Grain Free Dog Food: Should Your Dog Eat it?

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grain free dog food

There are so many dog foods on the market that pet owners commonly question, “What is the best food to feed my dog?” A quick walk down the pet food aisle provides a glimpse of adult, puppy, senior foods, prescription foods created to treat various medical conditions of dogs, foods for specific breeds or sizes of dog, gluten free, grain free, limited ingredient, organic, preservative free, vegan, and vegetarian…just to name a few. On top of that, the dog owner needs to consider various formulations such as dry kibble, canned, semi-moist, raw, frozen, and freeze-dried. So many choices can be overwhelming.

One of the recent trends in dog foods has been grain free foods and gluten free foods. As this category of foods has grown in popularity for people, pet owners apply their own food choices to their dogs making it also a popular craze in dog foods. Pet food manufacturers have identified these desired qualities and now produce hundreds of grain free dog foods.

This brings up a few points about grain free foods. Such as…do dogs need grains in their diet? Which dogs may benefit from eating a grain free food? And…how do you pick the best grain free dog food. We will cover these topics below.

What is Grain Free Dog Food?

A grain free dog food is a dog food made free of all grains. The most common grains in dog food are rice, barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, and quinoa. Many pet food manufacturers list grain as the first and thus most common ingredient in their foods that may not be ideal for many dogs.

Do Dogs Need Grains?

A question pet owners commonly ask veterinarians is “do dogs need to eat grains?”

To answer this question, let us consider how a dog has been programmed to eat in nature. In the wild, dogs would run in packs, and scavenge or hunt for a meal. Dogs are carnivores. A wild dog thrives with meat as the main food but also may ingest some berries and wild grasses. There is very little grain in their natural diets.

Some dogs can enjoy and even benefit from eating some grains in their diet. Every dog is a little different. Even dogs within different breeds and or within the same litter may have slightly different dietary needs, allergies, or intolerances.

To answer the question do dogs NEED grain… the answer is no. Their bodies don’t require grains but grains don’t cause a problem in most dogs.

Why Would A Dog Need a Grain Free Dog Food?

Some experts believe that dogs do well and can benefit from eating grains and others do not. Learn more about Do Dogs Need Grain Free Dog Food?

One reason a dog would benefit from a grain free food is because he is allergic to grains. Allergies are very common in dogs. Allergies can develop from various foods as well as to environmental things including dust mites, tree and plant pollens, insects such as fleas, and even other animals such as cats. Experts believe that only a small percentage of allergies in dogs are caused by food. The most common food allergens in dogs are beef, chicken, and dairy. Grains are not high on the list but can cause allergies in some dogs. It is also possible for dogs to have allergies to more than one food.

Symptoms of allergies in dogs can include skin infections, ear infections, scaly dry skin, and persistent itching.

Veterinarians may recommend grain free foods for dogs with signs of allergies. There are additional benefits to feeding a grain free food. For example, you generally can feed less food and dogs on grain free foods produce fewer and smaller bowel movements. Learn more about What Are the Benefits of Grain Free Dog Food?

What Is the Difference Between Gluten Free and Grain Free?

Dog owners have questions about gluten free diets due to the substantial press coverage for humans about the issues about glutens and gluten free foods.

First, let’s look at what is a gluten? Gluten is a protein that functions as glue that holds food particles together. It is common in cereal grains but also present in many other foods. It is estimated that approximately 1% of people have allergies, sensitivities or intolerance to glutens.

Gluten allergies in people is called Celiac Disease. Common symptoms of gluten intolerance or allergies in people include abdominal cramping, bloating, intestinal gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation. The three grains that cause the most gluten problems in people are wheat, barley, and rye. Learn more about Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy in Dogs and Cats.


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