When it comes to selecting a commercial pet food for your dog, you have many options to choose from. In fact, the sheer number of options available to you can become quite overwhelming. Commercial dog foods come in all kinds of forms from traditional kibble and wet food to specialty diets made with novel sources of protein. Another popular diet for dogs is the grain-free diet. The grain-free diet is exactly what it sounds like – a commercial dog food diet that is completely free from grains. This diet is becoming increasingly popular among dog owners for a variety of reasons. In this article you will learn the basics about what grain-free dog food is, how it can benefit your dog, and which brands offer the most high-quality formulas.
What is the Grain-Free Diet for Dogs?
In order for your dog’s diet to be well-balanced in terms of nutrients, it must contain protein, fat, and some carbohydrate. Many commercial dog food diets are very high in carbohydrates, often in the form of grains like wheat and barley. These grains often contain gluten and many of them are relatively low in nutritional value, providing little benefit for your dog aside from some dietary fiber and energy in the form of calories. In fact, many commercial dog food manufacturers use grains as inexpensive fillers in their products – these ingredients are used to add bulk to the product without significantly increasing production costs (or nutritional value). Many dog owners are turning to grain-free diets in the hopes that these diets are more nutritionally valuable for their pets.
The truth about grain-free dog foods is that they can sometimes be just as high in carbohydrate as traditional dog foods. Just because a commercial dog food is grain-free doesn’t mean that it is carb-free – most commercial pet food manufacturers simply replace the grains in their recipes with another starchy, high-carb food like white potato. This is not to say that all pet food manufacturers do this – some use healthier grain-free alternatives like sweet potato or fresh fruits and vegetables. It is just as important that you evaluate the ingredients list of a grain-free dog food as it is for any other type of dog food. You need to make sure that the diet you are feeding your dog provides a balance of essential nutrients and that it is made with high-quality ingredients.
Pros and Cons of Grain-Free Dog Food
The rise in popularity for the grain-free dog food diet can largely be attributed to consumer preference rather than the nutritional needs for dogs. With gluten-free diets like the Paleo diet becoming increasingly more popular, many people have begun to believe that grains are bad and they start to enforce a similar diet for their dog. The grain-free diet for dogs also developed as a result of a rise in dog food allergies – grains like wheat and corn are responsible for a large percentage of dog food allergies. For dogs that suffer from allergies, it is a necessity that you switch to a diet free from the offending ingredient. In many cases, that means switching to a grain-free dog food.
When it comes to grain-free dog food, there is an even mix of pros and cons and each dog will receive different benefits from the diet. Dogs suffering from grain-related food allergies will experience the greatest benefit. If your dog suffers from a grain-related food allergy, switching him to a grain-free diet will help to relieve digestive problems, improve the quality of his coat, and make him healthier overall. Many dogs develop food allergies with prolonged exposure to certain ingredients so, even if your dog doesn’t already have an allergy, switching him to a grain-free diet can be beneficial because it will prevent him from developing one. Many grain-free dog foods are also higher in protein and meat content than the average dry food, though this is not the case with every grain-free dog food. One of the downsides associated with grain-free dog food is that it is often considered a specialty diet and therefore may be more expensive than the average dog food.
Top Recommended Grain-Free Dog Foods
If your dog suffers from food allergies, switching to a grain-free dog food may be a matter of necessity. Even if your dog is perfectly healthy, however, you might consider making the switch to ensure that he gets enough protein and a balance of other nutrients. Below you will find an overview of some of the top recommended grain-free dog foods:
Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness Grain-Free Adult Dog Food
The Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness line of dry dog food comes in different formulas for each life stage – puppy, adult, and senior. Within each category are a variety of different formulas made with high-quality ingredients like salmon, duck, wild boar, chicken, bison, and rabbit. In addition to being completely grain-free, these dry food diets are loaded with high-quality sources of protein like fresh meat and meat meals. The Blue Wilderness line of dry dog food contains gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato and peas as well as antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables including blueberries, carrots, and cranberries. This line of dog food also contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits which provide a blend of supplemental nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to promote optimal health and nutrition for your dog. These dog foods also contain a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat.
Back to Basics Dry Dog Food
Back to Basics offers three different grain-free recipes including Turkey & Potato, Lamb & Potato, and Salmon & Sweet Potato, All three formulas are gluten-free and grain-free, made with high-quality sources of animal protein and a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The top two ingredients for all three formulas include a source of fresh meat and a meat meal which provides concentrated protein. In addition to gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates like potato and sweet potato, these foods also contain pea protein, whole flaxseed, pea fiber, and a blend of vitamins and minerals. In addition to being grain-free, these formulas are made with less common protein sources which is a benefit for dogs that suffer from food allergies.
Castor and Pollux Organix Grain-Free Dry Food
Castor and Pollux produces one grain-free dog food that can be found in their Organix line of products. This formula is made with organic chicken, peas and flaxseed in a completely grain-free and gluten-free formula. Castor and Pollux Organix Grain-Free dog food includes organic, free-range chicken as the number one ingredient followed by poultry meal, organic tapioca, and organic peas. Tapioca is a gluten-free carbohydrate that helps to thicken the product while organic peas provide valuable dietary fiber as well as potassium and various B vitamins. Organic flaxseed provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help maintain your dog’s healthy skin and coat. The Castor and Pollux Organix Grain-Free dog food formula is completely free from pesticides, fertilizers, artificial preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics so you can rest assured that it is completely safe for your dog.
EVO Dry Dog Food
EVO produces a line of dog food products under the tagline, “the ancestral diet meets modern nutrition”. In addition to being grain-free, EVO dog food products are gluten-free as well and very high in protein. EVO offers five different dry food formulas for dogs made with high-quality protein sources like turkey, chicken, red meat, herring and salmon. Each formula lists several animal-based sources of protein at the top of the ingredients list followed by a source of healthy fat and several gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrates like peas and tapioca starch. The EVO line of dry dog foods is designed for maximum digestibility and to ensure high-quality, well-balanced nutrition. These dry food diets are marketed as a convenient alternative to raw food diets because they are prepared in such a way as to preserve the natural nutrient content of the product.
Switching your dog to a grain-free diet is not something you should do on a whim – you need to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. If you do decide to make the switch, transition your dog slowly by mixing portions of the new food in with the old over the course of a week. This will help to minimize any digestive upset your dog might experience during the transition.