Good nutrition is critical to good health. There are many types of dog foods on the market. There are foods formulated to meet various life stages, prescription foods, grain free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, organic, preservative free, dairy free, limited ingredient, and even foods for different breeds or sizes of dog. On top of that you have several formulations to choose from including dry kibble, canned, semi-moist, raw, and home cooked.
Why so many options? Because the pet food business is big business. It is estimated that pet food sales is over a $40 billion dollar business yearly worldwide and more a $30 billion dollar business in the United States. Wow!
Approximately 80% of the world’s pet food is produced from four companies that include Colgate-Palmolive, Mars, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble with Mars being the leader in this group. Traditional sales of pet food have been through pet stores, specialty food stores, and supermarkets and many sales are now online.
With big money comes completion and big advertising. It is impossible to open any magazine without seeing dog and cat food ads. The companies promote qualities in food that they believe will resonate with our needs and beliefs. Most recently many foods promoted are grain free foods. This leads pet owners to question the pros and cons of Grain Free Dog Food vs. Regular Dog Food.
Categories of Dog Foods
As we look at grain free dog food vs. regular dog food, it is worth considering all the different categories of dog foods. For example, foods can be classified by:
- Life Stage Foods – There are dog food specifically formulated to meet various life stages including puppies, adults, seniors, breeding, high energy or working dogs. Different life stages require different amounts of nutrients and calories.
- Formulations – There are many formulations of dog food. They include dry kibble, canned, semi-moist, raw, freeze dried, and home cooked.
- Attributes – Common attributes promoted in dogs foods include foods that are grain free, gluten free, vegan or vegetarian, raw, organic, limited ingredient foods, preservative free, all natural, and many more.
- Dog Size – Some dog food companies create foods for small, medium, and large/giant sized dog breeds. The caloric density, nutrient and protein content, and/or kibble size may vary depending on the company
- Breed Specific – Some dog food companies produce foods precisely formulated for specific breeds such as Labrador retrievers, Pomeranians, or Chihuahua’s. The kibble size and nutritional components are specific to the breed.
- Prescription Foods – There are dog foods created to benefit the medical needs or requirements of dogs with various diseases or conditions.
These foods are formulated to be nutritionally balanced yet provide therapeutic benefit to dogs with:
- Kidney disease (such as Hill’s Science Diet K/D [kidney diet] or Purina Proplan NF)
- Liver disease (such as Hill’s Science Diet L/D [liver diet])
- Arthritis or joint problems (such as Hill’s Science Diet J/D [joint diet] or Purina Proplan JM)
- Stomach or intestinal conditions (such as Hill’s Science Diet I/D [intestinal diet] or Purina Proplan EN)
- Cognitive dysfunction (such as Hill’s Science Diet B/D [brain diet] or Purina Proplan NC)
- Bladder stones (such as Hill’s Science Diet C/D, K/D, S/D, U/D etc. or Purina Proplan UR, OX, ST)
- Heart disease (such as Hill’s Science Diet H/D [heart diet])
- Obesity (such as Hill’s Science Diet R/D [reducing diet] or M/D [metabolic diet] Purina Proplan OM)
- Skin allergies (such as Hill’s Science Derm Defense, Z/D or D/D [dermatology diet] or Purina Proplan HA or DRM)
- Diabetes (such as Purina Proplan DM)
- Dental problems (such as Hill’s Science Diet T/D [tooth diet] or Purina Proplan DH)
- Geriatric patient (such as Hill’s Science Diet G/D [geriatric diet])
- Special needs (such as Hill’s Science Diet A/D [anorexia diet] or Purina Proplan CN)
All of these attributes and type of foods make it complicated when choosing a dog food. On top of categories, companies add to the confusion with marketing terms such as “preservative free”, “organic”, “natural”, “food contains essential prebiotics or probiotics”, and “no artificial colors or flavors”.
Grain Free Dog Food vs. Regular Dog Food
Should you feed regular dog food or grain free dog food? The answer is that it depends on your dog. If you suspect that your dog has an allergy to grains, then a grain free food is recommended. Signs of food allergies in dogs include skin infections, ear infections, itching, dry skin, and/or digestive issues such as diarrhea. Learn more about the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of Food Allergy in Dogs.