BSM Partners, University of Illinois release results of study which found that both grain-inclusive, grain-free dog diets had no negative impact on digestibility; study evaluated digestibility of diets containing animal protein, plant-based ingredients

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August 30, 2023 (press release) –

Press release: BSM Partners

Animal nutritionists and veterinarians from BSM Partners, the largest pet care research and consulting firm, and the University of Illinois, published the results of a six-month study that found both grain-inclusive and grain-free canine diets had no negative effect on digestibility. The authors wrote, “While some have postulated that pulse-rich diets could perhaps be a cause of nutrition-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in canines due to a potentially negative effect on digestibility, our results showed all diets were highly digestible” by both Beagles and mixed-breed hounds. The research appeared in a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Animal Science.

Dr. Stephanie Clark, PhD, CVT, PAS, CFS, Dpl. ACAS, VTS (Nutrition) of BSM Partners, an article co-author and a board-certified companion animal nutritionist, said, “This long-duration, controlled prospective study provides important insights that will inform the scientific community’s ongoing work to better understand and improve canine health.”

For the study, researchers formulated four canine diets. Two diets were grain-free, contained pulse ingredients and potatoes, and included either low or high amounts of animal protein. Two diets were grain-inclusive, contained no pulse ingredients or potatoes, and included either low or high amounts of animal protein. The study aimed to evaluate macronutrient digestibility, fecal characteristics, fecal metabolites and fecal microbiota in Beagles and mixed-breed hounds when fed extruded diets containing different inclusion rates of animal protein and plant-based ingredients.

Dr. Maria R. C. de Godoy, an article co-author and Associate Professor of Companion Animal and Comparative Nutrition at the University of Illinois, noted, “High inclusion of pulses as the primary sources of carbohydrate and protein in extruded diets for adult dogs resulted in pronounced shifts in fecal microbiota and metabolites, particularly, increased concentration of short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for gut health.”

“Fecal concentration of primary bile acids also increased with high pulse inclusion. This finding is consistent with previous literature evaluating the effects of pulses or grain-free diets on fecal metabolites and microbiota,” said Clare Hsu, an article co-author and doctoral student in Dr. Godoy’s lab.

BSM Partners is the largest full-service pet care research, consulting, and strategy-to-shelf product innovation firm. BSM Partners’ research professionals collaborate with hundreds of clients ranging from the largest companies to the smallest upstart companies to formulate, review and advise on the development of hundreds of new products each year, including grain-free and grain-inclusive dog foods, treats, and supplements.


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