Congratulations! You’re a pet parent. Your new furry pal is now solely dependent on you for their happiness, health, and wellness. If there is one thing I know as the parent of several furballs, food choice is my number one concern.
With many people going gluten-free, keto, paleo, vegan, or some other form of selective dieting, as a pet parent, it falls to me to provide my pets with the same great food choices and nutritional benefits. While the options for a person’s diet are varied, the biggest nutritional question in caring for our four-legged friends is, “Should I choose a grain-free diet for my dog?”
Why a Grain-Free Diet is Better For Your Dog
While grain-free dog food has grown in popularity over the years, pet parents are faced with not knowing a lot about this kind of dog food and if it actually can benefit their pet. Both gluten-free and grain-free diets have become popular with pet owners from the standpoint of food allergies or an overabundance of carbs that regular dog food contains. Why? Because we all want to find a diet that is beneficial for our pet and because many of our furry friends display signs of allergies, health conditions, digestive issues, and difficulties with weight management.
Grain-free dog food leaves out the most common (and cheap) filler grains like corn, wheat, sorghum, rice, rye, and barley. They’re replaced with the more nutritiously beneficial food substances such as peas and lentils, white potatoes, legumes, and sweet potatoes. All these foods are high in nutrients, fiber, and have a low-glycemic index. But when did dog food manufacturers first realize a grain-free diet would be a better diet for our dogs?
There is an actual “history” concerning this pet health trend. Dogs are hunters ; they’d hunt and capture animals, ensuring a diet of raw, protein-rich food. After all, they are the domesticated descendant of the wolf. You’ve certainly never seen a wolf munching on a field of herbs or flowers.
Historically, mass-marketing of what is commonly known as “kibble” began in World War II because fillers like wheat, corn, and barley were cheap and easy to add to dog food. That hasn’t changed today – most commercial dog foods still have either wheat or corn as one of the main ingredients in their kibble.
But while dogs have evolved in domesticity, their doggie digestive systems are still fairly primitive. Our companions have little ability to support the digestive breakdown and metabolization of complex carbohydrates and grains. For Fido, fibers and grains are hard to digest, and most remain undigested. Over time, this can damage the lining of the dog’s digestive tract, resulting in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), allergies, food sensitivities, LGS (leaky gut syndrome), and even obesity.
Dog Breeds Prone to Food Allergies
Some breeds of dogs are more prone to developing food allergies than others. If you are a pet owner of one such breed, you need to be on the alert for any changes in your dog’s behaviors to know if your pal may have a food allergy. The breeds which have a greater chance of developing food allergies include:
- Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers
- Chinese Shar-Peis
- Cocker spaniels
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Soft Coated Wheaton terriers
- Springer spaniels
- West Highland White terriers
Food Allergy Symptoms
While you’re considering the beneficial change to a grain-free diet for your dog, bear in mind your pooch may already be displaying signs or symptoms of a food allergy. While we always encourage you to talk to your vet, you should be on the lookout for the following:
- Lots of gas (flatulence)
- Loose stools (diarrhea)
- Rashes and/or skin irritations (excessive scratching)
- Licking, chewing, or biting areas of their skin, especially near their tail
- A sick tummy (displayed by vomiting and/or eating grass)
- Ear infections (rubbing their ears a lot and whining)
The three most harmful grain additives for a dog’s food are soy, wheat, and corn. Reading the back label on your current dog food bag or box will let you know if any of these health-stealing culprits are in your dog’s food.
Grain-free dog foods have a high concentration of protein and animal fats. They are lower in carbohydrates, which means grain-free dog food is easier to digest, a true benefit to doggie’s digestive system. Your pet’s digestive tract doesn’t just process the food they eat. Your dog’s gut determines their overall health and plays a key role in safeguarding their immunity.
Plus, grain-free dog foods, while more expensive than their grain-filled counterparts, help keep your dog feeling fuller for more extended periods.
Benefits of a Gran-Free Diet
There are many reasons to go grain-free for your best furry friend. Here are the most significant health benefits of a grain-free diet for your dog that you should consider:
A softer, shiny coat
If your pet’s coat is dull and lifeless, it’s due to the food they consume. Not only is the elimination of grains the cure for a dull coat, but the addition of choice ingredients full of omega fatty acids used in grain-free dog food keeps the fur healthy and shiny.
Better, healthier skin
Cheap grain-filled dog food causes pets to suffer dry, irritated skin, which can cause them to lose hair and develop infections. A grain-free diet will get rid of all these issues.
More firm stools (less runny ones)
Once you switch your four-legged companion to a grain-free diet, they won’t have to go out as often because the amount of indigestible fiber is gone.
Eliminates most food allergies
When dogs consume harmful proteins like those found in grains, their immune systems become hypersensitive, which detracts from their quality of life.
No more bad breath
Grains leave a nasty film on a dog’s teeth, which causes bacteria to grow, thus the smelly breath. Grain-free dog food eliminates this to a great extent.
More energy for Fido
When a dog food contains grains, the grain’s shell is removed so the food tastes better–that means your dog has less energy, gets tired quickly, and has lower blood sugar.
Beneficial for doggie moms
When a dog is pregnant or nursing, they need more nutrition. Grain-free dog food offers more protein for your mommy-dog.
Less bloating and gas
Bloating can be a lot more harmful than most people think. Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is the second most common death cause in dogs after cancer. Grain-free food greatly reduces all bloating-associated problems.
Complex carbohydrates replace cheap fillers and grains which equal a healthier, more balanced dog food.
More proteins for your omnivore
Grains and fillers have many empty calories; a grain-free diet provides the protein your dog needs.
Grains are difficult for your dog’s digestive system to break down and use. Properly function digestion is essential for a healthy and happy puppy.
No more GMOs
Corn, one of the top ingredients in commercial dog food, is GMO all the way. Grain-free foods don’t just eliminate corn, but also the canola and soy.
Everyone loves their dogs. They’re our best pals and great companions, so we all want the very best for them. A grain-free diet for your dog is a win-win for both your furry friend and you. Before you make the switch, be sure to consult your veterinarian about why a grain-free diet might be the best choice for your pet.
When purchasing dog food, it’s not just about budget or a great sales price; it’s about choosing food that helps your dog thrive. Only proper nutrition can keep your four-legged friend healthy and happy.