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Grain-free dog food: the pros and cons

We all want the best for our dogs, right? And since food is one of the key ways we keep our dogs healthy, it makes sense to pay close attention to what we feed them.

Grain-free dog food has become particularly popular within the past few years, but recent studies have called the health benefits into question.

Before we get stuck into the pros and cons, it’s worth clarifying what is meant by ‘grain-free’, and which grains typically appear in dog food.

What does grain-free dog food mean?

If a dog food is labelled as ‘grain-free’, that means it does not contain any grains, including wheat, soy, corn, rice, oats and barley.

If a dog food is labelled as ‘gluten-free’, that means it does not contain any gluten-containing grains, like wheat and barley. It may contain other grains such as corn and rice.

Most grain-free dog food includes legumes like peas, lentils or potatoes to make up the additional carbohydrates, vitamins and nutrients that your dog needs.

What role do grains play in my dog’s diet?

It’s a common misconception that dogs are carnivores. Actually, they’re omnivores, meaning they’re able to digest carbohydrates, like those you find in grains. 

Whole grains contribute important nutrients to your dog’s diet, such as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. 

However, grains which have been heavily processed will lose much of their nutritional benefit. 

Processed grains may often appear in ingredients lists under the following names:

  • Wheat gluten
  • Corn gluten meal
  • Wheat middlings
  • Cereal fines
  • Grain hulls
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The pros of grain-free dog food

Grain allergies

One of the biggest benefits of grain-free dog food is that it’s suitable for dogs with grain allergies. 

However, grain allergies only affect less than 1% of dogs. It’s far more common for dogs to experience allergies to specific animal proteins such as beef, chicken, lamb, or dairy.

If you think your dog is suffering from a food allergy, it’s best to talk to a veterinary nutritionist, who can help you identify the cause and recommend a suitable diet.

The cons of grain-free food

A study by the University of California, Davis, found a link between dogs being fed grain-free and legume-rich diets and types of heart disease, known as taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Research is still ongoing to determine the biological processes at play, and how the affected dogs’ diets contribute.

Should I feed my dog a grain-free diet?

Every dog is different, and you need to consider their individual needs. 

For most dogs, there’s no clear benefit to feeding a specifically grain-free diet, but it’s worth steering clear of dog foods with heavily processed grains. 

PitPat dog food

PitPat Food bags

PitPat Food is a premium food developed by the expert nutritionists at Josera. All of our recipes use high-quality meat proteins and contain no wheat, dairy, soy, or sugar, as well as being free from any artificial flavourings, colourings, and preservatives. 

It’s super tasty and highly digestible, and with the PitPat App you can get an exactly tailored feeding recommendation based on your dog’s age, weight, breed and, if they have a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor, activity levels.

Why not give it a try today?

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