Dogs are notoriously unfussy about what they eat. One of the reasons for this is that despite being largely classified as carnivores, they can also obtain the nutrients that they need to live from both plant and animal origin.

Choosing the right food for your dog can be something of a challenge, particularly as there are so many varieties currently available. Yet as a responsible and caring owner, you will undoubtedly want to ensure that your pet gets the best possible nutrition to live a healthy, active life.

One of the hot topics surrounding pet nutrition in the last couple of years has been the presence of grains in dog food, and there is now a wide selection of grain-free choices available to choose from. But is grain-free food really better for your furbaby?

To help you make the decision as to what to feed your furry best friend, here is our guide to the pros and cons of grains in dog food.

About Grains

First things first – what are grains and what do they do? Grains are the source of energy in our food and are classified as a carbohydrate. There are two subcategories of grains. These are:

– whole grains, which include whole wheat bread, crackers, cereal flakes, brown rice, oatmeal, and popcorn

– refined grains, such as white bread, cornflakes, flour tortillas, and white rice

Whole grains are proven to be much healthier, as the milling required to produce refined grains removes many of the natural nutrients contained within them, such as B vitamins, iron, and fiber.

When it comes to checking food to see which type of grain it includes, the information should be listed clearly on the label.

Pros of grains in dog food

Choice and availability

By far the biggest advantage of choosing a dog food that contains choice is the choice available. Products with grains vastly outnumber those without, and it can be difficult to pick up grain-free varieties at smaller convenience stores.

Affordability

Dog foods that are grain-free are still considered to be ‘specialized’ and as such are sold at a price point that is often substantially higher than regular dog food.

Nutritional profile

Regular canine food tends to contain a great mixture of ingredients which help to give it a great nutritional profile. Grains contained within normal food contain a lot of goodness from elements including omega 3 fatty acids, potassium and magnesium, which can be missing from grain-free varieties, and the complex carbohydrates provide much of the energy that your dog needs to stay active. Grains also provide another source of protein for your pet. Finally, fiber is crucial for the health of your furbaby and can be found in good quantities in the grains contained in regular pet food.

Cons of grains in dog food

Can cause allergies

Dogs are just as likely to suffer from food intolerances as humans are, and grains are one of the most common allergies identified in canines. Therefore, regular dog food may exacerbate the symptoms associated with your pet’s intolerance and grain-free foods are almost certainly better for your canine friend.

Hard to digest

Carbohydrates aren’t the easiest to digest for all dogs, particularly those who already have digestive problems. This can cause your pet to experience unpleasant and painful symptoms such as stomach ache and constipation. As such, dogs with digestive issues can benefit from a grain-free diet.

Poor quality filler

Some brands of dog food use grains such as corn meal or wheat gluten as a cheap and easy way to bulk out their products, which can dramatically reduce the quality of the food. These fillers have virtually no nutritional value for your pet. Grain-free foods don’t tend to rely on fillers, and will instead contain a higher proportion of better quality ingredients.

There are both positive and negatives to the presence of grains in dog food, and which is right for your pet may depend on her health. For further advice on the pros and cons of grains in dog food, contact and speak to our veterinarian.