Grain-free dog food: is it all that?

Ahh, the topic that can really get your dog collar in a twist. We're talking about grain-free dog food.

We answer the questions on all dog owners' lips: Are dogs supposed to eat grains? Are we changing dogs’ diets to suit our own? Is feeding your dog grains a cardinal sin? Or is grain-free dog food the 'elite tier' of canine munch? We reveal all.

Can Dogs Eat Grains?

Yes, the vast majority of dogs can most definitely eat grains as part of a healthy balanced diet. The majority of dog foods on the market include grains in their recipes along with other ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

The Pros of Grains For Dogs

Grains are packed with nutrients and provide carbohydrates, fats and immunity-boosting antioxidants. All of these can support healthy skin, fur, claws and all round good well-being - so long as your dog does not have an adverse reaction to them.

How Grains Can Be Problematic for Some Dogs

Some dogs body’s simply cannot process grains effectively which can lead to symptoms such as itching and sensitive skin, diarrhoea, weight loss and a lack of energy. Which is precisely why having grain-free options is vital for some dogs.

Grain-Free vs Gluten-Free: what’s the difference?

Dog food labelled as 'grain-free' indicates that the product doesn't contain any grains such as wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, rice or soy. Perfect if your dog has intolerances to grain. However, if your dog needs their food to be gluten-free this will still probably contain some grains. Confused yet? Read on…

Gluten is the protein that is found in certain types of grain, such as wheat, barley and rye but not every grain type contains gluten which means, in short, that gluten-free dog food may or may not be grain free, while grain-free dog food will always be gluten-free.

Can Going Grain-Free Help my Dog?

Yes, providing your dog with a grain-free diet has so many amazing benefits:

  • Better digestive health – grains are tricky for dogs to fully digest as they are carbohydrate heavy. A grain-free diet will have a higher protein content which aids digestive health.
  • Higher nutritional value – grains are cheap meaning that a lot of dog food companies bulk their recipes out using these which leads to a lack of nutritional value. Grain-free food will typically contain more veg, fruit, pre-biotics and other yummy goodness that will not only taste good but will do good for your dog too.
  • Improvement in coat and skin health – an intolerance to grains can lead to itchy skin which in turn leads to a dull coat. By removing grain from their diet you will quickly see this symptom subside and the fatty oils found in protein becoming the rescue remedy providing them with a thicker and healthier coat.
  • Energy – as mentioned above, some dog foods use grains to bulk their food out but this won’t provide them with the nutrition they require which can lead to lethargy. By removing these grains and providing a well-balanced meal instead, you should see an increase in your dog’s energy levels.
  • Weight – dog obesity is a big problem and one of the main culprits is the diet they are on. Grain-free dog food is high in vegetables and protein which won’t add on the pounds as carbohydrates do.
  • Better poops – Because some dogs struggle to digest grains, this can often result in soft or even runny poops which is most definitely not a healthy way to live. Going grain-free should quickly resolve this issue and get your dog back to having firm poops (which is nicer for all parties involved!)
  • Less gas – This is another pro to grain-free food that we can all get on board with; fewer stink bombs! Even though gas isn’t a health issue, it is an unfortunate one and those grains can certainly add to the problem. We know how to further help with this issue which is why our grain-free Grub Club dog food also contains a pre-biotic to help to balance out the bacteria in their digestive tract leaving their stinky days behind.
  • Better breath – Say whaaaaat?! Yes, really can you believe that grains can also cause this common doggy issue? Grains can leave a carbohydrate film on your dog’s teeth which is tricky for saliva to wash away. Film plus bacteria feeding = bad dog breath!

Are grain-free diets linked to dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is the degeneration of the heart muscle, most specifically the thinning of the muscle walls which can lead to an enlarged heart. It is most common in large breed dogs such as Boxers, Dobermans and St Bernards.

Recently, there have been studies to suggest that grain-free dog food could potentially be associated with dilated cardiomyopathy. This has been connected to high levels of legumes in dog food which is common in the USA but rare in the UK.  

So, as you can see, grains can be good for some dogs but for those that struggle with intolerances to grains, feeding them a grain-free dog food could do wonders for their skin, stomach and general health. 

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