Over the last few years, grain-free dog foods have taken the dog world by storm. For too long, pet food brands have used cheap carbohydrates and grains as cost-effective fillers; they betrayed all of us dog owners. These times have changed and this article will inform you of grain-free dog diets, as well as review the top 5 best grain-free dog foods.
Many pet owners may make the mistake of purely buying the dog food they always have done because that’s just the habit they’ve fallen into. Other dog owners do it because that’s the one product or brand they see advertised above all others. However many dog owners are now becoming far more aware of what it is they feed their pets and with this trend we’re now seeing a number of new healthier dog diets grow in popularity.
One of these popular trends is grain free dog food and this guide will explore why it is this type of diet is increasing in popularity and hopefully help you to decide if it is something you should adopt for your dog.
Pros & Cons of Grain Free Diets For Dogs
Before we dive into the benefits or drawbacks of grain-free dog foods it is first best to examine exactly what it is and how it differs from traditional and low-fat dog foods currently found on the market.
What's a Grain-Free Dog Food?
Quite simply, grain-free dog foods remove any grain-based ingredient from their recipe. A grain-free diet for dogs aims to move more in line with what dogs would have eaten before humans stepped in and began to mass-produce the type of dog food we are now so used to seeing stacked on our shelves. By removing grain, compared to typical dog food, a grain-free diet will attempt to insert more meat protein and digestible animal fats into your dog’s diet.
Now you hopefully have a better understanding of what grain-free dog food is, it is time to try and clear up some of the myths attached to this type of dog diet. There is still some divide as to how beneficial grain-free dog foods are but this guide will attempt to answer your questions and leave you feeling far more confident about what you’re feeding your pet with.
Benefits of Grain-Free Diet for Your Dog
With grain-free pet foods growing in popularity you may be left asking the question of why. What is it that is making a huge number of pet owners switch to a grain-free diet and what exactly are the core benefits of making the change?
Ultimately we all want what is best for our pup and below we have outlined the four main reasons why switching to a grain-free diet could be advantageous for your dog — a grain-free dog food helps with:
- reducing the risk of allergic reactions to wheat, corn or other grains typically found in dog food
- getting closer to a meat-based diet that dogs would have evolved within the wild
- avoiding cheap carbohydrate-based fillers and low quality alternative dog foods
- improving your dog’s digestion thanks to healthy fats and quality proteins
These benefits are very much centered on improving the overall health of your dog by moving to a more natural and holistic approach to their food. As with human diets that avoid processed or ‘fad’ foods that we would have had no exposure to in the wild, you can view your dog’s diet is very much the same way.
However, even with the popularity of grain free dog food continuing to grow, it is extremely important to make the decision based on your own dog’s needs — simply because what might be the right approach to dieting for one dog may not necessarily be true for the next one.
For example, if you own a specific breed with unique needs such as a bully breed, try to have a diet adapted to them, with for example the best dog food for pitbulls: higher in proteins and fat, much lower in carbs.
Are Grains Bad for All Dogs?
Although you may have read the above section and decided emphatically that making the switch to a grain-free diet is the right thing to do, it is important to consider both sides of the debate. To help you make a well-rounded decision here, we will consider a number of drawbacks to grain-free dog foods and why you need to make the decision based on the entire corpus of information, and not just what is the hypest dog diet currently.
Many of the cons associated with switching to a grain-free diet for your dog relate to the many misconceptions people have in regards to whether or not pets should be eating grains, or more loosely, carbohydrates.
As already mentioned, one of the benefits associated with grain-free dog food will mean less chance of an allergic reaction taking place, however, while food allergies do affect dogs, grain and corn intolerance only represents 10% of all allergies diagnosed by vets. This means that adopting a grain-free diet makes perfect sense if your does is allergic, but if your pet isn’t affected, there is no reason to rush to avoid these ingredients.
If you are worried about an allergy affecting your dog then it is well worth looking into the issue further, itchiness and hair loss can both be common symptoms but as research has shown, beef and dairy cause far more reactions in dogs than grains.
Another benefit for some dogs to avoiding grains is how they can also ease digestion issues. However, if your dog doesn’t currently have any negative health issues with their digestion, then their current grain-based diet may not be a problem whatsoever. Transitioning to a new diet when there is no visible need may cause more problems than it can solve.
Studies have even shown that domesticated dogs have had to adapt to how their stomachs digest starch and other food types. This means that although as wolves this is not something they would have done regularly, with the genetic mutations that happened for centuries, domesticated dogs are now able to digest traditional dog food quite comfortably. This is proven by the overall low number of issues related to typical diets dogs have become used to, even though some experts tout the negative effects of such high carbohydrate/low protein intake.
How To Choose a Grain-Free Dog Food
So you’ve now weighed up the pros and cons and come to the conclusion that a grain-free diet is the right approach for your pet? With such an array of choices, it is now time to focus on what to be on the lookout for when buying the best grain-free dog food — this is so you don’t give in to the hype but actually buy the best product out there!
As with more traditional dog foods, you’re given the choice of both wet and dry grain-free dog foods. With both variants, make sure you are paying attention to the below points:
- the first ingredient must be a quality protein and not another carbohydrate (e.g. potato)
- wholesome fruits and vegetables providing great micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements)
- use of nutritious pieces of meat while avoiding the use of meat by-products
- healthy fatty acids to provide enough omega 3 and 6
Other factors to look out for is how the grain-free dog food is formulated and what additives are thrown in the recipe. Some brands using probiotics, while others use a number of study-proven antioxidants without any additional artificial colors or flavors which can have a beneficial impact on your dog’s health.
Top 5 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods
Brands try to use their usual marketing tactics to entice you to buy their special grain-free dog food but don’t be fooled by false inflated claims.
Here are the 5 best grain-free dog foods reviewed fairly.
1. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Grain-free dog foods always bring up a new problem: what carbohydrate source is the brand going to use to replace the grains they are removing? Taste of the Wild decides to use both sweet potatoes and peas to provide your dog with satiating, tasty and wholesome carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes and peas are known to be highly digestible carbs making them a perfect replacement for premium grain-free pet food.
Besides the carbohydrates, this Taste of the Wild dry dog food contains real roasted meat and bison is the first ingredient in the list, making sure your dog received nutritious proteins with all essential amino acids. With roughly 370 kcal for a cup, this dry dog food is also providing a lot of micronutrients thanks to the delicious fruits and vegetables thrown in this recipe, including blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes.
If your dog has some skin issues or keeps on scratching itself, try to switch to Taste of the Wild Canine Formula and see if there is a change. Many dog owners have noticed great improvements and a major diminution of skin conditions with such a switch.
2. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural
The name is explicit. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain is a grain-free kibble for dogs with a sensitive stomach; on top of having zero grains, it is also gluten-free and is completely free of fillers. Each gram of this precious dog food is nutritious and beneficial to your dog. The drawback is the rather expensive price, at roughly $42 for a bag of 28lbs.
Also free of artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors, this premium dog is natural and stresses the importance of the sourcing of their ingredients. Indeed, the first ingredient on the list is U.S. farm-raised turkey which besides being a wonderful selling point is proof of their commitment to their quality, health and safety standards.
Additionally, to great proteins (also available with U.S. farm-raised bison), Rachael Ray is throwing in some nutritious wholesome vegetables for dog food packed with vitamins and trace elements. To enhance the absorption of the minerals found in its formula, they have added chelated minerals which are known to facilitate the digestion of such minerals and trace elements.
3. BLUE Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain
With its proprietary blend of premium antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins labeled as LifeSource Bits, BLUE Buffalo is again imposing itself as a leading dog food brand thanks to its great ingredients and delicious recipes. Quality has a cost but with its Wilderness range, BLUE Buffalo is going a little high, scaring a lot of readers along the way since there are good alternatives at a more affordable price.
BLUE Buffalo Wilderness says goodbye to soy, corn and other grains, as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. This formula also excludes poultry by-products so you can be reassured that the ingredients are of high quality:
- carbohydrates come from tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, blackberries, pomegranate
- proteins come from beef, bison, lamb, chicken, and venison
- fatty acids come from flaxseed and red meat
Not just that, the micronutrients are sourced from high-quality foods such as dried kelp, dried parsley, barley grass, spinach, chicory root, rosemary oil, and blueberries. The list of nutritious herbs, fruits and vegetables are even bigger so you can be sure of feeding your dog one of the most complete and balanced grain-free dog food currently available in the marketplace.
If you can afford it, go ahead and transition to this remarkable BLUE Buffalo Rocky Mountain formula.
4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dog Food
Prepared and put together in the United States, this grain-free Wellness CORE formula is completely made from premium natural ingredients. Deliciously nutritious chicken is used along with wholesome vegetables, aiming at providing a lot of proteins while also focusing on the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.)
There is a long list of ingredients the Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free is not including and it’s awesome for our dogs’ health:
- absence of fillers and meat by-products
- completely free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors
- and obviously soy-free!
On the other hand, Wellness CORE is making sure most of the chicken and turkey meat used is deboned so your dog actually gets more meat and less bone. This recipe is a great all-round kibble for those dogs with a sensitive stomach, it’s obviously loaded with Omega 3 and 6, probiotics and antioxidants all sourced from complex and tasty foods.
5. Purina Beyond Natural Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
Because moist dog food exists too and is absolutely loved by dogs, we had to include the best grain-free wet dog food currently available. Purina is a household name and they have managed to maneuver towards a more responsible ingredients list in their premium dog food ranges.
Real salmon is the first ingredient in this delicious wet formula but this is not it—chicken the second, turkey the fourth and the liver the fifth! This grain-free wet dog food is indeed full of high-quality proteins with a complete amino-acid profile thanks to its multiple animal sources.
The delicious carbohydrates have to come from somewhere and sweet potatoes are the choice made from Purina in this recipe but there are other options available: chicken, lamb, carrots, peas, green beans, and spinach. You could order a nice selection to keep your pooch always curious and excited about its food bowl.
This Purina BEYOND Natural range leans towards a much healthier alternative to regular wet dog food. In addition, to be a grain-free wet food, it’s also free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and they make sure their wet food is free of meat by-products.
Ensuring your dog receives a well-balanced and healthy diet should be one of the main priorities of any dog owner. Just as regular walks and frequent grooming mean your dog can live a happy and healthy life, it is important that you know exactly what you’re feeding your pet to make sure their nutritional needs are met. When it comes to feeding your dog, you must focus on both quantity and quality.
Here is a long eight-minute video about the benefits of low-carb dog food:
Grain-free diets are hype and they mimic the diet of early dogs: more meat, more fat, and fewer grains such as wheat, rice, barley, quinoa, etc. Just like low-fat dog foods, this grain-free diet is a healthy alternative to the regular kibble most dog owners feed their dogs with.
Now, because grain-free dog foods are praised and clearly growing in popularity, dog manufacturers are trying (as usual) to use tricks to get you to buy their particular recipe. This is why we’ve listed the best grain-free dog foods in this article so you know what to buy!