Grain-free dog food is by far one of the most popular puppy grubs on the market, and these days it’s becoming unusual to find an all natural, healthy mutt meal which doesn’t plaster grain-free facts all over its packaging.
And hey, a bag of kibble that’s free from grains admittedly sounds like it might be a more nourishing, less irritating option for your canine, especially if you suspect they have allergies or a sensitive stomach.
But just how much more beneficial is it to actually make the switch to a grain-free dog diet?
And are they even good for pups at all?!
Why Use Grain Free Dog Food?
The theory behind a grain-free dog food diet is that the ancestors of our four-legged friends were purely carnivores, and so would never have normally eaten foodstuffs such as wheat and rice, which are often prevalent ingredients in dog food today.
Therefore, grain-free options which are low in carbs and high in protein and fats are thought to be much more in keeping with a mutt’s natural nutritional needs.
Owners also often believe that their dogs have a sensitivity to grains or even have an allergic response to them based on bad reactions their pup has had to ‘normal’ dog food brands in the past.
A grain-free food diet would therefore limit the risk of making a pup sick and lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
However as previously stated these are simply theories as to why grain-free dog food is a better bet for your canine and truthfully there is still very little science backing the benefits of this doggy diet.
Owners are more likely choosing these types of foods for their dog because they reflect our own dietary choices which have increasingly seen us choose meals free of all sorts of things from dairy to gluten.
It’s then natural to assume that if removing such things from our own life makes us feel more energised and content, surely they’d do the same for our dog!
However, this might not necessarily be the case…
What Are The Benefits Of Grain Free Dog Food?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing to suggest that grain-free diets are better or healthier for your mutt than any other type of dog grub.
While the ancestors of dogs may well have been unable or unwilling to digest carbohydrates as part of their daily hunt, evidence suggests that the domestic dogs of today are more than capable of handling a starch-rich diet.
This means a rice-filled doggy dinner would be perfectly suited to even sensitive stomached pups and could even help aid digestion rather than obstruct it thanks to rice’s heavy fibre content.
Whole Grains especially can even be a great source of amino acids, which are a natural, easily digested protein, and the perfect nutrient for a progressing puppy.
It’s also important to note that while many grain-free foods boast they are hypoallergenic thanks to their removal of grains, things like corn, wheat and barley are actually some of the least common allergens when it comes to canines.
In fact, less than 1% of dogs have a grain allergy, and it’s instead much more common for pups to suffer reactions to a certain meat, which are, uncoincidentally, the primary ingredient of nearly every dog food going!
With this information in mind, it’s hard to understand why grain-free food is so popular, especially given there’s no real evidence to support it’s supposed benefits.
However, despite not being a crucial switch you have to make, choosing a grain-free diet can still be a perfectly healthy choice for your canine…
Is Grain Free Dog Food Healthy?
Despite the misconception that grain-free food is a more sensitive or more natural diet for dogs, their recipes are still packed full of nourishing nutrients for hungry hounds.
By being grain-free, such dog foods are often focused on being free from as much irritating ingredients as possible, meaning there’s usually no artificial additives or other allergy-inducing products involved.
This is a fantastic feature of most grain-free foods, as you can be confident you are feeding your pup no nasty junk or fillers come mealtime.
And although they don’t solve a dog’s digestion problems the way we’d assume, they are still often packed with a bounty of other digestive aiding ingredients and healthy gut boosters.
It’s added ingredients can also support joint health or coat repair, meaning that although not technically better, they can be just as healthy as a standard vitality dog food brand.
However not all grain-free food is created equal, and you still have to be careful when selecting the right meal for your mutt.
What To Be Wary Of
Just because grains are removed from a recipe, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are serving up your pup a low carb treat, especially if the meal is filled with grain-substitutes such as peas and potatoes.
These sorts of vegetables actually contain far more carbohydrates than the average grain, and so naturally are going to be a more calorific recipe when combined with commonly used high protein and high fat dog food ingredients.
High calorie recipes are the easiest way for you to lose control over a dog’s weight gain, and so like with any dog food, this is the main sense in which certain grain-free options can be unhealthy.
Is Grain Free Dog Food Safe?
Some scientists are beginning to claim grain-free dog food may not be so healthy, however, it’s still currently unclear whether they’re doing more harm than good to our dogs.
They remain one of the most loved types of dog food, and millions of dogs eat grain-free diets without any problems, however, recent links have begun to worry dog owners.
Late last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating a possible link between some grain-free dog food brands and cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Between 2014 and 2019, the FDA received 560 reports of the heart disease, of which 91% of the dogs were on a grain-free diet.
However, this is an early and preliminary link from a very small pool and so there still needs to be a lot more research conducted before an accurate conclusion can be made.
In the meantime, if you’re worried, it’s best to talk to your vet about the best diet options for your pup, and perhaps avoid grain-free diets until more is known.