Many dog owners purchase grain-free dog food in hopes of avoiding the many mass marketed commercial foods produced by an industry that appear to focus mainly on making profits rather than the animal’s nourishment, health and wellbeing in mind. If you are feeding your dog grain-free, you are most likely doing so because you have heard how dogs do not need grains in their diet and how the pet food industry cuts costs by using them so to use less meat. You may have also heard how grains affect dogs predisposing them to annoying allergies. While it’s true that grain-free foods do not contain grains, it’s important to look beyond the marketing hypes.
Grain-Free Doesn’t Mean Free of Carbs
Grain-free foods are free of grains, but not many people know that they still contain carbohydrates. The reason for this is that in order to maintain shape, dog kibble requires some sort of starch to bind them together so you don’t end up with a bag full of crumbs. While the carbs aren’t grain-based, in grain-free foods they come under the form of other sources of carbs such as potato, tapioca or pea fiber. So if you are feeding your dog grain-free foods in hopes of avoiding carbs, the truth is, you are not.
Actually, turns out, some grain-based dog foods contain as much carbs as foods that contain grains, if not even more, explains veterinarian Lorie Huston. So if it’s true that dogs weren’t meant to eat all of the grains found in pet foods nowadays, it’s also true that they also weren’t meant to eat these other forms of carbs, making grain-free dog foods no more natural than dog foods containing grains!
Grain-Free Doesn’t Mean Allergy-Free
Many dog owners feed grain-free diets in hopes of reducing their dog’s allergies. However, in general, animal proteins cause more allergies than grains in dogs and cats, explains veterinary nutritionists Lisa Freedman and Cailin Heinze. Indeed, beef and dairy top the list of allergy-causing ingredients in dogs. This explains why there are many dogs who still keep suffering from allergies even after going grain-free. The dogs that do get better once on a grain-free diet are likely dogs who either truly had allergies to grains or they were allergic to some other ingredient found in the previous diet.
Grain-Free is not an Alternative to Raw
Many people purchase grain-free foods thinking that they’re the closest they can get to a raw diet. Yet, it’s important to also realize that kibble is a highly processed food and the majority of the moisture is lost. Raw foods generally contains about 70 percent moisture, whereas, grain-free foods contain merely 12 percent, which makes it a huge difference, explains Dr. Becker. On top of that, raw meat is fresh and goes bad if left out of the refrigerator for some time, while kibble has a long shelf life because it’s a processed food, something dogs weren’t designed to eat.
The Bottom Line
While there are many grain-free diets that provide optimal nutrition, it’s important to be aware of what these diets really offer. If you decide to feed grain-free, look for a reputable company that practices stringent quality control and works hard on improving their diets. Regardless of the food you decide to feed your dog, the most important feature is that it’s nutritionally balanced. An unbalanced grain-free diet, home-cooked diet or raw food diet can be far more harmful than a diet loaded with grains!