Food Guidelines

What’s the Scoop on Grain-Free Diets For Dogs?

Grain-free diets are all the rage in the dog food industry these days. But, since grain-free foods are generally pricier than non-grain-free foods, many consumers are left wondering if it’s worth the added expense or if it’s just a bunch of marketing hype.

Use the information below to make your own educated decision about whether a grain-free diet is right for your dog.

A grain-free dog food is one that contains no wheat or corn. These grains are typically added to our dog’s food as a less expensive source of calories and nutrients than the food they would find in the wild – mostly meat with a few fruits and vegetables.

But, while grains do contain valuable calories and nutrients, they aren’t necessarily the right kind for our furry friends.Valerie Gleaton, a green living expert at Gaiam.com explains,

…grains can cause problems for some companion animals, just as they can for some humans. Grains can aggravate allergies (a friend’s dog has been on a grain-free diet since puppyhood due to severe skin allergies) and can contribute to weight problems.

Aside from these specific ailments, grain is generally more difficult for carnivores like cats and almost-carnivores like dogs to digest than meat.

However, not all experts agree that grain-free is the best choice for our pets. Ian Shoust, a writer for Suite101.com specializing in proper pet nutrition, says,

Corn contains essential fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat.

Beta-carotene, vitamin E, and lutein are natural antioxidants that are present in corn.

Corn should not be the main source of protein in a dog food, though. Dogs need a varied diet to stay healthy, so pay attention to the first three ingredients on a dog food label to ensure that it doe not contain too much corn.

While too much corn in a dog food can cause health problems, corn in and of itself is not harmful.

Whether avoiding grain in your dog’s food altogether or minimizing their grain intake, experts can agree on one thing – meat is still the most important ingredient in your dog’s diet. As a general rule of thumb, steer clear of any dog foods that contain wheat or corn as one of the top three ingredients.

Do you feed your dog a grain-free diet? Tell our readers what led you to that decision in a comment below!

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