Often, when I discuss diet and nutrition with an owner, I often hear comments along the lines of ‘…. Made with real chicken, no corn…..’ ‘grain-free, no fillers like corn…’ ‘low on allergens, no corn’ and the like.
Corn seems to have a bad reputation when it comes to being an ingredient in dog and cat food when it should be the opposite. Corn is poorly digested if it isn’t cooked, like most grains. Once it is cooked, however, it becomes highly digestible, higher than several other grains such as rice, wheat, barley and sorghum.
Nutrients are important for health maintenance and disease prevention. Ingredients are important only to the extent that they supply nutrients, which the body repackages, depending on needs at a particular time.
Corn is a highly nutritious ingredient chosen as a source of protein (for muscle and tissue growth), carbohydrates (for energy), fibre, antioxidants (Beta-carotene, Vitamin E, Lutein) and linoleic acid – an essential fatty acid that promotes healthy skin and a luxurious coat. Wait. What? Corn is a protein, carb, fibre, and an antioxidant source?
Then I hear the comment of corn being a filler. Fillers in pet food have no nutritional value. I’ve just established that corn in pet food is a protein source, a carbohydrate source, a fibre source, an antioxidant source. I don’t think corn is a good example of what a filler is as it is so nutritionally versatile.
Then I hear the comment that corn causes allergies. In a literature review of 278 cases of food allergy in dogs where the problem ingredient was clearly identified, beef was far and away the biggest culprit (95 cases). Dairy was number two at 55 cases. Corn was actually a minimal offender coming in with only 7 cases. The situation was similar for cats. Of the 56 cases that were looked at, 45 feline food allergies resulted from eating beef, dairy, and/or fish, while corn was responsible for only 4 cases.
If you find that corn is one of the main ingredients in your pet’s food, please don’t fret – when cooked and used in pet food it is an invaluable source of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and antioxidants. It is a powerhouse ingredient used with other sources to help make a balanced diet for your pets.
Written by: North Hill Animal Hospital