Benefits of Grain Free Dog Food

Benefits of grain free food

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Why grain free foods are ideal for dogs

Cereal grains are naturally difficult to digest, but even more so for our dogs. A dog’s digestive system is not equipped to handle grains but is instead built to digest mostly meat, meaning proteins (although many vegetables are good for them as well). The large consumption of grains over long periods of time may cause their digestive system to be damaged, often becoming irritated and causing many diseases. It can also lead to obesity and food allergies.

Unfortunately, many commercial dog foods have grains as “fillers” in their food. This can include corn, quinoa, rice, barley, etc. Many of these have the reputation of being healthy foods, but they are not as healthy for dogs as they might be for humans.

Common grains in dog food

Grains can vary in many ways, often being gluten-free, with gluten, whole grains or pseudo-grains. The difference between whole grains and pseudo-grains is that in whole grains they use the entire seed, and in pseudo grains, the seeds are from plants and not grasses. They are composed of starch and fiber. All of them are common in dog foods, although they are not all used together.

These grains are:

  • Barley (with gluten)
  • Corn (gluten-free)
  • Amaranth (pseudo-grains)
  • Bran (whole grain)
  • Rye (with gluten)
  • Oats (maybe with gluten or gluten-free)
  • Buckwheat (pseudo-grains)
  • Germ (whole grain)
  • Spelt (with gluten)
  • Rice (gluten free)
  • Millet (pseudograins)
  • Endosperm (whole grain)
  • Wheat (with gluten)
  • Quinoa (pseudograins)
  • Teff (pseudograins)

Important to know about grain free foods

Although they can be one of the causes of food allergies, they are not the only possible cause, and just like in humans it may vary from dog to dog.

Keep in mind that grain free food does not mean they are also carbohydrate free food. Often times they have an equal or higher level of carbohydrates in order to replace the grains. This may not always be the case, however, so always be sure to check out the labels! And despite what you may think, carbohydrates are not all bad. However, grain free foods are often created with higher quality ingredients and may contain more protein than other commercial dog foods.

Also, note that introducing your dog to a dietary change all at once is not the way to go, but instead introduce them slowly. This way, their bodies will have time to get used to the food change, and will welcome it better! You can mix in the new food with their regular food, slowly increasing the amount of grain free food and reducing the regular food, until it is all grain free.

When grain free foods might be necessary

Unless your veterinary mentions it, a puppy may not benefit from a normal grain free diet (adult), although keep in mind that many brands may have grain free foods, especially for puppies. However, there may be times when it becomes a necessity due to the health problems of our dogs. Such cases may include when there is a food allergy, obesity, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned. If your dog seems to be too skinny instead of obese but is otherwise healthy, maybe a change in diet is not the ideal choice. In these cases, the ideal product would be a natural weight gainer.

If your dog begins showing any unusual symptoms, take them to your veterinarian, and always consult with them before changing your dog’s usual diet, since your pet may have special needs.

Common diseases and their symptoms

The most common diseases grains can produce are food allergies, obesity, atopic dermatitis, and chronic digestive problems. Chronic digestive problems can include chronic vomiting, chronic diarrhea, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Obesity can be noticeable through:

  • Your dog’s weight
  • Energy level
  • Their overall look

Remember that muscles weight too and a strong dog may weight the same as an obese dog, but it does not mean it is unhealthy. Obesity often leads to arthritis, diabetes, and various heart diseases.

Symptoms of arthritis include limping, having difficulty moving, lack of energy, a sore body, bad posture, becoming aggressive or irritable, licking or biting the areas that hurt.

Symptoms of diabetes include a lack or increase in appetite, excessive thirst, and urination, an unusually sweet smell in the breath, weight loss, dehydration, vomiting, skin infections, etc.

Heart disease symptoms vary depending on the heart disease.

A food allergy can be noticeable through:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash, scabs or skin irritation
  • Licking or biting its skin
  • Flatulence
  • Hair loss

Chronic vomiting can be noticeable through:

  • Constantly throwing up
  • There may or may not be loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Unable to hold down any food
  • Dehydration

Chronic diarrhea can be noticeable though:

  • Always having loose or completely liquid stools
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Dehydration

Constipation can be noticeable through:

  • Straining when attempting to poop
  • Being unable to produce any bowel movements
  • Hard and small stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Dehydration

Inflammatory bowel disease can be noticeable through:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Blood in stools
  • Depression
  • Sounds coming from their stomach
  • Abdominal pain

Atopic Dermatitis

  • Scratching, rubbing and/or licking the areas that itch
  • Redness in the area
  • Skin irritation

The most common areas that are affected by atopic dermatitis include the ears, around the eyes, wrists, ankles, muzzle, in between their toes, groin, and underarms.

Many of these diseases can evolve into something worse if not treated properly. If you suspect they might have any of the previously mentioned diseases, take them to your veterinary for treatment. Not all are caused due to grains, but they have been known to be one of the causes. You can also tell if your dog has a digestive problem if they refuse to eat, or eat too much and immediately throw it up. If your pet seems to eat and does not lack an appetite yet seems to be losing weight instead of gaining, they might have a more severe problem and must be taken to the vet immediately.


Grain free foods are beneficial to your dog’s digestive system since it does not irritate it with grain fillers. This means that it also tends to be more nutritious for your pet, leading to a dog with a healthy and stronger coat that sheds less, as well as higher energy levels due to the protein. Their skin becomes healthier as well and if your dog is pregnant or lactating it can be beneficial, as it contains more protein. It can also improve your dog’s breath, due to the fact that a poor nutrition is often the source of bad breath, and reduce flatulence by reducing bowel irritations. It also allows the dog’s body to produce smaller and more compact stools, as well as reducing the times in a day that they defecate. Many times it helps your dog reduce weight, although remember they do have carbohydrates in them, and giving them a specific diet to their needs is always the best option.

It also prevents your dog from getting many food allergies, given that corn or wheat allergies are not uncommon among dogs, and grain free foods don’t have either. If your dog already has food allergies, it is most likely this dietary change would be beneficial for them the most, getting rid of the things that may be irritating their bowels! However, don’t forget to consult your veterinary.


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