In recent years, grain-free dog foods have become a popular choice. Pet food manufacturers have also jumped on the bandwagon and started to market versions. However, is grain-free food really the best choice for your pooch?
Grains Used in Dog Foods
Commercial dog foods commonly use the following grains in their manufactured foods:
Grain free dog foods contain no-grain, but instead substitute carbohydrates sources in their food such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils, potatoes, and peas. In many cases, grain-free foods contain MORE carbs than dog foods that are made using grains.
Is Grain-Free also Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free foods contain no grains that have gluten such as barley, rye, and wheat but they still might have other grains. Of course, a grain-free diet might also be gluten free, but they also may have hidden sources of gluten so unless the food clearly states, ‘gluten free’ you should not assume that the food is automatically free of gluten sources. Many commercial foods are even manufactured in factories where cross contamination can take place.
Grains and Benefits
Whole grains are not completely bad. Sadly, grain-free food is considered all bad, but dogs can benefit from grains. as unacceptable. They are a valuable source of B vitamins, selenium fiber, carbohydrates, iron, B vitamins, magnesium. You are probably aware that grain diets have more meat to counterbalance the lack of grains. However, they are not all meat.
Feeding a Grain Free Diet
Dogs who are suspected of a food allergy are often put on a grain-free diet. It is not uncommon for a dog to have allergies to the grains found in commercial foods. However, most food allergies are due to the meat source found in the food and not the grain.
Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease
Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened an investigation into dogs fed grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy. The heart condition causes an enlarged heart coupled with thinning of the heart muscle. The heart starts to weaken and fail until the dog passes away. The FDA has found that 1100 plus dogs studied with the condition were fed a diet labeled as ‘grain-free’ which gives a strong indication that they might be related. However, more research is needed. Pet owners who are concerned should discuss their fears with their veterinarians.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Grain Free Dog Food
Any time you decide to change your pet’s diet, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons to determine the benefits vs. the possible drawbacks.
Pros of Grain Free Dog Food Include:
- Ample protein
- No harmful fillers such as wheat gluten and cornmeal
- Easy to digest.
- Assists in maintaining healthy weight.
- Reduces carbohydrates which is excellent for diabetic canines.
- Provides allergy relief in dogs prone to hair loss, hot spots, and itchiness.
Cons of a Grain Free Diet Include:
- Lacks omega 3 fatty acids.
- Unknown relationship with heart disease (research remains ongoing)