Why Are Some Dog Foods Grain-Free?

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Grain-free and gluten-free diets have become quite popular over the years with humans, so it’s no surprise that we started the trend of similar diets in our canine companions.

Many owners wonder what’s actually the best choice for their dog and why some diets are grain-free when others aren’t? Is there a benefit to either of them?

Well, you’re not the only owner wondering that question! Let’s read further to find out why some dog foods are grain-free.

By Allison Salonko.

Allison is a Veterinary Technician in the state of Indiana. She graduated from International Business College and Vet Tech Institute of Indianapolis with a degree in Animal Science and Technology in 2011.

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Why Are There Grain-Free Dog Foods?

The real truth is, grain-free dog foods became a trend during the time that humans started preferring their diets with less grains and carbs.

This was about consumer preference and not about a scientific need to make nutritional changes in dog and cat diets.

Grain-free foods also became a booming business when people started assuming that canine allergies were related to diets that included healthy grains and carbs.

While there is certainly a subset of dogs that have gluten or grain intolerances, these are extremely low on the list of potential allergy-causing ingredients.

Is Grain-Free Food Better For My Dog?

The answer to that is not simple because it honestly depends on your dog and their physiology.

Some dogs have sensitivities to foods with grains or gluten, however rare it may be it is still possible.

On the other hand, most dogs – and we’re talking over 60% of them – do not have allergies to grain or gluten but rather the protein that is included in the diet.

So, with that in mind, the likelihood that a grain-free food is “better” for your dog is slim.

It is important to contact your veterinarian about what diet would be best for your pet.

Is Grain-Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Problems?

In 2018, veterinary cardiologists noticed an increase in the number of dogs eating grain-free diets that were also diagnosed with a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.

This heart problem can sometimes be blamed on genetics, but the higher prevalence of this condition in dogs eating grain-free or “boutique” diets was substantial.

So much so that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to get involved.

It was found that of the 1100 dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy that were studied, over 90% of the diets being fed were labeled as grain-free.

Many of the companies that exclusively make grain-free diets are small companies that have very limited studies performed on their foods (as well as no FDA backing).

Many commercial foods include brown rice and corn as a grain and carbohydrate ingredient, but these grain-free brands replace those beneficial ingredients with potatoes and beans.

While these foods are perfectly fine and dandy, there is no research to indicate that they are a more viable or healthier source compared to rice and corn.

Why Are Some Dog Foods Grain-Free?

If you ask a veterinary professional like myself, we will always tell you that it’s a fad.

We even coined an acronym called “BEG” which stands for “boutique, exotic-ingredient and grain-free”.

The increase in owners feeding the BEG diets became a short phenomenon, and with years of these foods being on the market, we are finally seeing the repercussions of minimal scientific data and research when it comes to dog diets.

If you’re looking for well-balanced and nutritional dog food, call your veterinarian for their personal recommendation!

Photo by James.