Regular vs. Grain Free Dog Food
You’ve probably seen the term ‘grain free’ thrown around a lot in the pet food aisle at your local shop, but what does it actually mean?
Well, pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Grain free dog food is food that doesn’t contain the grains that are normally used to bulk up dog food, such as wheat or corn.
Since it was first introduced into pets’ diets worldwide, the debate about whether grain or grain free is best has been rampant. After all, you want the best for your dog and with so many options available nowadays for your pup’s sustenance, what is the right way to go?
You’ll be happy to know that there is no ‘right’ way — only what is right for your dog, based on their individual needs. And who knows your dog better than you?
We’ve broken down the differences between grain and grain free dog food and offered a few tips to help you choose.
Grain Free Food
Grain free diets are suitable for high-energy dogs, dogs with skin allergies, food allergies, frequent infections, and those with stomach sensitivities.
Grain free is closer to a dog’s natural diet, providing more protein with some other natural ingredients thrown in to ensure that they get the nutrition they need. Gentler on the digestive system, grain free foods can be more easily processed by your dog’s stomach and can improve skin and coat health.
Grain free foods generally contain more meat than other products and use easily-digestible carbohydrates such as potatoes or beans, which are high in fibre and low in GI. High quality brands often take a holistic approach to your dog’s diet and may also include nutraceuticals and superfoods to make sure that your dog is getting all the necessary nutrients they need to live their best life.
Regardless of what kind of grain free brand you buy, you should always check the list of ingredients to ensure that the recipe will provide a well-balanced diet for your pup. As grain often makes up a fair chunk of a dog food, make sure that what the brand replaces it with will give your dog the proper amount of sustenance.
You should note that gluten free foods are not the same as grain free — while the former doesn’t contain gluten grains like wheat, there may be corn, rice, or other grains in the recipe. Grain free foods are also generally higher in carbs than those with grain, as you might expect. While this should be fine for many dogs, others (especially less active dogs) may not do well on this high-energy diet. It is always a good idea to consult your vet to learn more about your dog’s specific nutritional needs and what foods might be best for them.
Dogs on grain free diets will generally require less food than those on grain diets due to the higher amount of energy and to keep your pet from gaining weight. This means that even though (the good) grain free brands are typically more expensive, you can offset this cost.
Despite the influence of their wolf ancestors, dogs have developed over time to be able to digest all sorts of ingredients, including grain. Some of the grains you may find in your pet’s food include wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice and rye.
Grain does have its benefits: they are packed with fibre, carbohydrates and carry several essential vitamins and nutrients your dog needs. However, it is often used by manufacturers as a cheaper alternative. That being said, grain food is widely available and more affordable. That means that right now, your dog is probably on a grain diet and may be doing perfectly fine.
Most brands of commercial dry pet food can be up to 30% grain, meaning that they don’t always have all the necessary protein. They also often use genetically-modified grains, such as corn or wheat, which are believed by many experts to be damaging to dogs. Unless explicitly stated, you should assume that there are GMO ingredients in your dog’s food — even if the ingredients on the bag don’t appear to be GMOs, the meat may be sourced from animals who were fed GMOs.
It should be said that this isn’t just the case with pet foods containing grains; however, it is more common. Regardless, make sure you go with a certified non-GMO brand for the best results.
So, which one is better?
The winner of the clash of grain and grain free foods is… no one.
A little anticlimactic, yes, but the truth is that there are good brands of both and what your dog needs depends on their unique situation.
Instead, you should be focusing on finding a specific high-quality food with ingredients that you want to incorporate into your dog’s daily meals. If your dog is expressing any signs of allergies or discomfort, then you should definitely ask your vet about making the switch to grain free.
Different breeds, stages of life, activity levels, health conditions and dietary requirements all require different types of nutrients in different amounts. As with anything else to do with your dog’s health, it is important to consult a vet if you are unsure about the best course of action before making any major changes.