Why grain-free is good for dogs

dog eating food

Like humans, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to your dog’s diet. As we grow increasingly aware of our own dietary needs – our intolerances, allergies and preferences – we’re taking greater care towards what we’re feeding our pets.

Crucially, it’s essential that the food we dish up for our furry friends is packed with a balance and combination of nourishing ingredients that are kind to their tummies. This will only benefit their wellbeing in the long run, so they stay happy and healthy.

Typically, dogs are highly adapted to diets with a high meat content and a proportion of vegetables for the all-important vitamins, like all carnivores, they can find it difficult to digest grains. This is because the enzyme amylase, which helps to break down carbohydrates and starches, isn’t present in their saliva. Exploring a grain-free diet for your dog will mean they receive wholesome food with plenty of nutritional benefits.

The experts from Canagan highlight the benefits of a grain-free diet for your dog and how a change could benefit their overall health, happiness and digestion.

What is grain-free?

Grain-free dog foods do not use the below ingredients:

  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Wheat

Instead, grain-free dog food consists of a proportion of vegetables combined with a higher meat content than many other dog foods, including white meat and fish, as well as game and dark meat. Similar to a gluten-free diet for humans, where many people experience bloating and hard-to-digest feelings, some dogs can also struggle to digest grains. The alternatives which incorporate botanicals and vegetables instead are softer on your dog's digestive system.

Is grain-free food safe for my dog?

Dogs haven't always been domesticated and there was a time where they would have to source their own food which would consist of hunting smaller animals rich in protein. Similar to the Paleo diet for humans, which includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (foods that could be obtained by hunting or gathering), grain-free dog food is created to mirror the ancestral diet of your pet.

Although dogs have long since evolved from their ancestors, the canine digestive system is still primitive. Dogs have little natural digestive support for breaking down and metabolizing complex carbohydrates and cereal grains, which are still present in most mass-produced dog food brands. Inexpensive fillers like corn, wheat and barley were originally added to dog food in the 1940's to create bulk and keep costs down during World War II, but corn and wheat still feature as one of the main ingredients in today's brands.

These difficult-to-digest fibres and grains remain undigested, with your dog's body relying mainly on fermentation to break them down. Over a long period of time, this can damage the lining of their digestive system, resulting in bowel inflammation disorders, food sensitivities, food allergies, leaky gut and obesity.

If your dog suffers from allergies and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or if they are showing signs of intolerances from eating traditional foods, it may be worth trialling a grain free diet for them. Symptoms of these sensitivities may include:

  • Chronic itchiness, chewing or licking of body parts
  • Sores or rashes
  • Inflamed skin
  • Bald patches or hair loss
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Loose stool
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent ear infections

A grain-free diet will help alleviate these symptoms providing a healthier alternative for your dog.

What are the benefits of grain-free?

Providing your dog with grain-free food offers a variety of benefits which lend themselves to a healthier lifestyle. Ingredients such as sweet potatoes are great for digestive health because they're high in dietary fibre. They're also low in fat and contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. Vegetables and botanicals are a rich source of minerals and vitamins such as folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium which help to maintain normal metabolic function. These ingredients will help sustain your dog’s energy levels for longer so that they can get the most from their daily exercise.

Other benefits include:

  • Fewer and smaller stools
    Many dogs begin producing less stools after switching to a grain-free diet. This means your dog may go less frequently and their stools tend to be smaller too. This is because grain-free foods do not have as much indigestible material compared to non-grain free foods. Additionally, the sweet potatoes used in high quality grain-free foods, such as Canagan, work as thickening agents and help slow the transit time of food through the intestines.
  • Healthier skin
    Grains have been found to irritate the skin causing dryness, itchiness and inflamed skin. Switching to a grain-free diet improves overall skin health due to the higher levels of omega 3 and omega 6 which are vital for healthy skin.
  • Shinier coat
    Eliminating grains certainly contributes and improves coat health due to the ingredients used which include omega fatty acids which enhance your dog's coat condition.
  • Reduced flatulence
    Grains cause dogs to produce excessive flatulence which can cause discomfort and cramping leading to deeper digestive health issues. Grain-free diets rarely cause these problems due to the probiotics present in high-quality grain-free food which helps relieve flatulence.

How to switch your dog's diet to grain-free

Dog owners should know that it is important to switch your dog’s food gradually to avoid digestive upset. If you’re keen to get started making the transition slowly by incorporating the new food into your dog’s old food. Start with 90% old food and 10% new food and slowly alter the proportions week by week. During this period, keep an eye on your dog’s toilet breaks to make sure they are not suffering with anything out of the ordinary such as constipation or diarrhoea.

As always, it is a good idea to consult your vet before making the transition to ensure it is the best decision for your dog.

If you decide a grain-free diet is the right choice for your pet then explore Canagan’s grain-free dog food to find a recipe that they will love.