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DOG / nutrition

Should Your Dog’s Food Be Grain-free?

Dogs with wheat, corn or barley sensitivities


When to go against the grain

Dogs sometimes develop allergies or sensitivities to ingredients in their food. Your pet might be having diet troubles if they suffer some or all of these symptoms:

  • Itchy, flaky, bumpy or red skin
  • Itchy, flaky, bumpy or red ears
  • Gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea or vomiting

What’s our gripe with grain?

Well actually, there isn’t anything bad about grain, so long as it isn’t bothering your dog. In fact, the symptoms above don’t always mean your dog has grain sensitivity—so always consult your vet before making any diet changes. However, recent research shows that dogs’ ancestors didn’t need grain, so it’s possible your modern dog doesn’t either. If you suspect your pooch is having trouble with grain, a trip to the vet is in order. They’ll evaluate your dog’s symptoms and advise whether going grain-free might help.

Remember, it can take up to 12 weeks before a dog’s symptoms respond to a diet change. During this time, avoid giving your pup treats or people food (it may contain grain) so you can get an accurate picture of whether the grain-free diet is working.

Healthy dogs can also go grain-free. Many pup parents choose to give their pets grain-free diets. Always consult your vet when making lifestyle changes for your pup, and be sure to slowly introduce new food (to avoid upset tummies).

Common grains in dog food

Wet or dry dog food can include grains such as:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Barley

Wheat is the culprit that most often leads to digestive troubles, followed by corn. (Soy, another ingredient in some foods, is not a grain but can cause similar problems.)

Grain substitutes for dogs

Healthy carbohydrates can help keep dogs energetic and satisfied. Canine-friendly non-grain veggies and starches include:

  • White potatoes
  • Green peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots

Rice is a grain, but many dogs can tolerate it. Start your pup on rice slowly.

Should all dogs go grain-free?

Not necessarily. Check with your vet before switching to a grain-free diet, especially if your pet is:

  • Diabetic
  • Living with kidney issues
  • Overweight
  • Inactive
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