Why Should Dogs Not Eat Grain Free Food

Veterinarian Sorin McKnight, DVM, of the College Station, Texas-based Wellborn Road Veterinary Medical Center, gave this paper a thorough medical assessment.

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  • There are no grains such as wheat, rice, or any other forms of grains in grain-free dog food.
  • Typically, grains are used in place of legumes, which may result in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  • Dogs may lose out on fiber, fatty acids, and protein when you stop feeding them grains.

Dog owners frequently regard their dogs like members of the family, giving them the best care and a wholesome diet. Therefore, fad diets that are well-liked among humans occasionally influence fad diets for dogs.

For instance, according to Rebecca Greenstein, DVM, a Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover, gluten-free dog food rose to popularity about the same time that gluten-free diets (for humans) were all the rage.

However, these trendy eating plans aren’t necessarily healthy for people, and the same is true for your dog, particularly if your veterinarian didn’t advise it.

Here, we examine grain-free dog food in more detail and include several veterinarians’ recommendations on the advantages and disadvantages.

Do veterinarians advise grain-free dog food?

Veterinarians began to notice a concerning trend as the popularity of grain-free dog meals increased: dogs consuming these diets were being diagnosed with a rare heart ailment. Dilated cardiomyopathy, often known as DCM, weakens the heart muscle and can cause sudden death. Only a few breeds have historically been known to exhibit it, including the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel.

An investigation was started in 2018 to determine the precise cause of this heart issue in the larger population of dogs. Many DCM patients were eating meals free of grains, which prompted researchers to look into diet as a potential factor.

What does the latest research tell us about grain-free diets for dogs?

Do doctors advise feeding dogs grain-free food?

Dogs eating these diets were found to have an uncommon heart problem, which worried vets as grain-free dog foods became more popular. This condition, known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), weakens the heart muscle and can cause sudden death. Only a few breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel, are typically known to exhibit it.

The specific cause of this heart ailment in the larger population of dogs was the subject of an inquiry that was started in 2018. The fact that many DCM patients ate food free of grains prompted researchers to look at diet as a potential factor.

Why were grains removed from dog foods in the first place?

The misconception that domestic dogs cannot digest wheat is perhaps a contributing factor in the rising acceptance of the grain-free diet. Dogs can and have historically thrived on a diet high in grains, as has been well-documented!

The dog’s remarkable evolutionary success can be attributed to the fact that it evolved alongside human societies. The dog’s capacity to get used to devouring the carbohydrate-rich scraps and leftovers contributed to this achievement. There are no studies that demonstrate that feeding our domestic dogs a diet high in grains is bad for their health. In actuality, the cooked grains in commercial diets offer a variety of useful elements, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Some dog foods have shown to be popular due to their claim to be grain-free on the label itself. The popularity of has shown that the absence claim labeling trend is on the rise “Free-from goods are available in Britain.

Initially developed to meet the demands of those with allergies and intolerances, this product category. However, “Foods with a “free-from” designation are now valued by a broader market and regarded as healthier than those without one. Similar to human foods, absence claims in dog foods can make a diet seem preferable even when the reasons aren’t obvious.

Is there any situation in which a dog would need a grain-free diet? What if my dog is allergic to grains?

It is uncommon for a dog to need a grain-free diet for health reasons. Beef and dairy products are the top two food allergies in dogs, with wheat following in third. Furthermore, even if there is a grain sensitivity, it is doubtful that all grains will cause a dog’s sensitivity to manifest. Speak with your veterinarian if you believe your dog has a food allergy. Veterinarian assistance is necessary for the diagnosis and management of dietary allergies.

In light of all this research, what type of diet should I be feeding my dog?

Even at the best of circumstances, picking the correct nutrition for our pets may be challenging. Our pals appear to be urging us to follow some new fad at all times. Veterinarians advise feeding dogs a grain-inclusive diet unless there is a circumstance that makes it inappropriate when it comes to the topic of grain-free diets.

An adequate statement on the label of the item is something to constantly keep an eye out for. It should specify that the food is full and balanced for the particular period of the dog’s life. You can always consult your veterinarian if you’re still unclear of what to feed. They can advise you on the dog food that is best for your pet and assist you with switching, if necessary.

Do dogs need to eat grain-free food?

Grain-free dog diet proponents contend that grains are an unnatural source of nourishment for dogs and that dogs’ ancestors were unable to digest grains in the wild. Dogs may not have eaten pasta for dinner, but they did hunt and devour other creatures that did, so they may have indirectly consumed grains themselves!

Dog foods are created with our dogs’ activity levels, weight, heart health, and general welfare in mind because our pets no longer live in the wild.

Although the wild relatives of our dogs may have consumed little grain, dogs have developed over time to be able to digest a variety of foods, including grain. Over the years, various dog genes have been changed to enable them to digest gluten and wheat. Therefore, it is not required to feed your dogs grain-free pet food in terms of metabolism.

Because some supporters of grain-free dog food diets believe their dogs are allergic to or intolerant of grains, they feed their pets this type of diet. Dog food that is devoid of grains and gluten is gaining popularity. While these diets are especially beneficial for PEOPLE with celiac disease, gluten intolerances, or wheat allergies, the majority of dogs do NOT have these conditions.

A grain-free dog food diet would undoubtedly be the best option if your dog does, in fact, have allergies to wheat. When a dog has allergies, you should look for the following symptoms:

Is grain-free dog food beneficial or detrimental?

There won’t be any wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats, soy, or rye in grain-free dog food. It may still, however, include carbohydrates such lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, or peas. It has a higher protein content than typical dog food since it could include more meat as a substitute. There can also be another source of carbs. Grain-free pet food does not automatically imply good quality.

The Benefits of Grain-Free Diets

When weighing the benefits and drawbacks of grain-free dog food, dog owners should take a few key factors into account.

Of course, you can put your dog on a grain-free diet if he has a grain allergy, which should help with his health problems. Additionally, since some dogs have trouble digesting carbs, grain-free pet diets may be advantageous if your dog has digestive problems.

Wheat gluten and maize meal, which are inexpensive fillers with little nutritional value and lower the quality of the kibble or wet food, may be included in dog meals containing grains. Many grain-free dog diets, on the other hand, may use better-quality ingredients rather than fillers.

The Drawbacks

The disadvantage is that if your dog can digest wheat readily, grain-free dog food might not be the ideal choice for him. Your dog may require whole grains or other healthy grains to meet all of his nutritional needs. For instance, grains include several nutrients that are good for your dog’s health, such as magnesium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. Additionally, finding grain-free pet foods at your neighborhood pet store can be challenging, and even when you do, they may be more expensive.

The FDA and veterinarians have also expressed alarm over grain-free dog chow. Veterinarian cardiologists have recently observed an increase in the number of canine cases of dilated cardiomyopathy. This significant heart issue makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.

The FDA intervened and launched an investigation because veterinary cardiologists were diagnosing this heart problem in breeds where there was no known genetic susceptibility. 93% of the dogs on the 515 reports of DCM between January 2014 and April 2019 were on diets that contained lentils and/or peas, and 90% of the dogs consumed grain-free dog food, according to the study.

Some dogs’ cardiac conditions got better after they stopped eating gluten-free and started taking taurine, a particular amino acid supplement. In case there is a possible connection between the food and medical disorders like DCM, dog owners should contact their physician to check their dog for heart disease if they do decide to put their dogs on a grain-free diet.


Grain Dog Food, the edge

While the idea of restricted ingredient recipes for higher-quality dog food is fantastic, many of them are grain-free dog diets with substances that may be connected to DCM. Although most premium grain-free dog food companies adhere to high quality requirements, there are high-quality dog food brands that do include grains and no fillers. A grain-free diet is probably not the best choice unless your dog has very specific grain allergies and is not prone to heart issues. The winner is grain-based dog food.


Edge: Diverse

Although grain-free meals are typically a little more expensive, both low-cost and high-end grain-free dog foods are readily available. Both economical and pricey diets are possible because there are numerous dog food brands that offer both budget and luxury options. Although there are more affordable options for grain dog food, neither diet actually has a pricing advantage.

Health Risks

While grain-free dog food was touted as the solution to canine allergies, the FDA’s results make grain-free dog food less appealing. It’s crucial to note that there are grain-free dog feeds that employ lentils, potatoes, and peas as grain replacements, but not in large amounts. Although diets with few ingredients are sometimes the best option, they may not be helpful for dogs with severe food allergies. Grain dog food has the advantage when comparing the health concerns of the two diets.

Does a grain-free diet affect a dog’s cardiac condition?

Veterinarians became aware of a possible link between dogs eating grain-free diets and a condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy as grain-free pet foods gained popularity (DCM).

The FDA started collaborating with veterinary cardiologists and nutritionists in July 2018 to try to figure out what might be causing this issue. They’ve had more than 500 reports so far.

What do veterinarians currently understand about dogs developing heart disease from grain-free diets?

The majority of the meals mentioned in the complaints have labels “Affected pets often eat them for months or years and they are grain-free.

The diets lack wheat, corn, soy, rice, barley, or any other grains, but they do include a lot of different types of peas, lentils, other legumes, and/or potatoes ” (for instance, you may see “peas, “pea protein, or “potato flour listed in the ingredients).

Numerous diets have come from smaller (boutique) pet food firms, which is another similarity amongst the diets.

What grains should dogs stay away from?

Making the appropriate option is crucial if you want to provide your pets with the best food possible. It’s possible that you already have a favorite brand of dog food. However, with the recent media attention given to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), it’s natural to question whether you should provide a grain-free diet or formula.

Consider some of the popular diets: vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, vegan, paleo, and plant-based. There are so many choices, and none of them are necessarily “the best because it depends on your particular needs.” Additionally, additional elements including age, weight, and general health are important.

The food you give your dog follows the same logic. Like us, you want to feed your furry family members foods that will enable them to play fetch, run, and snuggle with you for years to come. However, not all dogs are created equal, and different breeds—as well as dogs within those breeds—have varied demands. Keeping this in mind, your dog might perform well on a diet that contains grains while struggling on a diet that does not, and vice versa.

Before choosing a dog food, keep the following in mind:

  • Allergies
  • Health Issues
  • digestion problems
  • Age
  • Movement Levels
  • Biological Status


Wheat, corn, rice, sorghum, barley, and rye are among the major cereal grains that are not included in grain-free dog food. White potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are rich in fiber and other minerals and still maintain a low glycemic index, are frequently used in place of these grains. This diet may be helpful for dog owners whose dogs struggle with weight management, digestive problems, or food allergies.

However, it’s also crucial to realize that these formulae won’t make your dog’s diet entirely devoid of carbohydrates.

Although they may not be as crucial to your dog’s diet as protein is, carbohydrates are still a fantastic source of energy. Always check the protein content of their diet to make sure they are getting the proper amount, especially in the first five items.


Not all grains are terrible, and not all grains are made equally. Grains in your dog’s food might give your dog extra nutrients and fiber, depending on the kind.

It’s vital to remember that whole grains and ancient grains are similar in that they have existed for roughly the same amount of time. However, while whole grains are more trendy now, ancient grains have remained essentially unmodified over time.

The bran, the germ, and the endosperm are the three primary components of grains. Each component has a distinct role, and when they are all together, they contain a wealth of vital vitamins and nutrients including selenium, fiber, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus that support healthy skin and fur, heart function, digestion, and other bodily functions.

Studies have shown that whole grains, which retain the bran and germ, are more nutrient-dense than refined grains. White flour, white rice, low fiber cereals, and sweets are examples of refined grain products.