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Is it a myth that dogs should eat grain-free?

Is it a myth that dogs should eat grain-free? Topic: Formulating a research question steps
July 19, 2019 / By Cearra
Question: My friend who's a vet says that it's a myth that grain-free food is better for dogs. She feeds her dogs Purina. I recently switched my dogs from Wellness (which has oats and barley, but is wheat, soy, and corn free) to Natural Balance Alpha (which is grain free). They've haven't been doing as well with occassional diarrhea and have been pooping three times a day (when they were pooping 1-2 times a day on the Wellness.) I had switched the brand just to try out something new, so I think I'm going to switch to Wellness Core (also grain free) to see how they do on that. One of my dogs definitely has a wheat allergy, which is why he was eating a wheat free food (he ate Purina as a puppy and was very itchy until I switched him to Wellness.) The other dog *might* have grain allergies of some kind, he was very itchy when I got him 3 months ago, and it seems to have gotten a lot better switching to a grain free food, but it's possible that it was just seasonal allergies and not even food related. I'm wondering if there's any reason dogs shouldn't eat grains they don't have allergies to, as long as the food has enough meat and protein? Is there anyone that thinks it's just a myth that grain-free is always better? Connie, it wasn't a sudden change, I transitioned them slowly over about 10 days. They've been on it for about 3 months now, and I'm not really happy with the food. I tried the NB Alpha because I got samples of a bunch of different foods, and they liked the taste of Alpha better than Core. But, they liked the Core decently enough, so I'm going to try that as soon as I'm through the giant bag of NB kibble I have.
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Best Answers: Is it a myth that dogs should eat grain-free?

Annetta Annetta | 8 days ago
Yes, it's a myth. It's a brilliant marketing scheme with no research or science to back it up. It is widely believed on the internet, because if you don't understand nutrition, it's easy to convince people that it's true. As you can see from the answers you're getting, there are many many MANY people who believe in it, so the myth persists. But it is losing traction, because as more and more pet food companies jump on the "grain free" bandwagon, there are less and less decent quality grain free diets to choose from, so pets aren't doing as well. As for allergies, dogs and cats can be allergic to anything. Grains are commonly blamed, but the only way to truly diagnose a food allergy is by doing an elimination diet trial, and then once the clinical signs have resolved, challenge the pet with the ingredient (not just the old pet food, the ingredient you suspect) to see if the signs return. Elimination diet trials are time consuming, and can be a real pain, so most people stop when they see their pet improve. However, there are tons of reasons besides allergies that a dog or cat may do well on one diet vs another. Quality, digestibility, omega 3 levels, vitamins, sulfur amino acid levels, etc... all play a role in skin and coat health (and itching and scratching), and will differ between diets. If you are looking for a good food to feed, the first step is finding a trustworthy company. I recommend asking the following questions of any pet food company you are considering: 1. Do you have a Veterinary Nutritionist or some equivalent on staff in your company? Are they available for consultation or questions? 2. Who formulates your diets and what are their credentials? 3. Which of your diet(s) is AAFCO Feed Trial tested? Which of your diets meet AAFCO Nutritional requirements? 4. What Testing do you do beyond AAFCO trials? What kinds of research on your products has been conducted, and are the results published in peer reviewed journals? 5. What specific quality control measures do you use to assure the consistency and quality of your product line? What safety measures do you use? 6. Where are your diets produced and manufactured? Can this plant be visited? 7. Can you provide a complete product nutrient analysis of your bestselling canine and feline pet food including digestibility values? 8. Can you give me the caloric value per can or cup of your diets?
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Annetta Originally Answered: What are some of the best grain free dry cat foods?
No matter what food you choose, chances are it's had some sort of recall on it. Most of them are minor things and proactively done. This isn't a bad thing, and no where near the huge recall of a couple years back when all of the food was recalled due to melamine contamination in the wheat gluten imported from China. In any case, if you look hard enough you will find negatives about anything on the internet. Some of the information is valid, some is not - and much of it is really opinion presented as fact. Good grain free foods include Wellness Core (but it does have some fish), Blue Buffalo Wilderness (check the ingredients, they have a chicken and a duck that are I believe fish-free), Taste of the Wild (has some fish), Merrick's Before Grain (no fish unless it's their salmon), and Origen (has some fish). Many cats are intolerant of fish, but it can be hard to find a food that doesn't have it. Corn is another frequent source of diarrhea, so the grain free may be the way to go. Have you considered a grain-free, by-product free canned? Even the grain-free dry foods are high in carbohydrates, or they couldn't form a kibble. Cats need meat, not carbs - they are obligate carnivores. My own cats eat primarily grain-free canned, but we do have some kibble out for snacking. I mix the Core, the Blue Buffalo chicken, and the Before Grain Chicken. The Blue Buffalo and Core are available at the big chain pet stores, the Merrick is only available at the smaller stores. Petco carries the Merrick canned, perhaps they have the dry as well.

Wynne Wynne
If the dog doesn't have an allergy it's not usually a big deal. Grains are the likely culprit in food allergies though. Most of the time grains in food are used either as a filler or just to hold the kibble together. Grains aren't really species appropriate. Dogs don't exactly forage for corn, wheat, or other seeds out in the wild. Occasionally they may have access if they eat the stomach contents of an animal that has recently eaten one of these things but it's really hit or miss there. I think a lot of the people who say that grain is good for a dog or that it's not harmful are those who feed a lower-quality food and just say that since their dog appears healthy, it's probably all right. I know vets don't get an awful lot of nutrition training, but some just appears to be common sense (though I have a friend who is pre-vet right now and she takes a lot of Ag classes so it's not surprising they'd promote those kinds of foods).
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Shayne Shayne
My Toy Poodle went from being at death's door at 3 years old, to alive and playf again within a day or two of going from Purina to a raw diet. We put both dogs on a raw diet 3 years ago, and they are 6 now. I will never go back to any processed dog food. Both dogs had improvements on raw. I have no idea what exactly my dog had allergies to in the kibble. We had several vet visits, she was put on various foods, pills, etc. Nothing worked. I wasn't going to spend another dime on dog food. $25 a month feeds both of my dogs on a raw diet, and I am happy with that. So grains could well be the problem, as well as colors, preservatives, whatever.
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Nimrod Nimrod
Grain causes or triggers all sorts of allergies in dogs. Our dogs do great on grain free and raw (50/50) But not all grain free dog foods are equally good. Some of them have not enough fiber or have too much potato/sweet potato and tomatoes in them. Some dogs can handle it very well, and others like our Rottweiler/Weimaraner needs more fiber and is intolerant of any tomato in the food. I would not so much experiment around with the dog food. If your dogs did great on the Wellness, I would stay with it or go to Wellness Core, if there is the slightest chance of your dogs having allergies, be it seasonal or food allergies. But every sudden food change can cause problems like diarrhea, gas or other digestive problems.
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Korbin Korbin
I tried the Nature's Variety RAW instinct kibble, but the all protein diet was too much for him, caused bad GAS and GI upset. I switched him the Nature's Variety, but the Chicken and brown rice. He has no problems since. most dogs would benefit from a small amount of grain, but good quality such as from Brown rice, barley, etc but stay away from Corn. In the wild, dogs would catch their food, and eat its stomach contents which would include veggies and some grain.
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Indigo Indigo
I think adding grains has more to do with making it easier to make kibble than the dog needing them. I had a problem with Natural Balance with one of my dogs. He developed stomach problems, yet he does fine on Diamond Naturals. I have heard that from a few other people, as well, so it may just be sensitivity to some ingredient that Natural Balance uses. If I were you I would just go back to the Wellness. I feed Wellness to my small dogs, and they all do very well on it.
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Everett Everett
No. The reason grains are added to many dry food is that in comparison to meat or fish protein they are cheap and the use of fillers such as oatmeal, rice, soya and maize means increased profit for the manufacturer, while still charging a midmarket price for the bag. What a dog needs in its diet is meat not vegetable protein and grain. The digestive system of a dog is not designed to break down and take nutrition from grain and while dogs will eat small prey whole (rabbits and birds for example including the stomach contents) and opportunist scavengers that eat some fruit, it is not their natural staple diet, raw meat, organs and bone is. While some dogs will live to a robust old age having been fed a cheap or midrange dry food, it does not follow that it promotes the long term good health of dogs. Some dogs are intolerant to specific ingredients – one of mine is primarily fed dry food rich in salmon and grain free for that reason, otherwise it causes digestive upset and skin irritation – and noticed a difference depending on what he eats. On Taste of the Wild he has healthy skin, high gloss coat, firm small stools and provides him with the fuel to drawn on for his active life. A brand of food that one dog thrives on, another may not, so grain free is not necessarily the right choice for every dog.
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Everett Originally Answered: Why do you americans worry more about protecting dogs, making laws for dogs than for human beings?
People love to point at studies and go 'look, there's your evidence!' As if it's supposed to mean anything. There was no mention of whether that study was from a peer-reviewed journal article; no link to the study to ascertain how they came to the conclusion or whether the results were actually statistically significant; and the sampling method they used probably wasn't the best, not to mention the research method doesn't sound great either. But yes, look in a peer reviewed journal article and there will be heaps of articles about racism (so I'm not attacking you, just the quality of the article). But this article says nothing about dogs. You haven't linked an article or study detailing how Americans feel more strongly about protecting dogs vs. people. You've linked me to an article about racism. I agree that racism is rampant in society. We live in a world where white people have power and privilege, and anyone who isn't white is the 'other', and marginalised. Ferguson is a prime example, and there are, unfortunately, way too many other examples just recently! The people in charge right now are rich, old, white men (this is the dominant *group*, the norm), and they pass down the language and the values that shape society further down. It is not a simple matter of laws, when we talk about changing how things operate, it's a matter of addressing the people in charge, which I'm sure you realise is difficult, and addressing institutionalised racism, whilst simultaneously addressing it on a personal level. But it's wrong to think we should be making laws purely for one group and shutting out another. There are many people ignorant on just how racist a society we live in, so yes they need to be educated, and the issues of racism and discrimination needs to be addressed through laws and such. But there are also people ignorant on animal issues and how they can suffer such cruelty at the hands of human, and so why shouldn't they be educated also, and laws protect them too? Why can't we do both, and much more besides? For transparencies sake I'm not american and I'm white.

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