Grain free vs grain dog food. What’s best for your dog? I will speak from personal experience, and tell you that making a choice of the two, has become a pain in the ass. I have walked in your shoes and understand how difficult choosing a healthy, nutritional food for our pets can be. There is still quite a debate going on between grain and grain-free pet food, so much so, I decided to conduct extensive research to get some answers for myself and then present these findings to you. Is dog food containing grains a risky choice?
Ready to unlock the mystery of dog foods with grain? Feeding your pet a food containing grains a mistake? Sick of the headaches you get when trying to choose a healthy dog food? The answers to these questions are indeed thought-provoking, and this article will go in depth in this controversial topic.
Why Is “Grain-Free” Dog Food So Popular?
I don’t know about you, but I have never witnessed my dog pick up the phone, and make calls to major pet food companies, requesting a dog food with no grain. No, I think we have humans at work here! Let me explain this further with the following details.
Do you remember just a few years ago when the Gluten-Free diet became so popular with individuals throughout the world? For those of you who may not be familiar with the term ‘Gluten,’ it is a form of protein that is found in such grains as barley, wheat, and and rye to name a few.
You see, there are a number of individuals who became ill or unsettled after eating gluten. Celiac Disease, a disease associated with the consumption of gluten resulted in digestive issues that affected the small intestine. According to The Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease affects an estimated three million Americans.
What does this have to do with grain-free dog food? Glad you asked. The trend or fad of consuming a gluten-free, dry dog foods diet became very popular amongst individuals everywhere and still is today. Many believed that omitting gluten (Grains) from their diet would be beneficial to their overall health. As a result of this trend, many pet owners believed that dog food brands that promoted grain free recipes was appropriate for their four-legged companions as well, and top dog food brands quickly jumped on board with this idea, producing dog foods with no grain.
In addition to this, there are those who believe our dogs simply can’t digest grains in a proper manner. Others believe that certain grains, primarily wheat, may be the main cause of food allergies with their pooch. With that said, there are those who would refute this idea, and would actually suggest that certain grains are beneficial to a dog’s overall health. More on that now.
Dog Food With “Grain” … Controversial?
Let me ask you a simple question: Are you using a grain-free product with your pets? If you answered ‘YES” to this question, let me ask you another one: Why? If you answer this question with a “grains are not healthy for my dog,” or “I wouldn’t feed anything to my dog that I wouldn’t eat,” then you might just be a bit misinformed. Want some facts?
- There has been no scientific evidence or data proving that grain-free diets are the best choice for every pet.
- Dr. Kurt Venator, and Chief Veterinary Officer with Purina for sixteen years, states that “there’s a myth out there not supported by veterinary medicine that grains cause allergies. This is not the case. The reality is that true food allergies are extremely low in dogs and cats, and the offending substances are usually not grains.”
- Grains are comprised with nutrients that furnish fat, carbohydrates, antioxidants and vitamins, all important to our dog’s health.
- Research reveals that only 10% of pets have a grain allergy or intolerance.
- According to Cailin Heinze, a pet nutritionist from Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, “it’s much more common for dogs to have allergies to meat than to grain.”
Well then, why the controversy? These five facts mentioned above would suggest that dog foods with grain is appropriate, right? Here’s the deal: As I mentioned in the first part of this article, there are dog owners who simply believe that grains are not a healthy source for their pets to consume, and have gone with the current trend, the grain-free diet. In their eyes, grain-free is a much healthier choice. It’s a marketing trend.
Secondly, there remains a ‘tug-of war’ element that still exists between veterinarians, animal nutritionists, and dog owners. When it comes to ‘grain vs grain free,’ you will find opinions and arguments on both sides of the equation. I will touch on this a little bit later.
Common Grains In Dog Food … What To Look For
Okay, let’s move on to the actual grains you will most commonly find in dog foods. For your convenience, I have listed these grains below with a description following for each. Let’s take a look:
Corn – Quite a debate centers around this ingredient in dog foods. There are a number of veterinarians and pet food nutritionists who believe that corn is a quality grain that provides your pooch with such things as protein, carbohydrates, potassium, vitamins, fiber and linoleic acids. In terms of protein, corn should be thought of as an additional source, as a quality meat ingredient (Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Fish, etc.) serving as the primary source.
You will also find and talk to a number of veterinarians and pet nutritionists who would suggest otherwise. These individuals, as well as dog owners, believe that corn only fills the need as a cheap filler, and pets may have allergic reactions to this specific grain. They would also add that corn simply plays the role of ‘filler’ and is a cheap source of protein.
My opinion: I have no objection in feeding my dog a healthy source of corn. In moderation! Now, with that said, my dog has had no issues with this grain, showing no symptoms of a food allergy or digestive complications.
Barley – This specific ingredient provides carbohydrates to your dog’s diet, which is great source of energy. In addition to this, barley provides healthy minerals and vitamins to your dog’s diet. Once again, in moderation.
Wheat – Once again, the carbohydrates within this grain provides a source of energy to your pooch. Another controversial ingredient, make sure your pet can tolerate this ingredient and is not a culprit pertaining to an allergy.
Rice – Just like the grains mentioned above, rice provides your pet with a source of carbohydrates which promotes energy. There are experts in the field of animal nutrition, who believe that rice helps to alleviate stomach issues in your pet. Recommended to use in small amounts in the consumption of our pets.
Rye – Another grain that can be consumed by our pets unless they are exposed to grain intolerance. Rye also provides an additional source of protein, it best keeps its nutritional value as a whole grain.
Oats – I’ll let Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD. take this grain on. He states,”Oats, in particular, are a good choice of grain for pets. They are quick-cooking and contain more protein per calorie than any other common grain. Oats have anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties. They also have a calming effect on the nervous system so are a good addition to the diet of anxious dogs. Oats are a more warming grain that helps strengthen the spleen, pancreas and immune systems as well as the heart. Oats are rich in silicon, and help to make bones strong. They are acidic and not likely to cause allergies in most animals. This grain is tolerated by the largest number of dogs.”
Dog Food Grain Free … Or Not?
In doing my research, it became quite clear to me that dog owners are becoming more and more frustrated when it comes to selecting the best dog foods for their pooch. Without question, the latest trend surely suggests that grain-free dog food was a popular choice amongst dog owners. That is, until it hit a snag!
What snag? Well, just a few years ago, veterinarians were beginning to see an increase with dogs who were experiencing some heart issues. For the most part, these issues were related to an enlarged heart named Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM.
This specific condition may cause serious outcomes, including death. Why this increase in dogs being seen for this scenario, and what is the culprit? It became so serious that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to conduct a research in hopes of finding the answer to this serious disease.
The FDA considered such things as genetics, specific breeds, and dogs who were consuming a grain-free diet. Although the investigation continues, the FDA did discover that over 90% of dogs with DCM were being fed a grain-free or zero grain diet. In the absence of grains, many pet food manufacturers were using ingredients such as lentils, peas and sweet potatoes to name a few. Could these ingredients be the culprit? The investigation is still ongoing and I will update you further when new findings are available.
Dry Dog Food With Grain … Some Popular Choices
With the emergence of grain-free dog products on the market today, there are still a number of quality, nutritional products that do contain grains. For your convenience, I have listed a few of these below:
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection – A popular choice with dog owners, Blue Buffalo Life is available in a variety of flavors in the dry dog food form. With brown rice, flavors include such things as Chicken, Lamb, Turkey, and Menhaden Fish Meal. These recipes are also available for the small and large breed dogs as well as Puppy, Senior and Weight-Management. Dog Food Advisor has given this brand a 4 out of 5 Star rating. You can find the Life Protection Formula by clicking Here.
- Wellness Complete Health – Another popular brand, their formulas also come in a variety of flavors including Chicken, Whitefish, Turkey, and Lamb. Specific formulas designed for the Puppy, Adult and Senior are made available in the Wellness Complete Health brand. Dog Food Advisor has given this brand a 4.5 out of 5 Star rating. For a complete list of these products, click Here.
So which type of dog food will you choose? There seems to be controversy just about everywhere when it comes down to dog foods these days. If this wasn’t enough, you have pet food companies all claiming that their products are the best, making the task of choosing a diet that more difficult.
Grain or grain-free? The purpose of this article was not to try to persuade you one way or the other, but merely to present some information that hopefully will ease some anxiety when choosing a food for your canine.
Bottom line for me is this: I believe both (Grain, and Grain-Free) have their advantages and disadvantages. You received quite a lot of information above regarding both types of diets, but let me give you my final thoughts below.
Without question, grain-free dog food is a very popular choice these days. Just take a walk down the aisle of your local pet store to see various brands of dog food labeled, ‘Grain-Free.’ This is a trend that has been around for a few years, but one that I believe has reached its peak.
You read about the concerns regarding grain-free and DCM. Obviously, the research conducted by the FDA has dog owners stressed and concerned about this potentially dangerous health issue.
On the other hand, dog formulas that do contain grains has its share of critics as well. They would tell you that grains are difficult for their pets to digest, causes digestive and stomach issues as well as providing little nutritional value. So what choice do we have?
I can tell you from experience, that I have never had any issues feeding my pets a diet that included grains. No allergies, no food intolerance, no scratching their skin until it was raw. To be fair, I’ve always chosen high quality dog food brands that I felt were the best fit for my dogs. No shortcuts when it comes to my pets!
For you dog owners who have pets with food allergies or digestive issues, a grain-free diet may be a good alternative. Please just don’t assume that a grain or grains may be the culprit. Consult your veterinarian and begin a dialogue to determine which type of diet would be beneficial to your pet.
When you buy something from this website, I may receive an affiliate commission from Chewy.com. These are my opinions and are not representative of the companies that create these products. My reviews are based on my own personal experiences and research. I never recommend poor quality products or create false reviews in order to receive a commission. My intention is to provide you with information so you can make decisions to which products may best suit your needs.
The goal is finding a complete and balanced nutritional diet. No one knows your pet better than you do, which should help in finding the appropriate diet. For those interested in a quality recipe, that includes grains, or recipes with limited ingredients here are a few that you may want to consider.
I sincerely hope this article has provided you with some further insight. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for visiting my site. To your health, and the health of your pet!
For those unfamiliar with dog food grain-free recipes, there has and is a controversy taking place as I write this article. The FDA has made public that it has launched an investigation between a possible connection between the grain-free diet and heart disease within dogs. For further information, the American Kennel Club has provided further details. Click here.
The purpose of this site and articles are intended to provide a source of entertainment and information. As a dog owner and dog lover myself, I enjoy researching dog food products on the market to provide you with helpful insights. I am not a veterinarian nor an animal nutritionist, just a dog owner who wants to provide a healthy lifestyle to their pet. I use my research to express an opinion which may or may not be one you agree with.
eathealthydoggy.com assumes no responsibility or liability for the use or misuse of what’s written on this site. You should always consult with a veterinarian if you should have questions regarding your dog’s diet or overall health.