There is a trend towards the “ancestral” diet for pets, such as raw meat and bones for dogs and cats. The main reason behind that is to provide a more natural diet, but pet parents cite a number of additional reasons for making the decision to eliminate grain from their dog’s diet.
6 Reasons Pet Parents Go Grain-Free
1. Allergies – It’s allergies that often begin the journey towards a grain-free diet. Due to the high occurrence of gluten and other cereal grain allergies in dogs, veterinarians often recommend eliminating them from the diet first to determine if they’re the cause. It’s also recommended that cereal grains and gluten be avoided when weaning puppies to lessen the chance of developing allergies and dangerous digestive upset.
2. Digestion – While dogs are classed in the order of carnivora, they are scientifically designated as carno-omnivorous animals. Contrary to popular belief, studies have proven that grains are digestible and useable for dogs, especially when cooked. However, there has been no demonstrated dietary requirement for grains and they do fill the dog when other ingredients would provide more nutrition (such as a natural source of antioxidants). Grains increase stool volume and some cause an increase in gas/flatulence. Too many carbohydrates from grains may cause digestive upset, abdominal distention (gas), malabsorption, and diarrhea in dogs.
3. Overall health and vitality – The response of dogs who are switched to a grain-free diet has been excitedly reported online and in print. Pet parents share stories of a healthier coat and skin, better oral health, increased energy, and an overall happier and healthier animal.
4. Aflatoxin / Mycotoxin – A more recent concern as pet parents become more knowledgeable about ingredients, is aflatoxin. Recalls due to aflatoxin inspired research into the dangers of this toxic substance that comes from mold on grain crops such as corn and wheat. Ingesting contaminated grains can result in digestive upset, lameness, liver damage or death.
5. Palatability – Prepared diets high in grains lack the taste of whole food. That’s one reason why manufacturers of processed pet food often have to add artificial flavoring and attractants to their products. Real meat and unseasoned stock is a taste that even the most finicky pets crave, be it from beef, poultry, pork, fish, or wild game. Vegetables and fruit can be mixed into meals or tasty treats, or served fresh. Many dogs will happily gnaw on a carrot, for example.
6. Economics – The limited nutrition supplied by grains means more food has to be ingested for a complete diet. Dogs are at a risk of ingesting less food when the grain content is too high, resulting in the need for synthetic vitamins or other health supplements. Otherwise, they have to eat more processed food per serving than they would if they were eating whole foods in order to receive enough nutrients. Probably the greatest savings, however, come from lower veterinary bills due to a healthier dog. Health benefits may include increased immunity, less disease, optimum organ function, efficient digestion, and reduced or eliminated allergy symptoms.
Feeding a Grain-Free Diet to Your Dog
Grain-free diets for dogs come in many forms and are incorporated into various nutritional approaches.
- For those who want both convenience and a natural, grain-free dog food, check your local pet store for prepared diets, such as frozen or freeze-dried options.
- There are kibble and canned grain-free dog food brands available, although many argue against processed pet food altogether.
- Homemade dog food and treats are becoming a popular choice among pet parents. We have some recipes here on our site, plus you’ll find lots of pet recipe books and online recipes with a quick search. Substitute a gluten-free flour (such as pea flour) in recipes that call for wheat flour.
??? Have you eliminated grain from your dog’s diet? Please share your tips in the comments below.
Batchelor, D. J. Sodium/Glucose Cotransporter-1, Sweet Receptor, and Disaccharidase Expression in the Intestine of the Domestic Dog and Cat: Two Species of Different Dietary Habit. 2010.
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements 2001.
Schenck, Patricia, DVM, PhD. Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets. 2010.
Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat
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