Here's What To Know About Grain-Free Dog Food

Is grain-free dog food good for dogs? 🌾

dog running through field of grain

Grain-free dog food has become super popular recently, so you might be wondering why people like it and if it’s right for your pup.

We reached out to Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian consultant at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out everything you need to know about grain-free dog food.

What is grain-free dog food, and why did it become popular?

While standard kibble contains grains like rice, corn or wheat, grain-free dog food doesn’t have any grains at all.

This kind of food has become widely popular in recent years. One reason for this is the popularity of the idea that dogs can’t digest grains since they evolved from wolves, who are carnivores. But a big difference between dogs and wolves is that dogs are omnivores, which means they get their nutrients from meat and plants, and they actually can digest grains.

Some claims about grain-free food helping with health problems have spread among the pet parent community, and pet food marketing contributes to the misconception that grain-free food is good for all dogs. But with these kinds of claims, the real cause of a dog’s allergy symptoms might have been from a certain type of protein, and changing to a different meat is what really made the difference (not the lack of grains).

Is grain-free dog food bad for dogs?

Grain-free food should only be fed to dogs who are actually allergic to grain (grain allergies are rare in dogs) or have a grain intolerance. This is because grain-free dog food can cause heart problems.

“If your dog does not have a grain allergy, it is best to feed them a diet that contains grains,” Dr. Ochoa said. “Recently there have been studies that have linked heart disease to dogs who eat grain-free diets.”

The FDA launched an investigation to find out why some dogs who are fed grain-free diets develop the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Grain-free diets contain higher amounts of other ingredients to replace grains, and experts think that the greater amounts of peas and lentils are to blame.

The best grain-free dog food

If you think your dog might be allergic to grains or have a grain intolerance, talk to your vet to get their recommendation for what to feed your pup.

They can test your dog to see if they have a grain allergy or an allergy to something else,” Dr. Ochoa said. “If your dog does have a grain allergy, trying to find a diet with a limited amount of grain would be best, or trying to figure out which grain they are allergic to and avoiding that grain.”

Here are some of the best grain-free dog foods you can buy if your pup can’t eat grains.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet | Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance is highly rated on Amazon, so lots of pet parents obviously love it. It contains sweet potato as a gluten-free source of fiber and sunflower oil that provides omega-6 fatty acids to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy.

INSTINCT Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Lamb Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food

This limited-ingredient diet is perfect for dogs who have allergies. It contains only one source of animal protein and one type of vegetable to help prevent allergic reactions. Highly digestible lamb provides the protein and amino acids your pup needs.

Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken 24-lb

This grain-free food includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat health. There are no artificial preservatives or flavors and no corn, wheat or soy.

PURINA BENEFUL Natural Grain-Free With Real Farm Raised Chicken Dry Dog Food

This formula is made with no corn, wheat or gluten, and farm-raised chicken is the first ingredient. It contains 23 vitamins and minerals to keep your pup healthy, plus it has no fillers. 

Talk to your vet if you think your pup has food allergies because grain-free food actually might be right for him and can help reduce his allergic reactions.

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