Dogs were bred from wolves, and wolves are strict carnivores. What does this mean for our modern four-legged partners? It turns out the modern dog has adapted to digest some of the things humans eat, grains included. But how much, what kind, and how careful should we be? Is it time for you to consider grain free dog food? Should dog food be grain free? Dogs and humans look out for one another. Here’s a short guide to the best way to think about grain in your friend’s diet.

Dog food has contained grains for decades. But when we walk the pet food aisle of the grocery store, we see many grain free dog food options. These are relatively recent changes in the pet food industry. What happened?

In 2007, there was an unfortunate incident involving a grain shipment from China; it was wheat gluten contaminated with industrial chemicals. Many pets died eating food made from that shipment. Combine that with the current human-centric gluten-free food trend, and it’s easy to see where our current market for grain-free dog food could have started. So how much of this is a trend, and how much is an actual healthy improvement for dogs?


Allergies in Dogs

Grains themselves rarely cause allergic reactions, but they can be contaminated with storage mites. Your dog can be allergic to the mites, and the mites can appear in dog food that’s been left open and unsealed for longer than six weeks. So it’s not the grain itself that’s the problem here, it’s the storage method.


Hungry Like the Wolf

If a wolf is a dog’s ancestor, why not feed your dog like you’d feed a wolf? It’s a sensible question. The answer is in one word: starch. Dogs are physiologically very different from wolves in one respect; they have the ability they have to digest starch. It’s what allowed them to travel and live with early humans, sharing food and resources.

Wolves aren’t dogs. A wild wolf tends to lead a life that doesn’t much resemble the life of a domesticated dog; would your pet do well in a wolf pack, hunting caribou on a tundra? How grateful would she be to return to your home, falling asleep in front of the heater? Dogs directly lead different lives from wolves, and they can handle grain in their food.

But a dog can’t live on a diet of french bread or breakfast cereal, as much as they might want to. Who wouldn’t? Dogs need protein, usually available in various pet food ingredients such as beef, chicken, and fish. Come to think of it, what are the basic requirements of dog nutrition?


The Basics of Grain Free Dog Food

Water, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Vitamins, and minerals of various types. These are the minimum nutritional requirements of any dog. Observing your pet, can you get an idea of how she’s feeling? Is she doing well on her current diet? Would she do even better on grain free dog food?

The first thing you might notice on the list of basics is “Carbohydrates.” If dogs need carbs, shouldn’t I be giving her grain? Well, it’s possible, of course. But the current kibble brands need non-meat binders to create the kibble grains themselves, and usually, that’s where the grain comes in. But thanks to the new grain free dog food market, substitutes have been found using vegetables: legumes and potatoes. So they dietary requirement of carbohydrates is satisfied, even in the kibble, you’re thinking about.


Fat Dogs

Another item on the “basics” list is Fats. Hold on, you’re saying, why would I give my dear canine friend a plate of greasy fat? You wouldn’t, of course, any more than you’d serve yourself a meal like that. But the scientific fact here is that fats are a vital part of any diet, and your dog’s diet is no exception.

So we know, thanks to the Atkins diet, that carbohydrates can lead to fat, and excessive fat is terrible for humans. Your dog is the same way. It’s up to you here, keep an eye on the ingredients and nutrition facts on the label of the grain free dog food you’re considering. If your dog seems to do well with less fat, adjust her diet to keep her that way.

And of course, obesity in dogs can be linked to the amount of grain in the dog’s diet. Too much grain can cause too much dog.


Too Much Protein

A few ideas are floating around regarding protein in a dog’s diet: that you should only have protein, or perhaps that there’s such a thing as too much protein. There’s a trick to this, of course, and it involves dog food manufacturers.

Your dog will need protein her entire life, and she’ll be able to digest it if it’s the correct type of protein. Dog food manufacturers have been known to add low-quality protein made from soy and corn to their products. Older dogs can have trouble digesting these proteins, and that’s where we start to get the idea that protein can actually harm dogs. Kidney and liver damage are frequently cited. It’s not the case: only certain kinds of protein can cause trouble. Meat protein is ideal.


The Secret Ingredient

Vitamins and minerals can be added to dog food easily and inexpensively. Chances are no dog food you buy will be lacking in either ingredient. But what if you want to switch to a grain free dog food, and want to make sure your dog gets what she needs?

Amino acids are what you’re looking for. Many types are needed for a healthy dog. So is there a dog food that has a mix of protein, a “meat salad” of various meats that will allow your dog to have as much variety of amino acids in her protein?

Actually, can you see your dog gets what she needs with a single ingredient: egg whites. Egg whites are the ultimate dog food ingredient: very high in protein and possessing a vast variety of amino acids. Egg whites are the secret weapon in keeping your dog fed healthily, and they make a great ingredient in grain free dog food.



Grain-free dog food might be for your dog. You know what to do; you’re her parent. Keep an eye on her, see how she reacts to changes in her diet. And proper nutrition can be an improvement for anyone.


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