Could someone explain to me the benefit of grain-free dry dog food? I see that many manufacturers offer this alternative to their regular dry food. Do some dogs do better on a grain-free diet? Thank you.
Hi Anna- This is just my opinion and interpretation on grain free vs grain inclusive, but here it goes.
Dogs don’t have a high requirement if any for carbohydrates. They can break down carbs to be used as energy, but not as well as we do. Dogs derive energy better from animal proteins and fats. Dry kibble is always going to contain carbs because they are the binding source for the kibble. It could not retain it’s shape without a carb source. Grains have become demonized as a filler ingredient in dog food and so the pet food industry answered that with a new marketing plan; grain free dog food. It’s marketed as better for dogs with “allergies” and overall marketed as being superior to grain based foods.
My first problem with that is that resolving a dogs food allergies or more commonly their food intolerances can’t be done without knowing what they are intolerant to. If my dog is intolerant to chicken, but not rice, feeding a grain free chicken based food is not going to fix the intolerance.
Also, many people are under the impression that grain free means carb free. It does not. Grains are replaced by peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, lentils etc in grain free foods. All of which are also things dogs can be intolerant to, but aren’t nessesarily. Same thing with rice, barley, oatmeal etc.
Grain free foods however, do have a tendency to have a higher meat content than grain based foods. That is not always the case though. Plenty of grain free foods are guilty of sacrificing meat content for carbs.
I know plenty of dogs including my own that do just as well on grain based foods, as they do on grain free. I’m currently feeding a grain based food, however I’ve fed both, mainly grain free. Some people don’t feel comforable feeding grain based foods. I don’t care because to me they are getting carbs either way, which they don’t need in their diet. I consider all carbs to be filler ingredients.
Again this is my opinion and lots of people will disagree, but I thought I’d share my perspective.
- This reply was modified 8 years, 3 months ago by Pitlove.
Hi Anna-I do think some dogs do well on a grain free diet. I have one beagle/aussie mix as an example. She has lost 7 lbs (from 37 lbs) when switched to raw plus grain free kibble. She currently eats Farmina Lamb Grain Free a few times per week. But of course it has potato,has to have something to bind it. I have another dog that seems to do better with grain. I have fed her Farmina Lamb Ancestral Grain, but since I don’t feed kibble enough it’s hard to say whether it works. I have better luck with satin balls putting weight on her. I have learned that each dog is different so it’s not one size fits all for food.
Dear PitLove and Kristen C,
Thank you so much for your insights into grain-free foods. I am definitely going to check on the carb content. I did not know that dogs do not need alot of carbohydrates. Thank you for this info, PitLove. I am going to try giving my new dog grain-free food once she is considered an adult by our vet. She has a ways to go, as she is only 6 months old. I’ll see how well she tolerates it and go from there.
Glad I could help. I take it from the fact that you said she is 6 months and still has a ways to go to be an adult, she is a large breed? What kind of dog? Do you have any pictures?
She is a small breed. Hound mix, about 45 pounds. Got her from a shelter. Not sure how to post pictures! Sorry! But a real sweet girl!
Ah ok, so borderline large breed. I love hounds and thank you for rescuing 🙂
Great chatting with you Pitlove…again, thanks for the info on grain-free food.crazy4catsParticipant
Here is an article written by a vet that was included in my Petcurean newsletter:
CATS | DOGS | HEALTH & NUTRITION | APRIL 8, 2016
The Great Grain Debate: Should pet foods avoid grains?
Dr. Jennifer Adolphe
BY: DR. JENNIFER ADOLPHE
Dog in the woods
Grain-free diets are becoming much more commonplace in the pet food aisle. There are a number of reasons for this growing trend, such as the belief that grains are harmful for pets or that grain-free diets are more appropriate for dogs and cats from an evolutionary perspective.
Also, gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — has been touted as a substance to be feared in many popular human nutrition diets, and pet and human nutrition trends usually go hand-in-hand. With so many grain and grain-free options available, what do you need to know about the great grain debate?
Grains are an important source of complex carbohydrates, which have three or more sugar molecules joined together so they are more slowly digested than simple sugars that only have one or two molecules. Although carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients in the diets of dogs and cats, and are often considered “fillers,” they do play a critical role in your pet’s body.
In particular, carbohydrates provide a highly digestible, readily available energy source. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates are also an important source of essential nutrients. The shape, texture and density of kibble depends on the carbohydrate (starch) content of the food. This is important, as mouth feel and the structure of the kibble help to determine palatability.
Recent genetic research suggests that one of the important steps in the domestication of dogs was their adaptation to a diet high in carbohydrates relative to the diet of carnivorous wolves. Carbohydrates are often considered to be detrimental to cats, but research suggests that moderate amounts may actually be beneficial in promoting insulin sensitivity.
Some of the grains commonly found in pet foods include barley, corn, rice, oats and wheat. Whole grains include all parts of the grain, while refined grains have the nutrient-rich germ and bran layers removed.
Whole grains promote digestive health since they are not only an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, but are also rich in fiber. Dietary fiber is a unique type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your pet’s digestive enzymes, but nonetheless provides many benefits.
For example, oats and barley contain a special type of fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown in numerous human studies to fight heart disease and diabetes. Beta-glucan may also be beneficial in pet foods to control blood glucose and prevent obesity.
Grain-free does not mean carbohydrate-free, as complex carbohydrates can be sourced from nongrain ingredients such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, tapioca, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Some pets may have allergies to one or more specific grains, but it might not be necessary to eliminate all grains.
Gluten-free diets are necessary for humans diagnosed with celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity, but this is not a common problem in pets and most tolerate gluten without any difficulty. The exception is some Irish Setters with inherited gluten sensitivity.
Many grain-free pet foods are higher in protein than conventional diets and, while extra protein is typically not a problem for most healthy pets, it can be problematic in certain medical conditions such as kidney disease. Since all foods contain a balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein, decreasing the amount of carbohydrate in a food will increase the fat and/or protein content.
What are some of the benefits of grain-free carbohydrate sources? Peas are an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and provide most of the essential amino acids required by dogs and cats. Peas also provide an added environmental benefit in that they are used as a tool in sustainable agriculture to add nitrogen back into the soil.
Tapioca does not contain protein, so it is not considered a potential allergen or source of food sensitivity. This is especially important in limited ingredient diets that are designed for food hypersensitive pets.
Potatoes are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C and potassium. Sweet potatoes are a major source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which act as antioxidants, as well as manganese and potassium.
One of the primary benefits of grain-free diets is the increased variety of new and unique pet food recipes available. This allows pet parents to choose a diet with or without grains that works best for their dog or cat.
This article originally appeared on Multibriefs.com
Hope this article helps!
My 5 yr old Boston ate grain-free food his entire life until the last few months when I switched him to Weruva Caloric Harmony with Venison from Wellness Core Low Cal and it even has fewer calories than the Wellness, though a little bit more fat. Now I can’t keep him from gaining weight. I haven’t changed anything else and use low fat treats as well. He has gained between 1/2 and one pound and nothing I do seems to get him back down to the 19 pounds the vet says is desirable. Can this change be the reason? Should I get him back onto a low callorie grain free food kibble.
It’s possible. Blood sugar level affects metabolism.
theBCnut: Someone said something about he might be holding water. I thought they were kidding, but is this something I should look into? Also, does anyone know about Dr. Tim’s dog food? Is this something I could start him on? It’s low fat but the company says the carbs are 40%.
It isn’t common for dogs to retain water unless they have kidney disease or congestive heart failure. However, I just learned from my diabetic brother that people retain about 4-5 pounds of water for each pound of glycogen stored, so maybe dogs do likewise.
As far as Dr Tim’s, it is a good quality food. Any low fat food will have higher carbs. There is no way around that. Fiber is reported as carbs, so you may want to also be aware of fiber content in any food you look at.
Well, Dr. Tim’s fat is 8-10% and the fiber is max 10%, so except for the lower protein it may give me a bit more control over his weight even with more carbs. Also, maybe the carbs will fill him up more and he won’t be after me to feed him every time I move. Thank you for your help. I’m going to see if Chewy can send me a small bag to try out.
That’s really interesting BCnut!! Would explain the aftermath of a few dietary choices I’ve personally made lately!! 🙂
There are two really good studies in the Journal of Nutrition showing higher protein foods work very well as weight loss diets for dogs. Unlike higher fiber foods they also were better at keeping muscle on the dog.
Here’s the two papers if interested
“High-Protein Low-Carbohydrate Diets Enhance Weight Loss in Dogs” http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/8/2087S.full
“Weight Loss in Obese Dogs: Evaluation of a High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet” http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/6/1685S.full
I had a Papillon come in (I foster) that was over 30 pounds. She now weighs 12 pounds and has eaten a very high protein (and therefore higher in fat) diet since coming in.
My brother was an uncontrolled diabetic that went on a carb free diet. He lost 70 lbs in 3 months. He is now off all medications including high blood pressure meds and cholesterol meds.
I’ve heard many stories like your bothers. Curious – did he increase protein or fat when he removed the carbs?
- This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by Shawna.
Hi, theBCnut! I don’t know if this is possible, but I would love to follow you. I’ve been searching for information on DFA for a couple of years, and there are several posters I’ve grown to trust and have been grateful for their information, including you. In one post, I saw where you listed your regimen, but I haven’t been able to find it again. I’m sorry if this is the inappropriate avenue to take, I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. If it’s not possible for me to follow you (for any reason), that’s okay and understood!
Shawna, unfortunately the Dr. Tim’s I’ve ordered has less protein than the Weruva, but also fewer calories and less fat. I’m hoping those differences help and don’t hurt. The calorie count is the smallest I think I’ve seen at around 250 per cup or so. Most seem to have over 300. Whatever, I’m going to try it out since Jack has gone up to 20 lbs and I can’t allow this. Also, the company says the food has 40% carbs.
- This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by Kathleen C.
Hi Elisabeth P
I’m flattered that you find my posts helpful. That’s very sweet of you. I don’t know if you can follow anyone on the forums and my profile is set to private on the review side because we have had a rash of trolls/stalkers. I remember the post you are talking about, but I have no idea where it was either. I may be able to find it and if I do, I’ll post a link.
He increased protein a little, but increased fats a LOT. He eats around 4000 kcals a day.
I think this is the one.
Well, just found out Dr. Tim’s low fat kibble is not grain free so looks like the local humane society will be getting that when it comes today. However, Annamaet low fat kibble is grain free and I ordered that yesterday from Chewy.com and it should be here next week. Since the whole idea of changing from the Weruva is so I could get Jack back on grain free to see if that’s why he’s gaining weight it doesn’t make sense to switch to another grainy food. Annamaet also has lower fat. One thing I hate about Chewy is they ship ground rate and it takes forever to get delivery. Neither of these two brands are sold by Amazon or it would be here tomorrow. Big difference.
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