Grain Free Food = Cardiomyopathy?

Baz84

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Hey

Not sure if this is the right place to post this. So I got a Maine Coon Kitten - as you know one of the things they are susceptible to is cardiomyopathy.

Anyway - I know this comes later in life - but I learned the hard way (through myself) - how you treat yourself early in life (food/exercise/injuries/etc) show up later in life... so starting early with the pets

I took my pet to a vet and he asked me what type of food I use. I told him - Grain Free, High Protein wet (canned) food. He told me this new "grain free" fad is not healthy. As a matter of fact it can lead to cardiomyopathy. So I'm here to investigate further and to lift any confusion I have.

IF I understand correctly - Taurine is an amino acid that the body doesn't produce. Inadequate Taurine is linked to cardiomyopathy - but Taurine isn't found in plants... so what does that have to do with grain free food?

Advice/Thoughts are appreciated
 

Muggs

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Hello!

I’m happy to share my thoughts on grain free as I have 4 kitties on a grain free diet/raw diet. If you don’t mind the long post, here is my take on grain free/raw for all my kitties as I totally believe in grain free.

I got a kitten 5 years ago when he was 8 weeks old and he was an orphan. He turned out to be a sickly kitten and was almost a failure to thrive baby. He was chewing all my wires and bedsheets because he was sooooooo hungry despite many feedings during the day. He developed severe diarrhea and went through lots of testing. He received supplements for potential IBD as he was borderline based on bloodwork results. After trial and error I realized that he had a chicken allergy. since chicken is found in a lot of cat foods, I decided to try him on a raw diet of novel protein (rabbit) and he took to it immediately! His diarrhea stopped, literally overnight, and he was able to come off his medication.

I have an older boy who, if given any food with grains, bloats and gets constipated. He walks around the house looking like a pregnant goat and scoots his bum everywhere. He is on grain free tinned food as well as an assortment of raw and dehydrated raw. On this diet his bloating stops and he is able to poop normally. I also notice that when he is grain free he is less sleepy and is more willing to play which is great.

I have one female who underwent 1 yr of serious health issues. She developed food allergies and seemed to be sensitive to preservatives in some foods (vomiting immediately after eating). She too is on an assortment or raw, dehydrated raw and tinned food. She has now put on weight from her health issues and is thriving.

As for my last cat, I learned from past experiences and put her on grain free tinned and raw right from kitten hood. She loves the food and had boundless amounts of energy.

When it comes to vets and foods, my vet told me that they don’t get a lot of schooling on this. He told me they get taught about prescription diets but that day to day stuff is kind of a guessing game for them. My vet doesn’t support a raw food diet, but is very understanding as it has helped my fur babies. In the wild, cats don’t eat grains. They may eat some botanicals but the majority of their moisture comes from their prey. Cats don’t produce taurine which is necessary for their survival. This can only be found in meats, especially muscle meats. Cats cannot overdose on taurine and whatever doesn’t get used gets excreted through their urine.

I know grain free diets are much debated, but I think you need to go with your gut and do what you feel is right.
I‘m sorry for the long post, but I hope my experiences have helped you!
 

LTS3

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A lot of the grain-free / cardiomyopathy info out there is related to dogs, not cats. Here are some TCS threads on the topic:

 

maeganj

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Cats are obligate carnivores, a look at their digestive tract shows no cecum and a short transit time for waste. That said, the grain free commercial food side steps grain and replaces it with potatoes, peas, carrots to make up for the calories and small amount of protein the grains contained. To keep grain free food affordable, companies put A LOT of fruits and veggies in their food, I looked at the back of an honest kitchen kibble for dogs and the second ingredient is potatoes. That means there might be 5# of turkey and 4.99# of potatoes. The hypothesis is the potatoes, peas, carrots block the absorption of taurine.
I think there needs to be more (ethical hopefully...) studies on this, and not by biased companies like purina iams and hills that can put out a meta analysis type study in 30 days.
Which leads to the bias of people who report the effects of grain free on their dogs (and cats) since grain free is much more expensive, the kind of people that buy this food tend to take their pets to the vet more. Some one who can only afford 'Ol Roy might not go to the vet as much so there really is no way to say Ol Roy is healthier than a grain free alternative.
I don't have any personal anecdotes to say grain free or full of grain food has saved or harmed my pets. Since I switched out my older cats food he appears to be a lot healthier (it's been gradual for him, my mom started feeding him fancy feast so I am cutting his addiction to it). I also noticed when I fed my dogs a grain free food, they were yeasty, stinky and itchy up until I started feeding them homemade raw. I have a maine coon kitten myself and it's been a long road switching her out from the food she was fed at the cattery to something with less carbs and hopefully will be transitioned to raw homemade as well. So I guess in 10 years I will know of ill effects as I watch how her litter mates with other families are doing - also, I am lucky to have a veterinarian that is pro raw/real food. Overly verbose as usual, appreciated immensely if you read through all of this.
 

Kieka

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My cats do well on grain free. All the anti grain free talk is centered around dogs and, at least based on what I've read, taurine seems to be the main issue. Cat food is supplemented with taurine so the risk is lower for them. My cats get grain free dry and wet, however the wet doesn't have other fillers and just happens to be grain free. The dry, I get the highest protein I can without pea protein on the ingredient list.

Being mindful and making smart choices is what you have to do. Don't fall for labeling gimmicks and pay attention.
 
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Baz84

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Okay I noticed a lot of tapioca in grain free cat food.... IF peas/carrots/potatoes allegedly inhibit the absorption of Taurine. How about Tapioca?

Also what "percentage" of Taurine should cat food have? I notice it's always listed near the end....
 
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Baz84

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It's crazy how many ingredients each wet food has... and I don't even know if they are bad or good. So I know to avoid peas/carrot/potatoes if I see it... but then I see a lot of Tapioca and PUMPKIN?? What is up with that oO... and sometimes vegetable oils like "Sunflower Seed Oil". I for the life of me can't tell if this is good or bad for cats...

Also a lot of food has been supplement with actual vitamins as ingredients - this should be okay right?
 

LTS3

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Also what "percentage" of Taurine should cat food have? I notice it's always listed near the end....

Current AAFCO minimum requirement for dry food is 0.10% for growth / reproduction and maintenance. Minimum requirement for canned food is 0.20% for growth / reproduction and maintenance.


Also a lot of food has been supplement with actual vitamins as ingredients - this should be okay right?
Some vitamins and minerals are lost during the cooking process so foods are supplemented with extra. I would be more concerned with foods that do not contain any vitamins and minerals. Those are typically complement / supplement / treat only foods disguised as normal canned / pouched foods. There is teeny tiny print on the package that indicates the food as such but most people don't bother to read it. Some such brands are Feast Broths and Applaws. An occasional meal or treat of such food is fine but nutritional deficiencies will develop if the food is fed long term or as the only source of food.
 

Kieka

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Pumpkin is one that is good to see a small amount. Pumpkin is a fiber source and can help keep things regular. Cats with repeated potty related issues should be fed a small amount of pumpkin. I have a pumpkin soup food from solistic that is tuna with pumpkin I give once a week.

The rest of the veggies in cat food do very little and may cause harm. In some cases, you might have to pick a food that has them. In those cases just look for one with it later in the ingredients list. You don't want pea protein or potato protein because that means they are counting plant protein as the protein content for sure. Look for the simplest formulas, meat, water, vitamins, and minerals whenever possible.
 

Willowy

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Rice is one of the more "neutral" carb sources. Nothing terrible about it, nothing great either. Dry foods do need some carbs to hold them together so rice is fine.

Yeah the grain-free = heart problems was mainly a dog thing, but it's probably best to avoid legume protein if possible.
 
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Baz84

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Pumpkin is one that is good to see a small amount. Pumpkin is a fiber source and can help keep things regular. Cats with repeated potty related issues should be fed a small amount of pumpkin. I have a pumpkin soup food from solistic that is tuna with pumpkin I give once a week.

The rest of the veggies in cat food do very little and may cause harm. In some cases, you might have to pick a food that has them. In those cases just look for one with it later in the ingredients list. You don't want pea protein or potato protein because that means they are counting plant protein as the protein content for sure. Look for the simplest formulas, meat, water, vitamins, and minerals whenever possible.
How about Tapioca - I see that a lot!

Thanks about that pumpkin bit. It's funny I was reading Pumpkin in Solistic Brand
 
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