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Good question, Mitch. When it comes to grain-free and/or pea-free diets, we need consider the overall quality of the food and the root cause of taurine deficiency.

The “grain-free” marketing term refers to processed dry food/kibble that is an extruded, highly processed product; whether it is full of grains or grain-free, it is not healthy.

The main ingredients in the grain-free diets are often peas, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes — carbohydrates typically intended to replace grains – rather than high-quality meat protein. This explains why some dogs became taurine deficient when fed these diets, as taurine (an essential amino acid that supports heart health) is naturally found in fresh meat and organs.

So it’s best to avoid most grains and starches (because they are not a natural part of a canine’s diet) and focus on increasing the amount of fresh meat and organs in your dog’s diet to naturally prevent DCM.

Dogs have much shorter digestive tracts than herbivores and can’t process high-carb foods like grains and starchy carbs very well. This often results in excessive food fermentation and gas.

You can replace starchy carbs with cooked squash or pumpkin, especially for dogs with digestive upset. Grains (including rice) in general can contribute to IBD. Arsenic toxicity in rice is also a serious problem.



The best diet is as nature intends; fresh meat, organs and bones with some vegetables and leafy greens. A varied, species-appropriate diet, along with all-natural vitamins, minerals, omega-3’s and probiotics is the way to go.

It is very rare for a dog to have a taurine deficiency when consuming an unprocessed, fresh food diet because taurine is so readily available in meats and organs. It may need to be supplemented if your dog has been tested as deficient, but overall dogs get enough of this amino acid from fresh food, and from their ability to manufacture it in their own body.

If you are concerned, connect with your holistic or integrative vet to get your pup tested and you can discuss options together based on the results.

Here are some links to a quick & easy Natural Diet Course, and an online Recipe Maker that I hope you will find helpful if you want to learn more about alternatives to processed food. Your dog will love you for it! 🙂 Switching from kibble to fresh food was the best decision we made a few years ago to improve our pup’s health and reduce unnecessary vet bills.



Wishing you and your pup all the best 🙂