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So our thoughts on...What Is Grain Free Dog Food?

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

While evaluating your options to find the best food for your best friend, you’ve probably encountered conflicting opinions about grain free dog foods.

With the growing popularity of grain free dog food and many leading “healthy” commercial dog food brands involved in the study, dog owners who feed their dogs these foods (or are considering doing so) are faced with many uncertainties: How healthy is it to feed my dog grain free foods? Are there any benefits of grain free dog food? Are some dog foods or brands safer than others?

It can be complicated, but in short: the healthiest dog diet does not contain grains or the fillers that commonly replace grains. Only natural raw dog food diets avoid this problem completely.


What Is Grain Free Dog Food? “Grain free” doesn’t mean low-carbohydrates or all meat. “Grain free” has become a label that we tend to associate with “healthy” or “high quality.” Dog food that’s free of grains can be a healthy choice for your dog “When the grains are taken out of these foods, they’re just replaced with other ingredients — peas, lentils, sweet potatoes — which mean they’ll often have more carbohydrates than foods that aren’t grain free. These excess soluble carbohydrates can lead to several problems in dogs. While your dog needs carbohydrates to produce energy, too many of them can contribute to obesity, the wrong bacteria in the gut and a lack of energy. So, if a dog food is labelled “grain free” but the grains are replaced with other ingredients, it’s not necessarily a healthier option for your dog.

Any dog food made without wheat, corn, rice and other grains is considered “grain free.” Dogs still need carbohydrates for energy, though. So no-grain dog foods use alternative sources of carbs like potatoes and pea flour.

Grain allergies in dogs are so uncommon; they’re more likely to have an allergy to proteins like beef or chicken. If you suspect your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity, we recommend working with your veterinarian to find the source. They can help you identify any allergies or sensitivities and recommend a therapeutic diet to avoid allergens. This will ensure your dog continues to get the nutrition he needs.

Despite the benefits for some dogs, there are downsides to feeding a grain-free dog food. Many people assume grain free means low carb, but that’s not the case!

In fact, some dog foods without grains are higher in alternative carbohydrate sources like potatoes and peas. This could result in unintentional weight gain.

That’s why it’s so important to work with your veterinarian. Doing so will ensure your dog gets the nutrition he needs from the appropriate sources.

Is Grain Free Dog Food Good or Bad?

Gluten free and grain free diets for dogs have become increasingly popular in recent years due to concerns about food allergies or the high amounts of carbohydrates in traditional dog food. But, since this spike in popularity coincides with a rise in cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy linked to grain free foods, many dog owners are at a loss about whether grain free diets are actually safe.

How concerned should dog owners be about the Grain Free Diet Alert?

If a dog food is labelled “grain free” but the grains are replaced with other ingredients, it’s not necessarily a healthier option for your dog. As people have begun questioning the role grains play in their own diets, they’ve started to question their purpose in their dog’s food, too.

Many dog owners want to know what purpose grains serve in dog food and whether Fido really needs them. Understanding the difference between regular and grain-free dog food and the role those ingredients play can help you choose which option is right for your dog.

Regular Dog Food vs Grain-Free Dog Food

Dog Food with Grains

When we say “regular dog food,” we simply mean dog food that contains grans. Dog food with grains is still a popular choice among many owners.

It’s easy to find on shelves and is often more affordable than grain-free varieties. What are considered grains in dog food, though?

If you look at a regular, grain dog food label, you might see a combination of some of the following:

Wheat /Corn /Barley /Oats/ Rye /Rice /Soy

It’s important to note gluten-free dog food excludes gluten-containing grains like wheat. It may include other grains like corn and rice, however now that you know some of the more popular grains found in dog food, you may be wondering “What purpose do grains serve?”

What purpose do grains serve?

Although seen by some as nonessential, “Grains are actually an excellent nutrient source,

They provide carbohydrates, which give your dog energy and supply fiber to promote digestion. Grains also include essential nutrients like protein and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for dogs.

Grain-free dog food may have some benefits, but the decision ultimately comes down to what you—and your dog—prefer. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian before switching your dog to a grain-free diet. Your veterinarian can help you determine if that’s the best dietary decision for your dog or if there are better alternatives based on his age and life stage, health and other unique factors.

A raw dog food diet is a good way to reap the benefits of a healthy grain free diet without having to worry about risks that come from fillers or ingredients used to replace grains.

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