Ask the Vet: Should I Feed My Dog a Grain-Free Diet?

Ask the Vet: Dr. Melissa Magnuson, Owner of Greenland Veterinary Hospital in Greenland, NH
Ask the Vet: Dr. Melissa Magnuson, Owner of Greenland Veterinary Hospital in Greenland, NH

Dr. Magnuson

Ask the Vet: Should I Feed My Dog a Grain-Free Diet?

Written by Dr. Melissa Magnuson, DVM and Owner of Greenland Veterinary Hospital in Greenland, NH

Question: There are many diets to feed my pet, I have heard a lot about “grain free” pet foods, should I be feeding my pet “grain free?”

ANSWER: There are many pet food diets to choose from but I have found that grain-free diets keep our pets the healthiest. By reducing the amount of carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates like wheat and corn) pets have less issues with weight gain, allergies, and maintain a better overall health status).

Most pets (even people) LOVE the taste of grains. Who doesn’t love pasta and bread? But unfortunately, though they taste good, they are not as good nutritionally as other complex carbohydrates like potatoes or peas. I recommend a good quality protein source, a complex carbohydrate source, many vegetables, no preservatives (natural ones are ok) and no dyes.

When you are selecting a brand make sure you read the label and chose one that does NOT contain any grain (grains are wheat, corn, rice, barley, oatmeal, etc.) You may notice that grain free nutrition costs a little more than non-grain free. The reason for this is that there is much less “filler” in the food and it is much more calorie dense so you will feed less. Typically, you will feed 1/3 less on grain free food than you do with grain diets. So by feeding less and spending a little more on the bag, you typically spend the same amount of money on the bag of food. In the long run, because pets become so much healthier on grain free food, you will have less medical issues and therefore save money in the long run by feeding grain free. 

If your pet has been eating a food that has the first ingredient as wheat or corn, they may not like grain free nutrition. Your pet may be addicted to the wheat and corn (much like we are to pastas, bread and doritos! They taste good!) So it may take a couple of weeks to transition them to grain free nutrition.

FOR CATS: I recommend feeding exclusively canned grain free food. This is optimal. Cats only drink when they are dehydrated so many cats are in a constant state of dehydration if eating only dry food. Studies have shown that cats that eat wet food only have less urinary issues. Also, wet food helps fat cats lose weight. Feeding wet food allows us to portion control cat’s food and by doing this we feed the proper amount and cats cannot overeat.

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