, to be “digestible” as you say) ingredients.

      Delete
    20. Peter, I wrote a new blog post on this topic that I would like you to read and consider. http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.com/2016/09/nutritional-research-corn-in-pet-foods.html

      Look over this, and then provide me with your sources of information. Let's compare the validity of your sources versus mine. Please let me know where you have evidence to support your points of view (and I'm not talking scientific studies here....appropriate opinions from relevant specialists is sufficient), such as all funding being merely propaganda and a marketing tool.

      Delete
    21. @Peter You write: "Simply put..." then proceed with "the myriad of". To paraphrase you: That is one of the most ridiculous statements on the web.
      You appear to have an agenda; evinced by your "simply put" contributions that contain regurgitated fear-spin a la Nestle and/or obtuse responses to a professional.
      Unhelpful, either way.

      Delete
  11. I can see several problems with that article. First, I'm not saying that corn is the best thing, just that people don't have to be afraid of it or avoid foods that include it. Second, that article isn't peer-reviewed science, but written with a few brief references, several of which actually confirm that corn is unlikely to be an allergen.

    I also entered "scientific study on why corn is bad" and came across a whole slew of articles about how the connection between GMO corn leading to cancer is highly disputed and an example of bad science. It seems that the majority of scientists dismiss that study and question it. To quote one article:
    The reaction to the report by scientists who are expert in this area has ranged from bewilderment to derision to hints of research malpractice.
    “Even though I strongly support labeling, I’m skeptical of this study,” said Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “It’s weirdly complicated and unclear on key issues: what the controls were fed, relative rates of tumors, why no dose relationship, what the mechanism might be. I can’t think of a biological reason why GMO corn should do this.”

    But of course those with an agenda will dismiss the opinion of the majority of specialists in the field who resoundingly denounce this reasearch as "crap" (my word, not theirs, but certainly their opinion).

    I went 7 pages into Google with that search heading before I found any articles not related to that GMO corn study (and it was ONE study with many opinions written...not a "whole slew" of studies. Besides, I'm talking about peer-reviewed studies and articles in scientific papers, not opinion pieces on the internet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck finding ANY purely "scientific/peer-reviewed" articles pertaining to anything related to the pet industry. It's simply not out there because there is no money to fund such studies. The only people I can see that could potentially afford to throw money at such a study are the ones whom would have the least to benefit from such things (i.e.: Hills, Purina).

      Those of us in the dog world have to dispute this sort of thing for numerous subjects -- the studies just don't exist. Back when there was a huge push to get all agility organizations to move to 24" spacing in the weave poles dissenters made the same cries -- show us the scientific studies/proof! Again, no funding for such studies, but any moron with eyes can plainly see that wider spacing between poles results in less bending/torque on the spine and thus is better for the dog in the long run.

      I see corn as the same thing. The results are obvious to me.

      Delete
    2. "First, I'm not saying that corn is the best thing, just that people don't have to be afraid of it or avoid foods that include it."

      I think one of the main reasons corn has gotten such a bad rap started with the crappy grocery store dog foods that 1) derive too much (my opinion) of their protein from corn, and 2) the food itself may have the equivalent nutritional value to eating at McDonalds every day, regardless whether it has corn in it or not. That doesn't make ALL dog foods that happen to have corn in it bad. But then again, I don't feel the "average" pet owner knows much, if anything, about the nutritional value of the food they are feeding. As a result, a campaign seems to have evolved into getting people to stop feeding diets with corn in it, when they should instead be teaching about basic nutrition in dogs and letting people make their own *educated* pet food choices.

      Delete
    3. AMEN Kim! That's like saying "eating McDonald's every day is bad for you, they use bread to make buns, so stop eating bread." Now, some people SHOULD stop eating wheat-based bread (those that have a true allergy or gluten sensitivity) but a good whole grain loaf isn't the same as a McDonald's hamburger with mayo on a crappy bun.

      Delete
    4. Well said Kim. I couldn't agree with you more. Quality commercial dog food has been around longer then then the fanatics that claim any food which contains corn is going to be detrimental to the health of your dog. Please don't tell my dog that who has been on Science Diet since a puppy and is now 15 years old with no medical history and more energy then me. But I guess some will claim that is BS and that I am being paid by SD to say it. All I can say to that is I wish. I could use the money.

      Delete
  12. Actually, there are plenty of scientific, peer-reviewed articles related to pet food. They just may not support your viewpoint. The reason why scientists want such papers is because it's easy to say "well, it's obvious", but then when you look at the data it may not be so.

    But "it's obvious" that we're not going to convince each other. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Excellent info, Chris! I have cats, not a dog like most of the people posting. I had no idea pet food allergies were so low. And I love corn, so I've never been anti-corn (just anti corn syrup). Didn't know there were so many health benefits for pets, though.

    On the subject of special diets...We had one of our kitties on a urinary diet for a while, but nothing prevented blockages from crystals in his urine. He ended up having the surgery, and has been perfectly fine for a decade!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow. And this is why I rarely bother to discuss pet food with people, unless I feel the pet could benefit from a certain prescription product you can feed whatever you want. The bottom line for me is feed something your pet does well on and is nutritionally balanced. I'd like to believe that feeding a good food makes a difference in lifespan, etc but I have seen too many dogs live to be 15 years plus on Ol'roy with minimal health concerns.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Unfortunately there are always examples of poor health care that results in long life. It's like a pack-a-day smoker who lives into their 90s. Just because a person or pet lives to or beyond the average doesn't mean that their lifestyle was a healthy one. I feel strongly enough about pets being on at least basic, decent nutrition that I'm willing to bring it up frequently. But I'm also stubborn and have a thick skin so I can take dissenting opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I would be much more concerned about the presence of mycotoxins/aflatoxins in corn than the corn itself. See Boermans, H. J., & Leung, M. C. (2007). Mycotoxins and the pet food industry: toxicological evidence and risk assessment. International journal of food microbiology, 119(1), 95-102. Is it coincidence that the authors found liver and kidney issues in this study, and that there are many anecdotal complaints of Science Diet causing liver failure and elevated liver enzymes? I realize this is mainly a concern in third-world countries, but we can't even keep our HUMAN population safe from contaminated food. I don't think our canine friends are going to fare much better.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm sad that I'm so late to the party on this discussion! While I appreciate everyone's viewpoints, I can speak from my own experiences with my pet. When I adopted her, I'm sorry to say that I fell victim to the "corn is bad" mythos, and immediately started her on some fairly expensive grain-free, high protein diet. She ate it for a while, but soon started to turn her nose up at it, so I switched her to a different food - similar, but just different meat source. Same thing, ate it for a few months, then went off of it inexplicably. I tried several brands from Wellness, Wellness CORE, Blue Buffalo, Blue Buffalo Wilderness, etc. Finally, after talking with my veterinarian, she made the point to me that dogs are domesticated now - certainly, their wild counterparts eat raw meat and live on a strictly high protein diet - but to keep in mind that wolves don't eat every day, and the high protein is needed because it needs to last them longer. A domesticated dog, on average, is fed two to three times a day, and isn't hunting for his meal - therefore, this concern over feeding grain-free and high protein doesn't make sense. Taking her advice, I switched to Purina ProPlan Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice, and my dog has now been on it for 3 years and has never been better! Having spoken with multiple vets and friends in the vet industry, I can't argue with their logic, and I certainly can't argue with the results with my pet. Corn, while it shouldn't be the primary ingredient in the food, doesn't scare me so much anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a Golden Lab. She lived to be 21 years old On Corn based foods.

      Delete
  18. GMO BAD.........That's all you need to know. End of disscussion

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, the way we use them now is bad, but in theory they are very good... We could make certain crops more drought tolerant(feeding millions of people), increasing the yield to, again, feed millions of people. I am neither nor against GMO's, but just because companies like Monsanto are doing horrible things to nature right now doesn't mean that ALL GMO's are bad!

      Delete
  19. This reads like is was written by a Monsanto employee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious as to why you say that. My post didn't have anything to do with GMOs, Monsanto, or any manufacturer. Are you just against corn in general?

      Delete
  20. I think people are overlooking the obvious -that the vast majority of pet dogs live very healthy lives & will be being/ have been, fed standard commercial diets.(With the exception that many are now fed too much & under-exercised!) How often do you see an unhealthy or itchy dog in the park? I've met hundreds of dogs, being a trainer & formerly a competitor. Over the years since such pet food was invented, millions of dogs have had healthy & often very active working lives on commercial diets. Of the 10 dogs of various breeds & mixes I've had since 1980, only 3 had allergies - 2 were GSDs, unrelated & consecutive, & one border collie. All had multiple allergies / hypersensitivities, & I worked them out by feeding home cooked chicken & white rice till no symptoms,& then trying different additives, until the allergens were figured out. Only one, a GSD, had a problem with corn (maize) - even the tiniest amount gave him a hotspot (eczema) on his left hip within 30 minutes. The other allergens (combining all 3 dogs) included beef, turkey, oats, brown rice, sugarbeet, wheat, Spring grass(on feet)& wheatstraw bedding. The latter gave him an itchy tummy, but no problem once changed to carpet. Shame I had to give up a good drying-off idea though!

    ReplyDelete
  21. For me, it's gotten to the point of leaving the store in tears - after up to two hours of searching for the perfect food and never finding it; feeling like I'm hurting my cat no matter I do. If I don't feed him, he'll starve - if I feed him, he'll be poisoned! This has become a real, serious problem for me. When I was young and didn't think about it too much, I feed my cat (of that time) the cheapest stuff from the grocery store and he lived to be 20. My next two cats got a supposedly higher quality food but each only made it to 14 and got cancer. My current cat will be 14 on July 19th - I want him to live forever! - he has recently become finicky and lost some weight with no detectable medical explanation (yet anyway). I have become overly concerned about what to feed him - I'll give him whatever he'll eat, just so he won't loose more weight. My Vet. doesn't seem to be as worried as I am. All the searching for information about pet food is driving me CRAZY! Maybe the cheapest stuff from the grocery will get him to 20?!? Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First of all, Tom, don't worry so much or spend so much time thinking about the "perfect" pet food. There really is no such thing, even with the best foods. The fact that you had one cat live to 20 and another to 14 likely had much less to do with the food than with genetics. It's like when a pack-a-day smoker lives until 95 but a vegan who jogs daily dies of a heart attack at 35.

      I have written extensively on this blog about various aspects of pet nutrition and how to read labels. Do a search on this blog for "nutrition" and you'll find my opinions and thoughts on this subject, which will likely help you chose.

      Delete
  22. Tom, have you cat's teeth checked. Bad teeth can cause an older cat to stop or slow eating and can result in weight loss and lots of other health issues. I've had several cats who were declining until we found and removed bad teeth; one lived to be 23. I have a frisky 17-year-old, too, and an 11 year-old who just had some teeth removed and she is in much better spirits and putting weight back on. That might not be the problem, but it's a good place to start. And with canned food, they do fine without all their teeth.

    ReplyDelete
  23. For those who say they have rarely seen an animal with actual food allergies --
    We "adopted" two cats from a young lady who was heading off to college a couple of years ago. Playmates for our other cat, although they didn't really get along.

    A year or so went by and one of the cats started getting dirty ears and itchy red spots on her head and around her neck. On her body as well. We tried everything from mite meds to flea treatments to no avail. I know most of you would have taken her to the vet right away, but we always try home treatments first. We have horses, and we've always said that if you want to make money as a vet, never be an equine vet ;)

    Anyhow, long story short, I tried a hail Mary and switched her to a grain-free canned food. Two weeks later and everything was cleared up. Ears clean. No red. No scratching. She's been on grain free canned for 6 months now and looks fantastic. I also cut out all fish, just in case it might have been that as well.

    So, she definitely had an allergy. Either grain or fish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Food allergies absolutely exist, and I have several patients with confirmed food sensitivities. However, dogs and cats with these allergies are still less than 5% of the whole population, so it's an uncommon problem. The vast majority of pets being switched to grain-free diets would do perfectly fine on one containing grains. There is no inherent sensitivity to these ingredients.

      When pets do have food sensitivities, the majority of the time it is to the protein source, not the carbohydrate. And if it is the carbohydrate it is to a specific one. For example you don't see "grain allergies", but you can see wheat allergies with other grains being fine. With the protein allergies you may see some degree of cross-reactivity, so if a dog is sensitive to chicken, it has a slight risk of also being sensitive to duck, goose, and turkey, but won't be sensitive to beef.

      Trying to figure out exactly what the allergy is to can be very challenging and involves a lot of trial and error. The blood tests for food allergies are not very accurate so I never recommend doing them. If you've found a food that works for her, I would recommend not changing.

      Delete
  24. Personally I feed a cheaper food with corn as an ingredient in it.
    We tried the grain free foods but our dogs had problems with constipation and plugged anal glands so we ended up going back to our cheaper corn food and they haven't had a problem since.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for making a comment on my blog! Please be aware that due to spammers putting links in their comments I moderate every comment. ANY COMMENTS WITH AN EXTERNAL LINK NOT RELATED TO THE TOPIC WILL LIKELY BE DELETED AND MARKED AS SPAM. If you are someone who is posting links to increase the traffic to another website, save me and you the time and hassle and simply don't comment. To everyone else.....comment away! I really do enjoy hearing from readers!