The Necessity of Binders in Commercial Kibble Pet Foods

If you have been following the information about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, you will have noticed that the majority of the press is reporting on studies that have the financial backing to distribute press releases stating that “peas and lentils” are the cause. First and foremost, those stories are confirmatory biased due to the self-interest of the financiers. 

As Linda Case stated in her excellent blog post from April 6, 2022, The (Dis)connection between Grain-Free Foods and DCM, “To date, there is no evidence that feeding grain-free foods are a direct cause of DCM in dogs.” In fact, we encourage you to read it, in which she reviews several controlled feeding studies. She also points out that DCM is very complex. 

So, you may be throwing your hands up in the air thinking, “What’s the point of peas or grains in kibble?” They are binders. Think of it like a batch of chocolate chip cookies. The flour binds the sugars with the eggs and helps the chocolate chips stay put. 

Typical grain binders in commercial kibble pet foods are: cornmeal, wheat, brewers rice, rice, barley and oatmeal. Peas, lentils, beans from the legume family, potato, tapioca or sweet potato are grain-free binders. 

We have written in previous blog posts that we prefer grain-free diets for companion pets that are gently cooked (kibble is not gently cooked – dehydrated food is), nutritionally balanced, homemade companion pets food, or raw meals for pets. 

Are we happy with the grain-free binder options? They are a better alternative to grain-based binders in commercial pet foods. But, please remember that companion pets can still have sensitivities or intolerances to the grain-free binders. 

We completely understand if you are hesitant to make food for your companion pet because you fear you may not balance it appropriately, or that cooking for your family and separately for your companion pet is too time-consuming. 

So, how can you navigate your companion pet’s food around binders if they cannot tolerate peas, lentils, potatoes or sweet potatoes? The vast majority of raw food on the market…and make sure your companion pet does not have a sensitivity to the meat protein(s) either. 

One note about raw food: if the raw food has beef liver and an additional copper supplement, it more than likely has too much copper, which can lead to copper toxicity. 


Dodds, W. Jean. “Balancing Phytoestrogens for Companion Pets.” Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog, Tumblr, 6 Mar. 2016,

Straus, Mary. “The State of the Commercial Raw Diet Industry.” Whole Dog Journal, 5 Jan. 2021,

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