If you are looking for the best grain free dog food, this article is for you!
First off, what is grain-free dog food? As the name implies, grain-free dog food does not contain any grains, such as wheat, corn, or barley.
Grain-free dog food is often made with grain substitutes like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, chickpeas, and carrots. In addition to vegetables, starches, and legumes, grain-free dog food often contains “exotic” protein sources that more closely resemble ancestral canine diets, such as bison, wild boar, and even kangaroo.
Grain-free dog food has risen in popularity over the past decade, mirroring diet trends among humans. Increased demand for food free of chemicals, common allergens, and additives has spilled over into the pet food market, with marketers in both industries capitalizing on the health food craze.
The melamine pet food recall of 2007 also prompted many pet owners to rethink their dog food decisions. After experiencing an uptick in reports of dogs and cats falling ill and dying from certain types of pet food, the FDA and USDA launched an investigation. They discovered that wheat proteins shipped to the U.S. from China for pet food manufacturing had been contaminated with toxic substances.
Due to the proliferation of health-consciousness among consumers and their fear of tainted ingredients shipped from overseas, the pet food industry has experienced a surge in grain-free dog food sales.
At the end of 2017, grain-free dog food accounted for 44% of sales in pet specialty stores in the U.S., up from a mere 15% in 2011.
Pet owners tend to choose grain-free dog food for three primary reasons.
One reason is that owners deem a grain-free food to be an all-around healthier option for their pet.
Two, owners may discover that their dog has an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity to grain, causing serious gastrointestinal issues and other health complications when left untreated.
Third, pet owners mistakenly conclude that their dog is allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to grain.
Regarding reason number one, grain-free dog food is often branded by marketers as healthier than other alternatives—though it’s not necessarily due to the absence of grains. Grain-free food often consists of higher quality ingredients and whole proteins rather than low-quality byproducts and harmful additives. Nevertheless, always beware of false or misleading advertising from brands trying to take advantage of consumer trends.
Regarding reasons two and three, some dogs are allergic or highly sensitive to grain. However, grain is one of the less common allergy-inducing foods among dogs, with beef and dairy ranking as the most allergenic foods.
Furthermore, food triggers just 10% of all allergies in dogs. Most allergies are caused by the environment and fleas.
Therefore, it’s probably best to work with your veterinarian to ensure your dog receives the correct diagnosis before making any dietary changes. Although, some owners may feel grain-free diets are a healthier option for their pet, always consult a professional to ensure that your dog has proper nutrition. A veterinarian can test your dog’s food sensitivity to help determine if a change in grain free food would be beneficial.
Grain-free dog food does offer some unique benefits, but is it actually superior to other types of dog food? Also, is it the right choice for your dog?
The best food for your dog is ultimately up to you and your veterinarian to decide. However, understanding the potential risks of grain-free food is a critical component in making an informed decision.
Grain-free dog food recently made headlines when the FDA issued a warning about its suspected link with dilated cardiomyopathy (D.C.M.), a potentially fatal disease most prominent among large breed dogs. With a recent swell in D.C.M. cases among smaller dogs, some veterinarians are ringing the alarm bells.
One common factor they have noticed in reported cases is that these dogs have diets heavily based in grain-replacement carbohydrates like peas, lentils, and potatoes.
Although these findings are a cause for concern, pet food manufacturers have not yet initiated any recalls. The sample size of recent D.C.M. cases is still too small to draw any conclusions. Also, it is presently unclear whether it is the lack of grains, the overconsumption of legumes, or something else entirely, that is causing the unusual increase in D.C.M.
We recommend you stay on top of the issue as more research develops.
Additionally, diets including grain are not necessarily harmful to pets. Unless your dog has an allergy or sensitivity, there are many health and balanced dog food options that contain grains. Before you buy any type of dog food, make sure to read the label and check for high-quality ingredients. If you are still unsure about what is right for your dog, consult a veterinarian or nutrition expert.
What may not be so obvious though is how grain-free dog food differs from gluten-free dog food, another popular type of pet food.
Like human food, dog food labeled “gluten-free” does not contain gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat and barley. Not all grains contain gluten though, which is important to understand if you discover that your dog is allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to grains and/or gluten.
Keep in mind that while grain-free food will always be gluten-free, gluten-free food may not always be grain-free.
Although grain allergies are relatively rare in dogs, it is critical to dogs’ health and safety to know their status. Yet with so many ingredients in dog food, it can be a daunting task to figure out if a grain is an allergy-causing culprit, or if food is responsible at all.
Fortunately, there are some helpful ways to ease the process.
Generally, allergic reactions to food will affect your dog’s skin while food sensitivities and intolerances will affect your dog’s digestive system. Symptoms can take up to 12 weeks to change though once you adjust your dog’s diet, so the process does require considerable patience and discipline as well as assistance from your veterinarian.
If you suspect your dog is allergic to grain, look out for the following:
These symptoms can be warning signs of others issues. So, make sure to consult your veterinarian for a professional diagnosis.
Although the FDA regulates commercial dog food, ensuring that the ingredients are safe for canine consumption, it is best to know some facts in order to be a conscientious consumer. Here are some things to look for in any dog food, grain free or not.
If you have decided to make the switch and you have found the best dry grain free dog food, here are some tips for making the transition.
Now that you understand more about feeding your pup grain free food, we’ve compiled a list of the best grain-free dog food options with their pros and cons. Here’s our pick of some of the best brands in the market.
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Food has several different options in their natural grain free dry dog food category:ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food is available in 8 different grain free formulas:ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
What We Like
All six of the Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food formulas are grain free:ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is only available in one option but it’s a good one.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Chicken and Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food are one of the most affordable options on the market.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
In the end, all of these brands are top rated. The most affordable option is Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Chicken and Turkey Recipe.
However, the one brand that many consumers love is Taste of the Wild. The ingredients are from sustainable sources from around the world. It is made with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and is highly digestible. Plus, it is very tasty and dogs just love it.
Your dog is your best friend, and you want him to live a happy and healthy life. This might mean switching to a grain free diet.
If your dog seems to have food-related allergies, consult your veterinarian about a possible change in diet. Most vets like to run allergy tests to help pinpoint the issue before testing out possible solutions.
Grain-free dog food does not have to be expensive. Read labels to ensure you are providing your dog with a balanced diet.
If you decide to make the switch to grain-free though, make sure to transition gradually. Pay attention to changes in your dog’s behavior, skin, and gastrointestinal functioning.
Also, be sure to stay up to date on current research regarding the potential risks associated with grain-free diets.
Lastly, don’t forget to consult your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have along the way!
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