Regular vs. Grain-Free Dog Food: Which is Right for Your Dog?

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As people have begun questioning the role grains play in their own diets, they’ve started to question their purpose in their dog’s food, too.

Many dog owners want to know what purpose grains serve in dog food and whether Fido really needs them. Understanding the difference between regular and grain-free dog food and the role those ingredients play can help you choose which option is right for your dog.

Regular Dog Food vs. Grain-Free Dog Food

Dog Food with Grains

When we say “regular dog food,” we simply mean dog food that contains grans. Dog food with grains is still a popular choice among many owners.

It’s easy to find on shelves and is often more affordable than grain-free varieties. What are considered grains in dog food, though?

If you look at a regular, grain dog food label, you might see a combination of some of the following:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Rice
  • Soy

It’s important to note gluten-free dog food excludes gluten-containing grains like wheat. It may include other grains like corn and rice, however.

Now that you know some of the more popular grains found in dog food, you may be wondering “What purpose do grains serve?”

Although seen by some as nonessential, grains actually play an important role in a dog’s diet by providing several benefits.

They provide carbohydrates, which give your dog energy and supply fiber to promote digestion. Grains also include essential nutrients like protein and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for dogs.

Grain-Free Dog Food

Any dog food made without wheat, corn, rice and other grains is considered “grain free.” Dogs still need carbohydrates for energy, though. So no-grain dog foods use alternative sources of carbs like potatoes and pea flour.

Are there benefits of grain-free dog food? For some dogs, yes. Although grain allergies in dogs are uncommon (affecting less than 1 percent of dogs), they can occur. Dogs are more likely to have an allergy to a protein like beef, however.

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity, we recommend working with your veterinarian to find the source. They can help you identify any allergies or sensitivities and recommend a therapeutic diet to avoid allergens. This will ensure your dog continues to get the nutrition he needs.

Despite the benefits for some dogs, there are downsides to feeding a grain-free dog food. Many people assume grain free means low carb, but that’s not the case.

In fact, some dog foods without grains are higher in alternative carbohydrate sources like potatoes and peas. This could result in unintentional weight gain.

That’s why it’s so important to work with your veterinarian. Doing so will ensure your dog gets the nutrition he needs from the appropriate sources.

Is Grain-Free Dog Food Better than Regular?

Grain-free dog food may have some benefits, but the decision ultimately comes down to what you—and your dog—prefer.

We recommend consulting with your veterinarian before switching your dog to a grain-free diet. Your veterinarian can help you determine if that’s the best dietary decision for your dog or if there are better alternatives based on his age, health and other unique factors.

If you decide a grain-free diet is right for your dog, explore Purina’s grain-free dog foods to find one he’ll love.

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