There is a new level of awareness about the quality of ingredients for feeding your dog. Several local stores carefully research pet foods before bringing them into their store, ensuring the highest quality options for customers. In addition to the traditional kibble and canned products, these shops now offer a variety of raw and grain-free formulas. Why might these particular formulas offer a healthier option for your pet?
Allergies are the biggest reason, and one of the most valid. It’s the same reasons some people have to change their eating habits. Likewise, food allergies can be troublesome for many pets as well.
One of the first signs of a food allergy in a dog is usually dry and itchy skin or spotty hair loss. Systematically eliminating specific foods and elements from your pet’s diet is one of the easiest ways to try to pinpoint the source of the allergy. Since grain and gluten are a two of the most common allergens, they are often the first options for people to try for relief, and there are a variety of food formulations available to specifically address this need.
Another advantage to choosing a grain-free diet for your pet is that it will likely have a higher protein content. A canine’s natural wild diet would consist of large amounts of protein and smaller amounts of carbohydrates and vegetables. Since dogs have become domesticated, their digestive tracts have slightly adjusted to accommodate higher levels of carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. However, their digestive systems are still mainly designed to process more protein and less grain than humans have been providing. Mimicking their natural diet in the wild provides the best chance for a healthy digestive system.
For some dogs the benefits of a completely raw diet may help their health. Dogs are the direct ancestory of wolves, and as such their digestive systems are optimized to eat raw meat, as unsavory as that might sound to most people. Their short digestive tract is more acidic than a human’s, allowing for optimal digestion of raw protein sources. Many raw dog food products now offer the convenience and benefits of a well-balanced, safe and wholesome raw-food diet - without having to grind, chop, measure or mix the ingredients at home.
The benefits of a raw or grain-free diet for your dog may include improved digestion, healthier skin and coat, better weight management, and firmer (and smaller!) stools. We have seen some dogs’ health problems completely clear up when switched to these diets.
One last factor to consider is the quality of the protein being used in any dog food. The regulations for what ingredients are acceptable to use in dog food are rather alarming.
There are some brands that use lower quality protein sources to provide their food at a reduced price. While this may be an option that’s easy on the owner’s pocketbook short-term, it will likely end up costing more in vet bills and quality of life later on. Low quality dog food can lead to a host of problems later in life including obesity, bad skin, and digestive problems. Choosing a dog food that is made of high quality ingredients is always a good idea.
Whether to use a grain-free dog food can be something owners consider for a long time before making the switch. After reviewing all of the facts and benefits to switching, one thing should stand out - there are no negative effects at risk. For owners that are looking for a potentially easy way to solve chronic skin or digestive problems, grain-free may be a great option to consider.
The absolute worst-case scenario is that there will be no change at all. It is much more likely, however, that grain-free food will make for a healthier and happier dog all the way around.
Stop by a local retail expert like Moore Equine or Cared For Canine and talk to a staff member about the specific needs of your pet. If they don’t have a brand that works for you, chances are they can find one or source the best option for your dog.
By Kaily Meeks and Sarah Sloop, Moore Equine Feed and Pet Supply