Grain-free veterinary diets have become a popular topic. With a recent trend towards humans eating “gluten free”, many pet owners made the switch to grain free.
Many believe grains are fillers that lack nutritional value, and diets containing corn and other grains provide diets are low quality. Corn and other grains provide diets with a nutritious and affordable source of carbohydrate for energy, essential amino and fatty acids for healthy skin, coat and immune system function, as well as a variety of other nutrients.
Not all “grain-free” diets are actually free of grain. Some contain ingredients that are grains but are not your typical corn, wheat and soy. Careful reading of a pet food label is required to ensure a diet truly lack grains.
It is thought and often advertised that dogs are descended from wolves. Studies show that dogs have evolved to become a different species from wolves. Unlike wolves, dogs are not true carnivores. They can easily digest grains.
Some dogs’ diets are changed to grain free due to suspected allergies. Less than 10 percent of dog allergies are caused by food. The majority of allergies are environmental and caused by molds, dust mite dander, pollens, etc. Although some allergy symptoms may be due to gluten or grain intolerances, it is uncommon. Most food allergies are caused by the protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, etc.
Some dogs require a grain-free diet, like those with allergies to certain grains. In most instances, however, there isn’t a need for your pet to be grain free. There also is no scientific evidence to suggest grains are bad for dogs.
It will not hurt your dog to eat a grain-free diet. It also will not hurt your dog to eat a high-quality diet that contains some grains. Your veterinarian can help to determine if your pet requires a grain-free diet. Grain free isn’t always the way to be.
UPDATE: In June 2019, the FDA warned owners and veterinarians that grain-free diets have been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM: an irreversible, enlarged, weakened heart muscle). This information now refutes the no harm statement the article previously reported. Please discuss replacement diets or supplement trials with us.