Walk through the dog food aisle of any pet store and you will see numerous brands touting the benefits of grain-free recipes for your beloved pet--often at a marked-up price. Consumers may wonder, “is this a marketing gimmick or is a grain-free diet really best?”
Rise of Grain-Free Products Grain-free diets have gained popularity in recent years based on a few key factors. People are paying more attention to the food that they eat, and tend to extend their preferences to their pet. The popularity of gluten-free and paleo diets for humans translates to similar recipes in dog foods. Dog food manufacturers have closely monitored food preferences of pet parents and have tailored their products accordingly.
Consumers may also wish to eliminate grains from their pet’s diets as a result of the 2007 melamine pet food recall, where tainted wheat gluten imported from overseas sickened and killed many animals. A negative association between wheat and other grains was indirectly formed and pet parents began to look for grain free alternatives. These changing attitudes have helped fuel the rise in grain-free, limited ingredient, and paleo-inspired pet foods.
Are Grains Bad for My Dog? While television commercials like to draw parallels between your dog and their wolf ancestors, it is safe to say that your canine companion would have trouble fitting in with the pack. Dogs may have descended from wolves, but thousands of years of domestication have changed both the biology and the eating habits of dogs. Dogs are more omnivorous than strictly carnivorous. Unless your dog has an allergy to specific grain (which is quite uncommon), he will be able to eat and process them as part of a balanced diet. Grains also have the added benefit of providing your pet with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That being said, not all grains are created equal – and pet parents should pay attention to the ingredients when evaluating dog food.
Some discount brands use highly-processed grain “fillers” as a primary ingredient in their recipes. The fillers and other additives offer very little nutritional value and are used to offset lower levels of protein. Pet owners should look for foods that contain whole grains such as whole oats, whole barley, and brown rice. You can find these ingredients in Chicken a la Veg, a high-quality recipe from Fromm. Slobberbones is proud to carry Chicken a la Veg, along with several other delicious varieties from Fromm. Whole grains have many nutritional benefits and can be incorporated as part of a balanced diet.
Grain-Free Alternatives If your pet doesn’t tolerate grains well, there are many grain-free substitutes like legumes, chickpeas, sweet potato, lentils or peas that are used in a variety of dog foods. These ingredients provide vitamins, minerals and fiber and serve as a perfect complement to many protein-first recipes. At Slobberbones, we carry two great brands of limited ingredient dog food that use grain-free alternatives:
Zignature Zignature dog foods are high in protein, and feature low-glycemic legumes such as chickpeas which provide dietary fiber and helps promote stable blood sugar. Slobberbones sells wet and dry food in the following recipes: lamb, kangaroo, turkey, duck, and whitefish.
Merrick Merrick dog foods use real de-boned meat, fish, and poultry as their number one ingredient. Secondary ingredients such as sweet potato, peas, and added vitamins and minerals combine to create a tasty and nutritious meal for your dog. Slobberbones sells a variety of Merrick wet and dry food recipes your dog is sure to love!
Whether or not you decide to go grain-free, you should discuss any planned changes to your dog’s diet with your veterinarian. They will be able to provide you guidance on your pet’s specific needs. To avoid any digestive upset, new food should be introduced slowly and systematically. If you want to try new foods before purchasing them, please stop by any Slobberbones for a sample of some of the brands we sell.
This post should not be considered medical advice. Please consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet.