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Pros and Cons of Grain-Free Dog Food

Petmate Academy

November 18, 2020


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in July 2018 that it had begun investigating reports of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, with a majority of these foods being labeled "grain-free." These grain-free formulas boasted a fairly high proportion of peas, lentils, or other legume seeds, or potatoes in various forms, such as whole potatoes, flour, protein, among others.

The majority of these case reports involved breeds of dogs not previously known to have any sort of genetic predisposition to the disease.

Imagine the effect this announcement had on dog owners and lovers, especially those who swear by a grain-free diet. When grain-free dog food first dominated the pet nutrition market, it rose to popularity quite quickly. Before the announcement from the FDA, a lot of pet-parents relied on the heavily-marketed assumption that a grain-free diet promoted certain health benefits to our four-legged family members. Announcing that grain-free dog food could possibly be linked to certain unpleasant conditions, and in some extreme cases, even death, was sure to cause a stir.

So, we're assuming that by now, you're probably just as confused as anyone else. Go online, and you're sure to find a range of different opinions on whether you should continue serving your dog grain-free food, or move onto something more grain-inclusive.

Below, we are going to talk about some of the pros and cons of keeping your dog on a grain-free diet, and whether it could have potential implications on your dog's health in the near future.

Let's get started.


Per anecdotal evidence, many dog owners believe that grain-free dog food is the perfect solution to their pet's allergies. In this case, it helps to know that a majority of the time, grains are not the trigger points for your pet's allergies. Allergies can stem from reactions to meats and dairy protein intakes, so make sure you're eliminating the right trigger foods before withholding something altogether!


Many pet-parents have common misconceptions about the value and reasons for removing grains from a dog's diet.

Before proceeding with any changes, it helps to know some of the beneficial properties of grains in a balanced dog diet. Here are a few examples:

  • Grains results in healthy bowel movements
  • Nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals
  • Grains have lower fat content than common meats


A majority of the types of grains present in commercial dog food are rather cheap and fairly high on the Glycemic Index (GI). GI is an index that rates ingredients by how quickly and how high they can cause blood sugars to rise. An elevated count of GI carbohydrates can produce a chronic inflammatory response in the body, which can eventually lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.


When deciding whether to switch your pup over to a completely grain-free diet, here are some things that you should consider:

  • Grain-free dog food options are generally more expensive than those with grains. Keep it fresh with an airtight food storage container like a Vittles Vault.
  • When buying commercial grain-free dog foods, always look at the ingredients list. You should be able to see at least one, if not more protein sources that come from animals, such as chicken of fish.
  • Some grain-free dog food contains more protein and animals fats and fewer carbohydrates, making them easier for pups who are sensitive to gluten to digest.

Additionally, it helps to know that grain-free dog foods basically contain meat-based ingredients, like fish, chicken, lamb, beef, and turkey, along with carbohydrates from non-grain foods like vegetables. It is considerable to note that a majority of pet owners have claimed that they have noticed a significant improvement to their pet's health and activity levels after incorporating high-protein, grain-free foods in their diet.


Contrary to popular belief, whether you do or don't buy grain-free dog food likely does NOT have any significant contribution to your dog's current allergy or illness. While grain-free can be a good option, it isn't always necessarily the "best" option. Why? Because as any responsible pet-parent knows, it's necessary to be aware of your pup's specific nutritional needs. There is no such thing as a cure-all "wonder food" intended to reinvigorate the health of each and every canine.

Now that you're aware of some of the pros and cons of switching to (or retaining) a grain-free diet, we hope you've found a little more clarity. As always, it helps to seek consultation from a veterinarian.

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