MythBusters: Are Lentils, Chickpeas and Potatoes Good Ingredients in Dog Food?

by Sundays

Are lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes healthy carbs for dogs or just fillers masquerading as healthy dog food ingredients?

Have you ever really looked at the ingredients in your dog’s food? At first glance, they might seem OK. They might even seem good for them. 

The thing is, a lot of dog food fillers could actually be hiding out on that ingredient list. And maybe they do have some benefits–for humans, that is. But if we’re talking about dog food ingredients, that’s not always true.

We’re going to bust some myths about three “healthy” carbs that have been popping up on tons of dog food bags lately–lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes. Don’t worry, we’ll also give you tips on what to look for in dog food when it comes to truly good ingredients.

Myth: Lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes are healthy carbs for dogs.

Does your dog’s food have any of these three ingredients? A lot of companies have been using lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes in their grain-free formulas over the past 10 years. 

They’ve marketed these dog food ingredients as low-glycemic whole foods that provide a healthy source of carbohydrates. Maybe, if we were talking about food for humans. But when it comes to dog food, they may actually do more harm than good.

The FDA even launched an investigation on the potential link between grain-free dog food featuring these particular grain alternatives and a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

Although they didn’t release any conclusive findings, legumes and starches have been known to contain anti-nutrients. So, grain-free dog food with those “healthy carbs” might not be the best option. 

No causative link has been made between legumes such as lentils and chickpeas and dilated cardiomyopathy but there is strong evidence of a correlation. Even the possibility of a connection means that we don’t take any chances in our formulation and stay away from these ingredients. Additionally, a small amount of these carbohydrate sources may be ok but many dog food companies use upwards of 10-30% in order to elevate their protein levels while keeping costs down. 

Myth: Dog food fillers are easy to spot.

Most of us are pretty good at spotting fillers in the ingredients list on our foods. You aren’t fooled by things like gums, soy, cellulose, or starches or anything that just seems weird or unidentifiable. 

But it’s harder to spot dog food fillers for two major reasons. First, human nutrition is not the same as dog nutrition, so something that’s good for us might not be for our pups. Second, these fillers are foods you can pronounce and recognize, and they seem like they should be healthy for dogs. 

Yes, we are saying that lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes are actually dog food fillers. They are marketed as alternatives to grains, but mostly they are cheaper sources of protein than meat. The problem is that animal sources are more nutritious for dogs than plant sources. All of these ingredients, especially sweet potatoes, in small amounts are beneficial. But in large volumes (when they make up more than a few percent of the recipe) are acting as a filler. 

Myth: Good brands don’t use dog food fillers.

You would think that well-known, premium dog food brands (and usually the more expensive brands) would not be putting dog food fillers in their formulas. 

But now that we know that lentils, potatoes, and chickpeas are fillers, all you have to do is browse any online pet food retailer to see plenty of top companies using these ingredients. And the FDA investigation of grain-free dog foods called out 16 major brands in particular–most of them considered to be top-shelf.

Myth: Grain-free food is better for dogs because they might be allergic. 

The idea that dogs need grain-free food, or that it’s somehow better for them, came from the grain-free trend in human diets. This myth has been widespread and has lasted nearly a decade. 

But dogs are omnivores and have special enzymes in their digestive systems  that allow  them to digest grains. The truth is that less than 1% of dogs are allergic to grains. Because of this and the uncertainty about the link between DCM and grain-free diets, many vets advise pet parents to go for diets with grains.

Truth: Sundays for Dogs never uses lentils, chickpeas, or potatoes.

In grain-free dog food, the grain is not usually replaced by more animal protein, or meat, but instead, cheap filler ingredients like legumes and starches. These ingredients act as necessary binding agents in dry dog foods. 

Our recipes steer clear of these all-too-common dog food ingredients. Because our food is air-dried, we don’t need ingredients to help bind things together. Instead, we stick with ingredients we know we can stand behind to help your dog thrive.

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