Cat & Dog Nutrition Glossary | Grains
Barley is a frequent ingredient in pet food, as its easily digested and full of fibre, selenium and copper. Whole grain barley is the premium form, as it contains loads of the original nutrients.
‘Cereals’ and ‘grains’ are terms used for any cereal product. This includes rice, oats, barley and maize. The general use of the word ‘cereals’ gets a lot of bad press as it can encompass all grains from low quality to the best. Some premium foods use the term to prevent themselves from giving away their ‘secret formula’, whilst low quality brands hide behind it to conceal low quality ingredients. For this reason, we’d recommend avoiding vague ingredients lists, particularly if your cat or dog has tummy issues and is prone to intolerances or allergies.
A lot of the time corn is used to replace grains such as rice, oats and barley in our pets’ food. Most people argue that corn is a good quality and nutritious carbohydrate, but some people do oppose this ingredient, claiming that it is difficult to digest and responsible for food intolerances or allergies. Chat with your vet regarding whether you should be including corn in your dog or cat’s diet.
This is the part of the grain that given the chance would grow into a new plant. Although small, it makes up a whopping 10% of the plant’s total weight, and contains most of the non-carb nutrients, such as omega 6 oils, along with vitamin E, A and K. It’s a little controversial however, as some experts worry about the digestibility of corn, claiming that it can lead to intolerances. However, maize germ is free from the starchy endosperm so it’s actually very unlikely to cause a negative reaction.
Maize gluten is produced from the processing of maize and is often added to dog and cat food as a top-up protein and alternative to expensive meat. Sadly however, pets sometimes struggle to digest this, and it can lead to skin problems or hyperactivity. We’d therefore recommend avoiding maize gluten, particularly if your pet has sensitivity issues.
Millet is a winning grain as it’s generally very easy to digest, whilst being full of B vitamins, iron and potassium. As it’s gluten free, it’s a wonderful alternative for use in hypoallergenic foods.
A brilliant source of dietary fibre and micronutrients (manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, magnesium and phosphorus), they are widely used by lots of pet food brands. The best news is that they are super easy to digest!
Brown rice is frequently considered an ultimate ‘super food’. Providing it has been cooked well, pets find it easy to digest and benefit from the abundant B vitamins, iron, manganese, selenium, magnesium and omega 3 oils. It’s a wonderful source of fibre and hugely popular amongst food brands and pet owners alike.
White rice started life brown but has since been polished, with the outer bran, germ and aleurone layers removed. However, the layers are the most critical part of the rice, containing the nutrients and leaving behind mostly just starch. If your pet food ingredients state merely just ‘rice’, take this to mean white rice, as having brown rice as an ingredient would certainly be something to boast about.
The nutritional layers removed from brown rice as it is processed into white rice are referred to as ‘rice bran’. As this does not include the starchy part of the grain, rice bran is wonderfully healthy, containing vitamins B1, B3 and B6, iron, manganese, selenium, magnesium, omega 3 oils and natural antioxidants. It’s also full of fantastic fibre, for promoting optimum digestive health.
Rice germ, though tiny, contains a huge percentage of the grain’s nutrients. It’s massively rich in B vitamins and especially that all-important thiamine.
Grains can get a bit of bad reputation, but rye is up there with the best, being as nutritionally sound as barley. However, it does contain gluten, so should not be fed to celiac pets, or those with a grain intolerance. Opt for the whole grain form if possible, as that retains an abundance of nutrients.
Sorghum is a grass, which provides a grain frequently used in pet foods. Its cheap and therefore a common alternative to regular grains. Bear in mind that it is high in starch, and is relatively similar nutrition-wise to corn. However, it does win against maize as it is gluten free, so this could be a good ingredient for your dog or cat if they are prone to intolerances.
Spelt offers a far greater range of nutrients than standard wheat, being a great source of B vitamins, magnesium and fibre. As it has been fed since the bronze age, many dogs and people that have an intolerance to wheat are generally fine with spelt. Due to its gluten content, it should be avoided by celiac dogs and cats.
Spelt is made up of around 17% protein, and is jam-packed with amino acids. It is therefore sometime added to pet food to increase the protein content. Few pets have problems with spelt, but it should not be fed to celiac pets due to the gluten content. All grains are harder for animals to digest than proteins, so be sure to still provide a high meat content as your pet’s main source of that all-important protein.
Wheat is often used a cheap filler to bulk out your pet’s food. Whilst it can be a great source of fibre and nutrients, it is often linked to tolerances and allergies. If your cat or dog is celiac be sure to feed a gluten-free grain. The gluten in wheat can damage the small intestine where most of the most essential absorption of nutrients takes place, which we certainly don’t want to happen. Wheat intolerances frequently show themselves by itchy skin and gastro-intestinal problems.
This term generally refers to the wheat considered only suitable for farm animals, such as horses, cows and pigs. You should definitely avoid wheat feed in your cat and dog’s food, as it is not made up of a quality whole grain and could lead to intolerances.
The germ is very small but contains the large proportion of the wheat’s non-carb nutrients, essential fatty acids, healthy unsaturated oils, B vitamins, vitamin E, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. Wheat carbohydrates are tricky to digest; however wheat germ is free from the starchy endosperm, and so is very unlikely to cause any negative reaction, being mostly gluten-free.