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Grain Free Dog Food: Should Your Dog Switch Foods?

Should Your dog be eating a Grain Free Dog Food?

There is much debate about grain free dog foods both from owners who love these foods to professionals that suggest that all grains are fine and should be a natural part of a healthy dog diet. 

Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dog Food

It is no wonder that the average pet owner is confused. 

On the one hand, those that prefer grain-free, suggest that grain free formulas are more natural, more like the ancestral diet of dogs.  They make the point that dogs are carnivores and any plant-based portion of the diet should be limited. 

On the other side of the debate are people (usually experts) that maintain that grain free dog food formulas were developed solely because consumers made demands on the dog food manufacturers.  This line of thinking suggests that as people reduce their carbs or switch to a gluten free diets, they feel healthier and want their dogs to feel good too. 

They go on to suggest that people are misled into thinking that grain free means carbohydrate free.  Some people may make that assumption, but not everyone.  In this camp are also those that assume the grain free advocates avoid grains because they consider them to cause allergies.  They go on to assure the public that most studies suggest that grains are not the culprit when it comes to allergies.

Who is right? 

There are some truths to the claims by both sides. 

Grains Used as Protein Sources

The most common grains used in dog foods are corn, wheat, soy, and white rice.  They are cheap and they can provide an extra amount of plant-based protein. 

This is important for dog food manufacturers to show on the label that they have adequate protein.  What does all of this mean to you?

Look at a dog food label with a high protein percentage?  Looks great, doesn't it?  But look a little closer and you'll find that the food high in protein actually contains plant based protein such as found in corn and wheat, with little in the way of actual animal protein such as chicken, lamb, or fish. 

High Glycemic Foods

Many of these cheap grains that fill up our dog's diet are also are high on the Glycemic Index (GI), an index that rates ingredients by how quickly and how high they can cause blood sugar levels to rise.  High GI carbohydrates can produce a chronic inflammatory response in the body which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

Some foods have been found to cause some intolerance or sensitivities (not allergies).  Food tolerances or sensitivities tend to build up over time leading to problems that are often misdiagnosed such as GI problems and skin allergies, which may end up being the fault of the food your dog eats.

You end up feeding more of these grain filed foods because they do give the dog a quick burst of energy but it does not last throughout the day, which means your dog is hungry and ready to again.  This can lead to obesity.

Grain-free dog foods often have more concentrated energy levels. They contain a higher standard of protein and fat that comes from animal sources.  These types of foods can meet the dog’s needs in smaller quantities, so you tend to use less food.

Grains, like corn or wheat, can activate food sensitivities in some dogs. Choosing a grain-free dog food prevents this from beginning.

Why Not Serve Wheat to Your Dog?

Wheat is a low-cost source of protein, as opposed to say Bison or Salmon.  Gluten is the sticky protein found in wheat and it has been known to create havoc in people especially sensitive to it.  

Celiac disease in humans, (sensitivity to gluten) causes gas, bloating, and diarrhea and can lead to a low-grade autoimmunity that can cause inflammation throughout the body.  Experts are seeing the same effect in dogs.

Why Not Soy?

Soy in moderation is not a bad thing.  For dogs that eat the same food day in and day out that contain soy, that amount of soy builds up over time and causes them to suffer from decreased hair growth, immune system abnormalities and abnormal thyroid function. 

Soy also can cause gastric distress and block the absorption of nutrients.


Beyond what was written above about soy and wheat, corn can contain contaminants that can put dogs at risk.  The corn we eat that is fresh, canned or frozen, is not the same corn that goes into dog food.  Rather, the cheapest feed grade corn is used in dog foods, the same feed that is used for livestock.  The corn could be contaminated with mycotoxins. 

So, is Grain Free Dog Food Better for Your Dog?

There are some real benefits to a grain free dog food.

In the wild, dogs were scavengers, finding carcasses that contained meat and stomach contents.  They devoured it all getting the meat protein and plant material that may have been in the stomach of the dead animal.   In this way, a grain free diet is closer to the dog’s ancestors diet. 

However, it should be noted that dogs no more eat the kinds of food their ancestors did 15,000 years ago then people eat the caveman's diet.  For that matter, people eat very differently today than their grand or great grandparents did 50 or 75 years ago. 

Grain Free Dog Food


  • The Dog Eats less of the food for the same amount of nutrients, which may be a good choice for overweight dogs.
  • With the dog eating less, the cost to feed may be less.
  • The food could be safer without contaminants and ingredients that could lead to allergies.
  • Without the grains, the food may contain healthy vegetables and fruits to make up the carbohydrate percentage.

Usually, if the food is grain free, the absences of the grains mean that other foods are substituted which may be healthier to the dog such as vegetables. 

How to Choose a Good Grain Free Dog Food

Just as much care should go into choosing a grain free dog food as it would be for accepting any food.  Not all formulas are perfect for all dogs. 

  • Look at the ingredient list, especially the first 6 or 7 ingredients.  You should see at least one if not more protein sources that come from animals or fish.

  • Look at whether the food is appropriate for your dog’s age and size. (Puppy, All-Life Stages, Adult, Large Breed, Small Breed)

  • Pick one that substitutes grains for fruits and vegetables.  For example, Taste of the Wild grain-free formulas includes fruits and vegetables, including peas and garbanzo beans, that provide a better tasting food for your pet.  If your small dog is a picky eater, you might find that grain free diets are much more palatable. 

  • Choose one that uses food sources that are farmed, caught, or raised on ranges nearby such as in Canada or the U.S.A.

  • Look at the company’s track record for food recalls. 

  • Look to see if the company manufactures their own food

The Bottom Line

All grains are not bad but many dogs are sensitive to them and can benefit from being fed a product that does not contain grains as the source of carbohydrates.  This is especially true if your dog is experiencing any problems

  • Skin irritations, excessive scratching, biting or licking on self
  • GI disturbances such as gas, bloat, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Ear infections

It is worthwhile looking into a grain free diet.

Remember, A grain free dog food does not mean that the dog is eating a carbohydrate free diet.  That would be equally unhealthy.  Dogs like people need a decent amount of fiber in their diets to maintain digestive health. 

Recommendations from Small Dog Place

Yes, I admit that my dogs eat a grain free dog food.  These are ones that I can recommend. 

My dogs have tried all of these products and enjoy the taste.  Beyond that they offer great value for your money.

Taste of The Wild

Taste of the Wild grain-free formulas rely on ingredients like quality meats and probiotics that maximize the nutritional health benefits for your pets. The probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that help your dog by keeping the digestive system healthy and in balance. They do this by suppressing the bad bacteria that reside in the digestive system.

The team of veterinarians at Taste of the Wild recommend transitioning food over a 6-9 day period.

You can do this by starting with 25 percent of the recommended feeding portion of the new formula mixed with 75 percent of the recommended feeding portion of the old formula for 2-3 days.

Then, move to 50 percent of each for 2-3 days and then 75 percent of the new with 25 percent of the old for 2-3 days before feeding the new formula exclusively.

Be sure to check the feeding guide on the bag to ensure you are feeding your dog the correct amount of the new formula.

For more information, visit the Taste of the Wild Pet  Food Website

or the Taste of the Wild Facebook Page

Life's Abundance Grain Free, All Life Stages

This premium, grain-free food is formulated for all life stages. Packed with nourishing, high-quality ingredients, this delicious food is perfectly balanced with all of the proteins, omega-3s, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients pet kids need to thrive … without the grains.

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