Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 2, 2017

Are Grain-Free Foods Taking Over the Premium Dry Dog Food Market?

Posted at 10:20AM - Comments: (59)

I was in a chain pet supply store the other day, looking for a higher-quality food for some foster dogs from my local shelter who are a little chubby. For this reason, I was looking for a product that was not too high in fat.

I was a bit surprised to realize that grain-free foods have sort of taken over the shelves in the section of the store where the higher-quality foods are stocked. Many of the companies whose products appear in the “natural/holistic” or “premium” section seem to offer only grain-free foods. I had to go through several aisles before I found a product from a company that I like offering a food that contained grain and had a lower fat content.

After I got home, I did more research; are these companies discontinuing their dry dog foods that contain grain? The answer was no; the companies I was thinking of still offered those products, but the chain store where I was shopping that day didn’t stock them. That said, some of the companies have far more grain-free options than foods that contain grain.

For example, one whole aisle was devoted to Merrick, and only Merrick’s grain-free foods were being sold. Most of these foods contain a minimum of 38 percent protein and 17 percent fat. At home, I saw that Merrick still offers a “Classic” line of foods that contain grains, and these contain slightly less fat (15 percent) but also less protein (25 percent in the case of the lamb variety, and 30 percent for the beef and chicken varieties).

The marketing of foods has also gotten very focused on grains, whether pro or con. Merrick highlights the Classic line as containing “ancient grains like quinoa.” Quinoa is a favored ingredient in dog food advertising, perhaps because no one has yet launched a campaign against it. Never mind that quinoa appears fairly low down on the ingredients lists of these foods. For example, in Merrick’s Chicken variety, it appears 10th on the ingredients list, well below peas (3rd), brown rice (5th), and barley (6th).

Some dogs do better on grain-free foods than on a diet that contains grains, but this isn’t true of all dogs. I wouldn’t give grain-free foods a blanket recommendation for all dogs; I don’t think they are a superior diet, except for dogs that have a specific problem digesting grains. Other dogs might have difficulty digesting the carbohydrate sources that are in the grain-free foods!

How about you? Are you feeding grain-free? If so, why? Have you seen any changes in your dog’s health or digestion since using these diets?

Note: We published a great article on the issue of grain-free foods in 2010. Check it out!

Comments (59)

I recently lost my beautiful black lab at the age of 12 due to a large malignant tumor on his spine. I got him when he was just 3 months old and when he was 9 mo.s of age, he was neutered. It was then that our vet at the time did his first hip x-ray since he was already under anesthesia. He was diagnosed with severely malformed hips in that the bone sockets were almost flat instead of "C" shaped as they should be. I immediately went into preventive mode with supplements and buying only "premium" dog food for him. When he turned 1 year old, he suddenly ballooned to 127lbs. This was a dog that got tons of exercise! A 30 minute walk in the morning, another 45-60 min. walk after dinner with a lot of fetch in our large backyard every single day, rain or shine. He also went swimming every weekend during the 6 months of the year it was warm enough to do so. We couldn't figure out why he just kept gaining weight, which was potentially bad for those hips! He also had terrible, stinky gas and off and on diarrhea. I started doing some extensive research on dog health and nutrition. This is when I got the wake up call about how precious little vets know about animal nutrition. It's quite sad actually. I switched brands of food, fed him grain free varieties of all sorts where he lost a few pounds but not enough to make a difference. At this time, there were many pet food recalls being reported on the news, almost daily. It was at this point I decided to start making his food myself. I left out any and all grains from his new diet. Bought all the proper supplements to make sure all of his bases were covered. Low and behold, 3 months later my guy was 30lbs. lighter and kept it off for the rest of his life! His chronic ear infections also disappeared as did the excess gas and diarrhea. His diet contained high quality meats; chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, salmon, sardines, and pork on occasion. Lots of veggies. I started out using a 7 quart crockpot but later purchased a pressure cooker which took a fraction of the time and the pressure kept the nutrients in the food. We recently adopted a 4 year old lab/golden mix with epilepsy. He was at the shelter for 5 weeks living in a concrete cell with nothing to do but eat, sleep and walk around in circles. Of course he was walked twice a day to do his thing but no real exercise. I immediately began his transition from whatever dry kibble he was given at the shelter to my homemade dog stew. He is doing quite well on it and he appears to be slimming down a little bit. He is also taking phenobarbital for his epilepsy which can cause weight gain. It has only been 1 month since his adoption so I'm hopeful more weight will come off over the next few months.

Posted by: SueW | August 19, 2017 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Given the Consumer Reports investigation that found high levels of ARSENIC in rice...the brown rice was worst...that is now a food for people and animals to avoid. Corn, wheat, soy are almost all genetically modified. Not for me, not for my dog. I think organic, grain free is the way to go. My last dog adored Wellness Fish and Sweet Potato...kibble. Would not touch the same in canned. What works for the dog and is a good food should be what you feed. Every dog and person are different. READ the ingredient list...would you eat it? If not, do not feed to,your dog!
And celebrate if he likes organic salad...low cal and filling. Organic pumpkin was suggested by my vet to ease the starving all the time Toy Poodle...he loved it, and poop was perfect. Organic yogurt, a tablespoon a day, was very much loved...we put his CoQ10 on top...yummy! And a healthier heart and teeth. Looking for even better ORGANIC food for adoptee Toy Poodle, age 5 years, semi-picky on the swill he is being fed (Nutro, BilJac), who arrives in July. 🐩

Posted by: LTD912 | May 13, 2017 11:11 AM    Report this comment

I have a Norby that came with a terrible sore on top of his nose (breeder said it was sunburn) Vet diagnosed it as discoid lupus and gave me Tacrolimus ointment to rub on it. Vet in Australia said for discoid lupus go grainfree, give fish oil and vitamin E. His nose healed and turned back to black, looks great, no more ointment but grain free fish based Whole Dog recommended kibble (I use a different brand each time I buy a 5 lb bag as each contains different trace elements) with fish oil and vit E for supper. Milk bone for breakfast which has grain. No more sores on his nose. Everything else is great! I think that in the past 50 years the prevalence of poor soil and more fertilizers and weed killers has contaminated our (and dogs') food making all sorts of diseases more likely.

Posted by: NorbyLover | March 14, 2017 11:13 AM    Report this comment

I have a senior adopted dog who when I got her at 10 years old came with extreme food allergies she lost a lot of weight until she was put on a limited ingredient diet by a wise vet at the shelter where I got her. Until we found the right diet I had tried every premium food and prescription foods all made her sicker and thinner. She can not eat kibble or rice or chicken meal and the solution was a canned venison and sweet potato.I also have a year old english cocker who does not do well on the premium foods.I have tried so many highly touted brands and inevitably he gets a digestive issue .A lot of these grain free foods are simply too rich for some dogs.They are like a paleo diet for dogs and some cant digest all that fat and protein.I also dont like all the pea protein and different beans in these foods .I have yet to find a middle of the road food that is not too high in fat or protein has no legume fillers and is nutritious.He is a little young for a limited ingredient diet but if I dont find a solution soon that or a prescription diet is where we are headed.My vet feels I have to stop reading all the dog food info and just accept that the food he can eat may not be the food I want him to eat.I have always cooked for my dogs and include organic chicken or beef, salmon and vegetables along with canned or kibble.

Posted by: bersam | March 12, 2017 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Being the pet parent of an epileptic Newf X , it has been challenging to me to find a food that is rosemary free (can trigger seizures), white potato and sweet potato free(terrible allergies to all things potato.) . I now feed Great Life LID buffalo and honest kitchen Kindly. I also cook chicken breast, quinoa and brown rice for him. I cannot feed him a grain free formula because I have found that they all have either rosemary or potatoes. He has been doing well on the LID diet but I have recently found out the company has been sold. There have been times when he has been less that pleased with his kibble after the new company took over, Makes me wonder if they changed the formula. I wish that more companies would make potato free and rosemary free food.

Posted by: lvhorsegirl | March 8, 2017 10:53 PM    Report this comment

One more point . I read dog food advisor for info. There I found ORIJEN S Six Fish. I advise all to read ingredients in the food they buy. First ingredient is more often corn. Why pay for or feed you dog mostly corn. Check out the prescription food sold at the Vets office. Expensive cereal .
Now look at ingredients at high end food. You'll be astounded. Dog food advisor lists its choice of 5 star foods. Read those ingredients then look at the others. If you're interested in feeding you best friend well, do some research.

Posted by: Sk | March 7, 2017 8:14 AM    Report this comment

I have 2 dogs and my older Lab does better on grain food. I have had her on gf before and always upsets her tummy. My younger Lab is the opposite had to put her on gf where she does great. For my younger if I put her on grains she loses hair scratches and tons of dandruff dull coat.

Bottom line I think its individual depending on the dog. They are not all the same. Like all dog food brands there are better gf and better grain formulas.

Posted by: Funnydog | March 7, 2017 7:29 AM    Report this comment

I'm a veterinarian and I'd like to make some comments simply because grains have gotten a bad rap; there's so much misinformation about pet foods and especially about cereal grains in pet foods.
One pet food company looking to make an extra dollar began the campaign against grains with the slogan "No Cereal Grains" as if that were a good thing. The company never actually said cereal grains were bad but certainly insinuated that. The problem is that this company replaced the cereal grains with a cheaper ingredient, white potato, which is far higher on the glycemic index scale. The buying public didn't notice the switch. The company profited because potatoes are far less expensive than grains. The ad campaign was wildly successful on the naive general public and the company grew quickly. Now the more established companies have had to follow with grain free diets not because these diets are better but to prevent losing market share.

The Tufts Veterinary School nutrition website, which you can google, is devoted to nutrition in pets and provides consumers with the truth. (I have NO ties to Tufts but find their information enlightening and reliable.)
I urge you to read the information available and become a wiser consumer. I promise you will learn that many pet food 'truths' are actually myths created by advertising which is often deceptive and driven solely by profits.

The next time someone gives you advice on what food to feed, ask them where they got their veterinary nutrition degree. Think about that.

Posted by: wmsalter | March 7, 2017 5:55 AM    Report this comment

I have a 1 year old doberman. He eats acana brand. He is flanking only on one side. I am aware that doberman are prone to this but do you think that has anything to do with his diet?

Posted by: Bel zap | March 6, 2017 5:09 AM    Report this comment

until i see dogs (wild dogs at that) farming and planting grain, my dogs won't be getting any. too many dogs have allergies to grains/corn/soy to bother feeding them. they are cheap fillers used by dog food companies to make food cheap so they can make a bigger profit. if your dog is fat..give it less food..not some cheap inferior food.

Posted by: wkmtca | March 5, 2017 3:56 PM    Report this comment

My dog, a shepherd/husky/? Mix was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease about 6 months after we got him at age 18 months. He was taken off beef, chicken, wheat, corn, soy, dairy and eggs. Those are the most common canine good allergens. He did extremely well on Taste of the Wild salmon. When he developed Valley Fever (a fungal infection in the SW USA) he lost his appetite and had to be hand fed a combination of ever changing mix of canned and dry premium foods. After his recovery (he never regained full muscle mass) we continued with a rotating diet of various brands of premium dry food with additional fresh fruits and veggies which he loved.

Posted by: Tmalven | March 5, 2017 1:38 PM    Report this comment

My golden has eaten grain free since 6 months. Hi quality, imo, grain free fish based. He gained weight and hit 103. He's a big dog to begin with. I switch him to the sister companies higher protein and fat grain free fish feeling the same amount and he's dropped about 12 pounds in 9 months. No ear infections and beautiful coats. Poultry and beef change his poops so I swear by a high quality fish based grain free food. Expensive yes, but you feed less because calorie count is higher and less poop to pick up.

Posted by: Sk | March 5, 2017 9:28 AM    Report this comment

I currently feed grain free to my 15 year old beagle who is quite spry for her age and my 19 month old English Cocker Spaniel. However, my old hunting dog lived to 19 years old on purina hi pro with some homemade dog soup over the top of it. I never let any of my dogs get fat and see that they get a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. All of them would be called hyper dogs---that is the term for a dog with good working drive, I guess. Diet didn't seem to affect their energy one way or another. I don't worry so much about treats but none of them have or had allergies.

Posted by: Mel Blacke | March 4, 2017 5:01 PM    Report this comment

laura.....perhaps she wants low fat for some reason other than weight issues........i have a dog and cat who both have chronic pancreatitis.......have to keep away from fat...

Posted by: sugarbooger7 | March 4, 2017 12:30 PM    Report this comment

We have a rescued Doberman. She was licking and chewing her feet every night, vomiting frequently and very high strung. After some research, we tried a grain free variety of the dog food we were using. In two days she quit licking and chewing her paws; she very seldom has vomiting issues and her coat looks amazing. She's still high-strung, but the other benefits have been incredible.

Posted by: lulu180 | March 3, 2017 3:13 PM    Report this comment

Our 11.5 year old, very fit, healthy, and active golden retriever has been on Orijen 6 Fish for the last 10 years. The reasons for the switch? She was itchy, her coat was rough, and she acted as if she had ADHD - our trainer suggested going grain free (and we knew that goldens have a predisposition for allergies to chicken-can make them itchy) so we switched to Orijen 6 Fish and never looked back. The itchiness stopped quickly, her coat became soft and fuller, and no more ADHD! She gets NOTHING else but her kibble and occasionally small pieces of carrots for treats. She is lean, muscular, and active. Another good reason to feed this fantastic food - the customer service is equally wonderful - they are quick to respond to email queries and their responses are comprehensive and personal. I will not feed anything else - period!

Posted by: dogwoman | March 3, 2017 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I've fed grain free but my current favorites are Purina ProPlan Sensitive Skin with salmon and rice and Renew Gold Balance with Pork, Chicken, Coconut, rice, barley and rice bran. Both are sourced and made in the US and have helped with heat sensitivity and skin issues.

Posted by: lisas | March 3, 2017 11:59 AM    Report this comment

I feed Natural Balance Synergy (chicken and brown rice, 28% protein formula) and occasionally supplement with small amounts of cooked table food. My Border collie has no allergies, healthy skin and a medium length beautiful shiny coat that people frequently comment on. I am also careful about the quality of training treats that I give her and often use human food for that.

Posted by: Holly's Den | March 3, 2017 10:24 AM    Report this comment

I am a Shar Pei and my daddy gets me Sardine Meal made by Natures Logic. He called the company and spoke with the owner directly. Owner told my daddy that he puts MILLET in the kibble. It is a GOOD GRAIN found in bird feed and it is a grass seed I am thinking. Anyhow, food needs to be held together by something and most kibble has peas in it which turns to sugar...... you get my drift. Anyhow my daddy got this sardine meal for me which I love. He puts a sardine in it for breakfast and dinner and I get a cup of the kibble each meal. He puts a tablespoon of Virgin Coconut Oil in it and mixes it all together. Sometimes I get 1/3 of a can of Tripett mixed in with it as an extra special treat. He said he chose Sardine Meal for me because the sardines are not shot up with hormones and antibiotics. Sardines live about 6 years on average and thus, have little mercury in them if any. My daddy says that if I get sick, he needs the antibiotics prescribed by the vet to work. He also spoils me and dehydrates treats for me... all antibiotic free, hormone free directly from the farm. My daddy is the best and I am his lil Diva!

Posted by: Scarlett M | March 3, 2017 10:23 AM    Report this comment

I am curious why you would want to feed a low fat diet to help with weight loss. Dogs and people need healthy fats. The prevalence of refined carbohydrates is what tends to put on the weight

Posted by: laurac3d | March 3, 2017 7:33 AM    Report this comment

I have fed a good, but supermarket, food with grains, varying between brands. I have always had 3 to 4 large dogs, mostly mixed breeds. All have lived to 14 or 15. None have had health problems, except a terrier mix age 14 who was just diagnosed with kidney disease. I exercise my dogs a lot, which is probably not an option for many people. 75% of Americans are overweight, so of course our dogs are. Of my 5 neighbors who have dogs, they never exercise them. I hike with the dogs 2 hours, 3 times a week, off-leash. Should probably do more. I also give them raw bones from a ranch butcher-they are too expensive at the grocery store. Their vet says their teeth are great.

Posted by: hilfri | March 3, 2017 3:04 AM    Report this comment

I am a breeder of Westies and in general Westies do better with either a grain free diet or with oatmeal, spelt or other ancient grains in their food. I do wonder how some of the higher glucemic ingredients such as white rice and potatoes effect dogs. At what point is it too much and does it contribute to diabetes in dogs? Then there is the level of arsenic found in white rice. Also of concern are the addition of high fiber ingredients such as garbanzo beans, lentils and alfalfa. Are dogs digestive tracts designed to handle so much fiber? Is the addition of alfalfa which is most often thought of as "hay" and is a member of the pea family, good for those dogs with food sensitivities and/or allergies? I'm very concerned with the direction the commercial dog food industry is headed in general. With recalls involving food laced with pentobarbital, it brings back bad memories of the food recall in 2007 where dogs and cats were sickened and killed by food stocks imported from china that were contaminated with melamine or the chicken jerkey treats. I have less and less faith in what we are being told is in the food. I'm strongly considering going to a home cooked diet for all my dogs.

Posted by: kylelmcd96@yahoo.com | March 2, 2017 7:13 PM    Report this comment

www.truthaboutpetfood.com is an interesting site about what is in dog "food." It's really "feed." There is a difference, a big difference. The originator of the site is an advocate for pet food in Washington DC.

A long time ago (1984-ish), before the newer dog foods came along, Abbey, my golden retriever, was allergic to additive/preservatives in dog food. I fed her popular dog food all her life -- I thought I was doing a good thing. My vet wanted me to purchase a dog food only sold at vet clinics. I couldn't afford it. I asked what should I be looking for in a dog food. He said a dog food with one unique protein (ie duck, salmon) and one unique carb (ie sweet potato, potato). I read a lot of ingredient labels until I settled on one or two. Abbey's allergies went away. She died a year or so later I believe from melamine in life-long dog food. Now I rotate dog foods for my 10-year-old golden and add vegetables.

Posted by: B%26B | March 2, 2017 6:29 PM    Report this comment

I have found that Bostons (which I foster for a local group) as a rule tend to have less gas when fed a mostly grain free diet. I especially try to steer clear of corn, wheat and soy (I know, soy is a legume, not a grain) because of the pesticide laden monoculture that they are grown in. I also try to limit the rice (because much of the rice grown is high in arsenic and I don't want that as a major part of my dog(s) diets. I do feed some foods that contain ancient grains or barley, oats or spelts but not too much.
Some years ago I had a dog with some health issues that required a high protein food but limited fat---I found that Innova Evo had acceptable protein levels but was not so high in fat as other high protein diets.

Posted by: PJKutscher | March 2, 2017 6:16 PM    Report this comment

To the comment/question why not just feed less of a kibble to lose weight. If the amount is less than the range for a dog that size listed on the bag, dog may not get enough vitamins & minerals.

Posted by: MonkeyMusic | March 2, 2017 4:48 PM    Report this comment

I just recently found the same thing! My sister-in-law died in a car accident last week and I'm taking her 11 yr. old Pekingese who has pancreatitis. She had been giving him only boiled chicken breast & white rice with a little canola oil. I am worried about the balance in this diet long term and set out to see if I could find a low fat, low fiber premium food to gradually introduce. I too found all grain free. I finally found a store that had a bag of Wellness Heathy Weight which had what I was looking for. I also ordered a bag of Canidae Premium for Seniors & Weight control which is also low in fat. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Woej | March 2, 2017 4:37 PM    Report this comment

THAT IS AS IT SHOULD BE! Carnivores shouldn't eat grain, and commercial 'grain
' dog food is something all pet owners should do extensive research on and stop.

Posted by: ShadowDragon | March 2, 2017 4:27 PM    Report this comment

I have a lab mix who gets recurrent ear infections which have to be treated with expensive meds to fight the bacteria that form. His allergy panel shows he is highly reactive to PEAS! And what have all these well meaning grain-free companies been substituting as a starch to hold ingredients together? PEAS! He is also allergic to soybean, sweet potato, white potato and green beans! He has no problem with wheat. We did a 3 month elimination diet with a very expensive "prescription" food which did not change anything. I now have him on VeRus Lamb maintance.

Posted by: clevercanines | March 2, 2017 4:16 PM    Report this comment

I feed a grain-free diet because that's all the company I trust most makes in the line that I use. I feed Orijen, which is all grain-free in the Orijen line.

In the past I have switched off of a grain-free diet and into a feeding regimen that included a kibble with several grains in it. I did that because the dogs that lived with me at the time did better digesting, eliminating, and maintaining a good body condition with grains in their diet.

The first dogs my wife and I adopted together back in 1970 lived to be 18 (Beagle) and 15 (GSD) and ate nothing but Purina Dog Chow all their lives. They were active and relatively healthy 'til just a few days before they died.

As others here have said, there is no "one-size fits all" silver bullet in nutrition. It all depends on the individual dog's needs and lifestyle.

Posted by: dalefuller | March 2, 2017 3:55 PM    Report this comment

I feed only sweet potato for "starch" per my excellent holistic vet. I homecook under her supervision. No Grains. She said they add to or even cause inflammation in the body and they turn to Sugar. I do make their cookies using oat and tapioca or coconut flours but they only get one a day when I do bake them.

Posted by: Evangeline | March 2, 2017 1:39 PM    Report this comment

There is a lot of confusion between grains and carbohydrates. Many of the comments made here are applicable to all carbohydrates, not just grains.

Grain-free does not necessarily mean low-carb. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, peas, and other plant foods are often substituted for grains in grain-free foods, and may be no healthier than most grains. I do avoid corn due to the higher risk of aflatoxins from mold, but I do not avoid foods that contain grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, or rice, though I keep these to a relatively small proportion of the overall diet. I also look for foods that are high in protein but not overly high in fat (preferably a ratio of at least 2:1 protein:fat), which is a difficult combination to find, and in some cases, the protein content has been increased with the use of plant proteins, especially pea protein in higher-quality foods (corn and wheat gluten are used for the same purpose in lower-quality foods). Peas are being used more and more in grain-free foods and may be linked to infertility due to their high phytoestrogen content.

I feed foods that my dog likes and does well with. As long as grains don't cause problems for my dog, I don't avoid them. If a dog is having problems with digestion or inflammation, it doesn't hurt to try grain-free foods to see if they help, but if not, no reason to stick to them. Pay attention to all the ingredients, not just the grains, as well as the amount of protein, fats, and carbs in each food you try to see what works for each individual dog.

Posted by: Mary Straus | March 2, 2017 1:20 PM    Report this comment

I am not sure why you would want to buy a dog food that was low in fat to help your dog lose weight. You should eliminate the carbs, which are what turn to sugar when being digested..... Dogs get their energy from fat, so eliminating it is self defeating, especially if you want the dog to lose weight and be more active. While many dogs do not have trouble with a heavy carbohydrate load in their food - they are incredibly adaptable - I would chose one of the grain free and lower carb foods and feed less of it. If the dogs require more bulk to feel full, you can add something like green beans or pumpkin, both of which are lower glycemic vegetables. Exercise helps too!

Posted by: Louann H | March 2, 2017 1:08 PM    Report this comment

I do a rotation diet of grain free foods. My 4 dogs get a different brand of grain free food each day. I chose the brands from Dog Food Advisor.com and Whole Dog Journal. My dogs have perfect poop, although I notice that some brands will give loose stools. What I like with a rotation diet, they can eat anything, they are never gassy, and on occasion when there is diarrhea the vet knows he can't pull "it must be the food" With rotating the food they get different parentages of protein and carbs. I think this is much healthier for them than the one food approach.

Posted by: quinnsammi | March 2, 2017 1:00 PM    Report this comment

I have always wondered why when a pet is fat people go out and buy a different food.

Why didn't you simply feed them less?

Posted by: Kate-S | March 2, 2017 12:59 PM    Report this comment

My Golden Retriever could not eat grains it made him itch and breakout he had to eat grain free. I am afraid grains such as corn is impossible to find that hasn't been genetically modified not to mention now they're finding phenobarbital in dog food. I am a little more educated on foods than I was with my Golden Retriever he only ten years and I blame some of that on the food, I always bought the highest quality but I'm afraid of dog food now. I give Jada some canned Rx food because she has kidney disease when she refuses to eat that I give her high quality organic and farm raised food to try and keep her from having to process chemicals. I don't think dog food uses the best quality food. I am going to learn to cook properly for animals.

Posted by: Jada | March 2, 2017 12:59 PM    Report this comment

I agree with most of the comments here about a grain free diet being healthier and natural for a dogs system.
My comment though is about the very out dated notion that when you OR your animal is trying to lose weight, that a fat free diet is what is necessary. Fat (good healthy fat) is an essential component in a variety of body functions and should not be avoided. I am not promoting a high fat diet, but if you want to lose weight, cutting carbs and increasing exercise is the way to go.
Of course, there is no one size fits all solution, and with keen awareness the body will tell you what it needs.
Also think about this: when it is time to bring livestock (for human consumption) to slaughter, they are fattened up a month or so prior at feed lots. They are not fed fat, they are fed grains. This is what produces the highly desirable marbling in beef, for instance.

Posted by: tmatt | March 2, 2017 12:57 PM    Report this comment

I believe that one misconception is that grain free dog food is also low-carb. However, vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas and tapioca often replace the grains in grain-free dog foods, especially in kibble foods, making them as high or higher in carbohydrates than grain-based dog foods.
I think a lot of the problems with grains is a result of the genetic make-up of the grain; if they've been genetically modified and if they've been chemically treated.
I found an Italian pet food line by the name of Farmina which offers a kibble three different ways: no grain, low grain, and pumpkin. Their low grain is spelt and whole oats. Spelt is a very old grain, as old as 9,000 years, and is non-GMO. It is highly digestible and stimulates the immune system. In addition, it has a higher protein content and soluble dietary fiber.
Last year, after my Cavalier was diagnosed with anal gland cancer, I started doing intensive research on the food and found Farmina's kibble formula is the closest you can get to a raw diet. My Cavi is in remission and looks and acts like a puppy now. Even the tearing of his eyes has cleared up for the first time since he was a puppy and he's 12 years old.
I don't know if it's the spelt grain or something else in the food, but whatever it is I'm going to stick with it.

Posted by: Trilby | March 2, 2017 12:46 PM    Report this comment

My lab mix had runny stools. Went to the vet several times, nothing changed. He also had some rashes. They gave him steroids. Nothing changed for long. Went to a small owner operated pet supply. He said put him on a high quality grain free dry food, absolutely nothing else, even bought the same treats. Within 3 days all rashes were gone and his stools are perfect. I am a believer. Now I'm going to try my itchy chihauha mix. It was a miracle. I'm on my second large bag and he's never been better.

Posted by: Jackson Mom | March 2, 2017 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I own and foster terriers - mostly Cairns but also Scotties and Westies. Twenty years ago I was searching for a way to help my Cairn stop chewing the fur off his legs every fall. Eventually getting all grains out of his diet did the trick. Since very few commercial foods were grain-free 20 years ago I ended up feeding all my dogs a raw diet (still do). The organization for which I foster does not want me to feed their rescues raw - since most likely they won't be fed a raw diet in their new homes once adopted. These dogs arrive with skin issues in almost every case - and after fostering 40+ dogs there hasn't been one that didn't resolve its skin issues with just being fed a grain-free kibble. I truly believe in no grains for terriers!

Posted by: pkinpa | March 2, 2017 12:22 PM    Report this comment

None of my dogs have problems with grain in their diet. My dogs eat a home cooked breakfast that includes a variety of grains, proteins and vegetables. They get kibble at night, sometimes it's grain free, other times not. When I have to send them to a kennel, they eat kibble both meals with a little kefir. They are thriving on this varied diet.

Posted by: DRK | March 2, 2017 12:11 PM    Report this comment

until I switched to a raw food diet for my 2 shelties six months ago, I fed grain-free on the advice of my Vet. They did well on it, but the difference since switching to raw has been nothing short of amazing! My 13 yr old had had a bad rash on her back for several years which no Vet had been able to cure. After 4 months of the new diet, it is gone and her fur is growing out long and shiny. My other sheltie (8 yrs) has been on the raw diet for a long time and she has an incredible thick, shiny and luxurious coat and both have lots of energy. (diet includes raw beef, pureed veggies, kelp, bone meal and alfalfa, mixed and frozen)

Posted by: Sarah H. | March 2, 2017 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I have a 10 yr old Pembroke Welsh Corgi who started chewing on himself a few months ago. The vet suggested I try Grain Free food so I did. Within a week he quit chewing on himself. I then switched back to regular kibble (not grain free) and he started chewing on himself again. Switched back to grain free and he quit again so I have deduced that he only gets grain free from now on, including treats.

Posted by: ernieo2 | March 2, 2017 11:13 AM    Report this comment

OMG...In my lifetime, none of my dogs have ever had allergies/sensitivities to grains! My feeling is that unless one's dog is actually showing signs of food sensitivities, not to feed him grain free foods.

Posted by: YellowDog | March 2, 2017 11:02 AM    Report this comment

I feed ORGANIC grain free kibble (Castor and Pollux chicken or lamb). My GSD came from the breeder on raw food and I had to switch her to a home cooked diet to which I add some of this kibble. She initially had "pudding poop" but with trials of various dry and cooked food combos (turkey, quinoa, organic California jasmine rice and organically derived vitamins/minerals and probiotics) we settled her down. I believe the heavy use of chemicals (Roundup) on GMO grains and also in non-organically fed meat animals is responsible for many illnesses in our animals, not to mention in humans as well. Also, gliadin in wheat, corn, barley, rye is thought to produce leaky gut syndrome in canines and humans. I would be happy to provide citations.

Posted by: Maxcook | March 2, 2017 10:57 AM    Report this comment

I have a corgi and a border collie. The former has had bouts of constipation with grain-free food, even when I added pumpkin. They are now both on Wellness dry food (with grains) and both are happy, healthy and surprisingly, not gassy.

Posted by: Bluetree | March 2, 2017 10:53 AM    Report this comment

Yes, I feed graun free food, and almost entirely grain free treats as well..as in definitely no wheat, soy, etc. I don't believe any dog "needs" any grain, and for numerous reasons I would say MOST should not, reasons that.are medical, and some behavioral. Many dogs that are labeled as OCD, or overly reactive, possibly some labeled aggressive, markedly improve on a grain free diet. Also, anal sack issues frequently go away completely on a grain free diet. I have a lot of experience with both of these types of issues with my own dogs. I would challenge you to find a single science-based, independently researched article that shows dogs need the types of grains found in dog food.

Posted by: nevertuesday | March 2, 2017 10:53 AM    Report this comment

I use a combination of foods for my 60 lb Swedish Lapphund who is now almost ten, but is just as frisky as ever. Once a month or so, I mix up about 20 lbs. of 73% hamburg and mix it with white rice and and about a dozen eggs, and cook up a couple of roast pans full of his doggie meatloaf. When it's finished baking I will pour off all the fat and let it cool to room temp. I then crumble it up and bag it in qt size freezer bags and freeze it. I give him a small amount of just meat in the morning and at dinner time I mix some grain free Blue Buffalo kibble with his meatloaf, pumpkin and a little high quality canned food. My wife thinks I'm nuts.

Posted by: KarlNH | March 2, 2017 10:51 AM    Report this comment

Being a new dog owner, I scoured the internet for the best dog foods when I first got my dog 3 years ago. I found the website, Dog Food Advisor, it gives nutritional specifics on which dog foods are best and why; because of this I have trusted their advice. They are independent of marketing for a specific brand and they put a high importance on meat being the #1 ingredient in dog food, so they have no reason to try to taint the truth. The best dog foods they recommend are grain free. Grain dog foods like Kibbles and Bits, Pedigree, Purina Dog Chow, Iams, Beneful and others are given low ratings. I feed my dog Taste of the Wild High Prairie Formula which has one of the highest ratings. Am I barking up the wrong tree? (haha) Are grain free dog foods best for average dogs with no health problems? Nancy Kerns, I would love your response to this.

Posted by: shelly5994 | March 2, 2017 10:45 AM    Report this comment

Before I got my dog I had switched my cats to grain free because of allergies. I was so impressed with how lush and soft their coats became that I became a grain free apostle without ever doing any real research on the matter. When we got our dog we started her on grain free as a puppy and have just alway fed her that until we started fostering a year ago. The foster group supplies the food for the fosters and I'm too lazy to feed separately so they get a mix of the food I buy and the food the group has which can change from bag to bag based on donations. I have noticed my dog has gained some weight but she might just be helping herself to some of the extra food that's become available. It's something I'm keeping an eye on though. And they don't get to free feed, they all get measured amounts every day.

Posted by: Stephenie D | March 2, 2017 10:38 AM    Report this comment

I have a 14 year old Lhasa that had a tumor from Hemangiosarcoma -- Canine Cancer when she was 10.5 years old. My research clearly led me to believe grain dog food was behind this. After surgery she was given 6 - 18 months but they did not think she would make it a week. With a new diet of grain free food (including Greenies) and a morning and evening "Yunnan Baiyao Jiaonang" pill and a "I'm-Yunity" pill, she is doing better now than when she was 8!

Posted by: johnmac | March 2, 2017 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Dogs have very little if any requirement for carbohydrate foods. They are not designed to eat grains.

They can manage to survive on carbs, as we know, but higher-carbohydrate diets are not optimal, especially for active dogs, as the carb has lower digestibility.

Another support for this is that dogs can produce their own Vitamin C, an adaptation of carnivores, since Vitamin C is found in plant foods.

I tried to provide the journal articles that support these statements, but this platform doesn't permit it. I would be happy to give them to anyone who wants them, though, if you can figure out how to contact me. If I supply my email it won't post my comment, either. Suggest searching Google Scholar.

Posted by: AvidReader | March 2, 2017 10:34 AM    Report this comment

I feed grain free to my border collie because he is allergic to most grains, beef, etc. So he eats a high quality duck/turkey kibble. But my mini aussie has had pancreatitis and almost died. He needs a low fat, moderate protein diet. He is also diabetic. The grain free are too high in fat and protein for him. My female mini aussie is overweight. I tried her on a grain free high quality kibble. Her weight went up, rather than down, so back to her trim kibble. Each dog is different.

Posted by: Patriciag | March 2, 2017 10:28 AM    Report this comment

As it turns out my dog does better with some grain, she needs a lower fat diet as she experiences IBS with bleeding on straight protein alone. Took awhile to figure that out.

Posted by: denden | March 2, 2017 10:21 AM    Report this comment

I have Shih Tzu's and have had them on Merrick grain free for years; dry and canned. It does not stain their white faces like other brands. I don't personally like grains because a lot of them contain rice. I heard too much rice is not good because it contains arsenic. This is true for human babies too. A higher protein diet makes more sense to me for all life stages.

Posted by: LT | March 2, 2017 10:21 AM    Report this comment

We started feeding grain-free when we got our little Westie, because they are said to have more skin problems. We also had two Shelties, and they had, in their old age, become quite fat, and I believe a high proportion of grains causes weight gain (I base this on my own body, which I realize is not the same, but it still seems applicable). Anyway, our Westie is still only a couple of years old, so he has no problem with obesity yet, but has also had no skin problems (although he came home from the breeder with very irritated skin, no doubt from being fed economical, generic food) and one Sheltie finally died of old age, but I believe all of them have benefited from a high-protein, grain-free diet. It just makes sense to me, although I suppose I can see that some dogs might be okay on grains.

Posted by: Eklutna | March 2, 2017 10:19 AM    Report this comment

I feed grain free, although mainly because our dog seems to be allergic to most grains. Hs is also allergic or has problems digesting most of foods in grain free diets, so I had to find a food with out potatoes (including sweet potatoes). Our other dog also has less gas on a grain free diet. They both also seem healthier on this type of diet. I am not saying that a grain free diet is good or bad for all dogs, I fed grains to the dog we had before and he did fine, but it is a must for the dogs we have now. Although, seeing the healthy change in these two dogs, I would be more likely to feed grain free in any other dogs I have as long as they do well on that type of diet.

Posted by: Bmwjournal | March 2, 2017 10:19 AM    Report this comment

to grain free there is way too much cancer in dogs !
Grains have pesticides! Too much cancer in the dog world that's why grain free is the option

Posted by: Naturaldog | March 2, 2017 10:18 AM    Report this comment

I feed grain free after a seizure scare. Some evidence indicates grains could be the cause and this was an easy change to make.

Posted by: paws39 | March 2, 2017 10:11 AM    Report this comment

I have read several articles about the connection with seizures and dog food with grain. Our 10 year old lab/kelpie mix started having seizures several years ago. I switched her to BB senior food, grain free about a year and a half ago. She hasn't had a seizure since she has been on a grain free diet. Her coat looks and feels better, too. I do not believe in coincidences :)

Posted by: meldrape | March 2, 2017 10:01 AM    Report this comment

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