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Tuesday
May082012

Grain Free Dog Food FAQs

What is Grain Free Dog Food?

Grain free dog food is becoming a popular type of dog food to feed your dog. Found in both canned and kibble formats, grain free dog foods do not contain any cereal grains, which are usually used as fillers. Cereal grains include corn, wheat, barley, and rice. Instead, grain free dog food is rich in real meat products (not by-products) and protein, as well as easy-to-digest animal fats. Vegetables can also be found in some dog food, such as potatoes or sweet potatoes. These vegetables are carbohydrates that help maintain the shape of dry dog food. Some carbohydrates are not bad for dogs, as they would have eaten a small amount in the wild through ingesting the contents eaten by their prey.

Why Go Grain Free?

Grain free dog foods closely mimic a dog's ancestral diet. A dog's diet in the wild would primarily contain meat based proteins and a few fruits and veggies. Giving food that matches this formula allows your dog to absorb the most nutrition, since a dog's stomach and digestive system is not made to handle grains. In dog foods containly mostly grains, a dog has to eat a larger quantity of dog food in order to be full or to gain energy. Another issue with grains in dog food is how it is processed. Grains turn to sugar in your dog's blood, so feeding a food with grain can be compared to a human eating fast food at every mealtime. In grain free dogs foods, dogs are provided lots of energy and nutrition. This is both a blessing and a curse, as older dogs or dogs with limited mobility could end up gaining weight. However, feeding a less active dog a smaller amount of food to cut down calories does not cut down the nutrition he is receiving with a grain free dog food.

Some of the benefits associated with feeding dogs grain free foods include:

  • decreased allergies or allergy remission
  • improved skin and coat
  • increased appetite in picky eaters
  • increased energy
  • easier passing of stools
  • reduced stools
  • decreased weight for obese dogs
  • improvement in impacted anal glands
  • healthier digestion
  • clearer eyes
  • good muscle development
  • better temperament

How Do I Switch My Dog to Grain Free Dog Foods?

While a dog's ancestral diet is closely mimicked by grain free dog foods, your dog can have stomach problems if you do not switch foods carefully. A dog's stomach contains bacteria that attacks foreign substances. Even a food that is better for your dog could cause stomach aches and diarrhea until your dog is used to the food. A gradual change in your dog's diet will allow his system to get used to his new food, thereby preventing any stomach upsets.

The best way to introduce a grain free dog food to your dog's diet is to slowly mix the new grain free dog food in with the old grain dog food. As you slowly add more and more of the grain free food to your dog's diet, decrease the amount of grain dog food you are feeding, until the only food you are feeding your dog is grain free. Depending on your dog's sensitivity to change, it could take a week or more to get your dog completely switched over. Watch your dog's behavior and note any unusual gas or diarrhea to determine if you are switching dog food too fast.

Reader Comments (3)

Great idea! Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll be updating the post text and be sure to include it up there, thanks.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergrain free dog food

Is there any research on combining Grain Free Meals with training bites or biscuits containing grains? Can an occasional treat with grain be okay for the dog?

October 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Amanda, it would completely depend on why you are feeding your dog grain free food. If your dog has an allergy or intolerance to grain foods, then an occasional treat with grain in it would be problematic. You may not see the problems that it would cause, but, internally, there would be issues. Allergies or intolerances could be expressed by itching, skin issues, fur issues, eye stains, and other symptoms.

If you are feeding your dog grain free because you like the ingredients or the lack of feces it produces, then an occasional grain treat isn't going to cause issues.

October 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterKristen Sydelko

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