Is Grain-Free Dog Food Safe?

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Golden Retriever in a field of grainChances are you know at least one person who has gone gluten or grain free, who cites the benefits of the Paleo Diet or quotes from the bestselling books Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Grocery stores have made shelf space for gluten-free pastas, crackers, cereals, cookies, and cake mixes and restaurants offer gluten-free pizza and beer to appeal to grain-free customers.

But what about our four-legged fur babies? Learn more about the pros of going grain-free and how it can benefit your pup.

Potential Link Between Grain-Free Dog Foods & Canine Heart Disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found a potential link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain “grain-free” pet foods after reviewing more than 500 recent cases of DCM. In nearly all of these cases, the dog had been regularly eating a mostly grain-free product, the FDA report said.

Most of these products came from the brands 4Health, Acana, Blue Buffalo, California Natural, Fromm, Earthborn Holistic, Merrick, Natural Balance, Nature’s Domain, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, Orijen, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Taste of the Wild and Zignature.

These products contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as main ingredients (listed within the first 10 ingredients in the ingredient list, before vitamins and minerals).

We at Canine Journal urge you to use caution when feeding your dog an entirely grain-free diet until the FDA learns more about the increase of DCM and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients.

Grain-Free Dog Food History

Long before dog food was scooped from a bag into personalized doggie dishes, canines would hunt and capture raw, protein-rich meals. After all, you don’t see wolves grazing peacefully in a field of flowers. Just like the theory behind the Paleo Diet for humans, protein-based, grain-free dog foods more closely mimics a canine’s natural or “ancestral” diet as a carnivore. However, with the introduction of mass-produced dog kibble around World War II, inexpensive fillers like corn, wheat and barley were added to dog food to create bulk and keep costs down. Today, most commercial dog foods still list corn or wheat as one of the main ingredients.

But while dogs have evolved from wild animals to Internet celebrities, the canine digestive system is still pretty primitive. Dogs have little natural digestive support for breaking down and metabolizing complex carbohydrates and cereal grains. These difficult-to-digest fibers and grains remain undigested, with the body relying mainly on fermentation to break them down. Over a long period of time, this can damage the lining of the digestive system, resulting in bowel inflammation disorders, food sensitivities, food allergies, leaky gut and obesity.

Does My Dog Have A Food Allergy?

If your pup is presenting these symptoms, talk to your vet. A food allergy could be to blame:

  • Excessive flatulence
  • Loose stool/diarrhea
  • Rash and skin irritations
  • Chronic licking, chewing or biting to relieve itch
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent ear infections

Breeds At Higher Risk For Food Allergies

Some studies also show that the following dog breeds may have a larger chance of developing food allergies:

  • Retriever
  • Boxer
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie,
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier
  • Springer Spaniel
  • West Highland White Terrier

What Are The Benefits Of Grain-Free Dog Food?

Most vets today recommend that carbohydrates and grains make up a small portion of a dog’s diet (according to Dogster: 50% vegetables/40% meat protein/10% grains). Many grain-free dog foods (especially the moist and freeze-dried grain-free dog foods) contain more protein and animal fats and fewer carbohydrates than their grain-based counterparts and are therefore more easily digested.

Other benefits include:

  • Helps keep dogs fuller longer resulting in eating less frequently (good news because grain-free/high-protein foods can be more expensive)
  • May reduce canine food allergies
  • More energy
  • Fewer and smaller stools
  • Healthier skin
  • Shinier coat
  • Less shedding
  • Better breath
  • Reduced flatulence

Is Grain-Free Food Right For My Dog?

If your dog is perfectly happy and healthy, then you may not need to make any dietary changes. A good rule of “paw”: always consult your vet before making any major changes to your pet’s diet.

In the meantime, check out the ingredients label on your dog’s food or the brand’s website. If they list corn, wheat or soy as the first ingredients, you may consider gradually switching to a formula the features protein (usually chicken) as one of the main ingredients.

Tips For Going Grain-Free

If you decide to switch your dog from grain-based dog food to grain-free, don’t go cold turkey. Slowly introduce grain-free and higher protein dog food by mixing it in a little at a time. By gradually increasing amounts over the course of a few weeks, you allow your dog’s digestive system to adjust. During the switch, keep an eye on your pup’s stool to make sure they’re not constipated or suffering from diarrhea.

If you see any major concerns during the switch (hair loss, itching, lack of interest in eating or drinking water, etc.), contact your vet for next steps.

Read The Label: Low-Carb Misconceptions

One misconception is that grain free dog food is also low-carb. However, vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas and tapioca often replace the grains in grain-free dog foods, especially in kibble foods, making them as high or higher in carbohydrates than grain-based dog foods. And, as mentioned above, vegetables are healthy for your pet and should make up almost half of their diet.

What About Puppies?

Diets high in protein can be damaging to puppies’ kidneys. Note that some grain-free dog food brands only recommend their food for adult dogs, while other brands have formulas for all life stages and dietary needs. Ask your vet to find out what would be best for your puppy.

Alternative Grain Formulas

A healthier alternative on the grain-based dog food spectrum to consider is “single whole grain” formulas. Some dogs with food sensitivities and allergies do well on single-grain dog foods.

Some grain-based dog food brands, such as Blackwood (View Blackwood on Amazon), offer formulas that are more easily digestible for dogs with mild food sensitivities to severe food allergies. Their manufacturing process cooks the grains at lower temperatures for longer time periods than most regular grain based dog foods. This results in more easily digestible grains because they are cooked more thoroughly.

Our Favorite Grain-Free Dog Foods

Diamond NaturalsAs we stated above, we urge you to use caution in feeding your dog an entirely grain-free diet given the potential link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and certain grain-free pet foods.

Here are a few we recommend based on their reviews and price (also they are not on the warning list from the FDA, at this time).

Video: Breaking Down Grains And Grain-Free Diets

This short video explains more about the types of grains in pet food and goes into more detail about how pets digest types of foods differently.

Will Your Dog Go Grain Free?

Considering making the switch to a grain-free diet for your dog? The bottom line is it depends on your dog. So it’s worth trying out to see if you can notice a difference in their health and happiness.

[1] “Best Grain Free Dog Foods” –
[2] “Update on Food Allergy in the Dog & Cat” World Small Animal Veterinary Assoc. World Congress-Vancouver 2001

Have you tried a grain-free diet for your dog?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets). Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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May 4, 2020 12:22 pm

I had my 17.5 year old Great Dane/pit mix on grain free for the last ten years of his life, along with his 16 year old. Staffordshire mix brother. My miniature pinscher and chiweenie are allergic to fuel and grains, and are going on 13 years old eating a salmon based grain free diet for 12 years. My min pin had surgery at 9 years old and her heart was fine. She and my chiweenie run around like puppies. My mom’s 13 year old boxer has been on grain free since she was adopted 6 years ago. We have had dogs on grain free for 10+ years with no issues. All of our dogs are mixed breeds and rescues. I bet my life that there were NO studies done on how many of the dogs who had heart issues were PUREBRED &/or bought from breeders. Guaranteed that wasn’t part of these heart studies!

Melodie Thompson
March 8, 2020 2:06 pm

I just like to say that I have medical issues that cause constipation, it’s the worst thing to ever suffer from. I want to make sure my dogs always keep pooping. I’m only concerned that their systems keep running. So less poop is definitely not a concern of mine. I’m happy with them being happy on grain enhanced dog food.

Andria Ragland
November 23, 2019 10:32 am

I just want to add my experience. I was feeding my chihuahuas Nature’s Instinct Raw Boost kibble for several years. I thought I was feeding them high quality food that was healthy for them. My oldest chihuahua has since developed a heart condition that was directly related to her eating this food. I know it was from the food because she did worse on heart meds, and after I stopped feeding her the grain free diet, she is so much better. Her heart has almost went back to normal size. It’s taken almost a year to get there, but I will never feed a grain free diet again. I love my dogs and just want them to be healthy. It really sucks that most companies are now making grain free in all their foods, making it almost impossible to find a good dog food without by-products, but with healthy grains. The effects of a grain free diet may take several years to show up. Read studies done by real veterinarians, not dog food companies or articles written by people with no education or research to back up theirs claims. Then make up your minds. Unfortunately for me, I’ve had first hand experience.

April 7, 2020 12:53 pm
Reply to  Andria Ragland

Hi there! May I ask what food did you chose for your Chihuahua after that? I have a Chihuahua puppy and he eats Instinct raw and kibble. At this point I am concerned about this whole grain-free diet and don’t know what to choose anymore.Thanks !

kathy cooper
September 6, 2019 2:56 pm

I have been giving my 2 dogs taste of the wild for over 3 years. no problems have occured. i have been told by my vet they also need a multi vitamin. Any suggestions. the lack of grains and wheat have kept my gold retriever very healthy.So,changing dog foods are not what we need. my other dog is a german shorthair, No problems there either. I think the multi vitamins is the way to go.

November 7, 2019 8:06 pm
Reply to  kathy cooper

Hi Kathy, I give my two Shih Tzu’s a “NuVet “ vitamin every morning, they love them, they chew it up ,they think there’re treats. You can only order them online and since you’d be a new customer, call them and order, and they’ll give you a customer # for future purchases. I buy 6 month supply at a time, because there’s considerable savings . But you can just order one bottle to try it.

Kimberly Alt
September 9, 2019 11:28 am
Reply to  kathy cooper

I suggest calling your vet and asking for a multi vitamin recommendation since they are the ones who said your dog needed it. That way you know your dog is getting the daily values they need.

May 21, 2019 9:23 am

My vet who has been practicing since 1972. He is vehemently opposed to grain free. In fact, he has a sign that says something like “Let Us Know if You Feed Your Dog Grain Free.” When I got my Doberman puppy, the breeder sent me home with grain free and the vet told me to transition him to grain included and throw the rest out.

Lou Gracia
May 10, 2020 3:30 pm
Reply to  Anthony

Most beef meat comes from grain-fed. Soy, corn, and not only that those grains are GMO. Genetical Modified Organism, or Engineered modified, the same thing. Therefore, We have to ask ourselves, Where cancer and cardio diseases come from? And that includes human cancer.

May 3, 2019 5:05 pm

My dog almost diet last week with an enlarged heart and fluid in her lungs–dilated cardiomyopathy. The emergency vet said grain free food was to blame. See for details on the early findings. The FDA has released information that confirms it. Do you know how hard it is to find a non-grain free quality dog food?

Peter Vaccarelli
February 26, 2019 9:50 pm

My close friend just lost her dog to heart disease, the first thing the doctor asked her what were you feeding your dog, she said grain free diet (Taste of the wild ). He said he has been seeing more and more cases of dogs with heart disease that have been on a grain free diet. Unfortunately her other dog has a enlarged heart also not looking good, was also on grain free diet. That was enough for me to realize to get my dogs off the grain free diet, I went back to a quality grain dog food.

Please research about grain free dog food associated with heart disease in dogs.

Hope this information helps.

February 8, 2019 12:47 pm

I started feeding grain free because we have a pug that had allergy issues, but I’m hearing now that grain-free has been on the market for a while – long enough to show some trends – that dogs eating grain-free food have a significantly higher number of heart problems and cancer. I know it might not necessarily have to do with feeding a dog less grain, but possibly something that is put IN the grain-free formula.
Honestly the best food for a dog is not dry commercial dog food. It is eating a properly balanced raw diet either homemade (who normally has time for that) or pre-made. Raw (doesn’t necessarily mean feeding a dog a bunch of items including raw meat considering what goes on in the meat industry in the U.S. now and what’s in the meat) is the closest to how dogs eat in the wild.
Really, whatever you feed your dog, you should be giving them probiotics and getting their teeth cleaned by a vet annually. Those are the two most affective things. The probiotic is simple and cheap, and the most effective is kefir, given 1 TEASPOON per 25 pounds of dog per day. It’s important to not give too much because too much is dehydrating.

April 1, 2019 9:35 am
Reply to  Mandy

Mandy, isn’t kefir dairy? Where did you get your information, respectfully asking. I’m just a novice dog owner with no qualifications whatsoever, just asking. Thanks!

January 1, 2019 10:38 am

I started my dog on grain free food 13 years ago….she now has cancer. Before that she had a uterine infection. She ate no grain whatsoever yet she still got cancer. Oddly she also is a bit overweight and always has cravings. I have started making her food to see if I can get the tumors to go away. There is no good dog food.

Lou Gracia
May 10, 2020 3:22 pm
Reply to  Cheryl

Hi! The problem is the processed grain-free dog food. The dog food companies replaced grain with starchy food, like tapioca, sweet potatoes and regular which are high in carbs. Dogs system is not capable to get nutrients from carbs whatsoever.

Melody's Serenity
January 10, 2020 7:48 am
Reply to  Cheryl

Cancer happens regardless of diet, especially when your dog is old. Better diets can help, but expecting to completely eliminate the chance of cancer isn’t realistic.

January 24, 2020 12:09 am

Well, Disagree about completely eliminate the chance
Of Cancer be unrealistic! I had the Proof years ago my Daughter’s Late Dog Jack that he was diagnosed with Liver Cancer and he was eating Science Diet Dry and Can Food. His Vet at Man’s Best Friend Clinic in Woodland,Texas told my Daughter that Jack Was going to Die very soon after his C. Diagnose! I searched on the Net possible ways rpto help Poor Jack live longer and don’t suffer, I found out that Magnetized Water even Prevent and Cure Cancer. We put a Magnet under Jack’s Water bowl and he lived 1 full year and that was because the Vet found out that the Cancer was found too late!

Denuta Dardane
November 3, 2018 5:05 pm

OK, just bought a bag of Grain free doggie food but lost the receipt, so probably can’t take it back. What grains or food can I add to counteract the grain free nonsense?

Jane Bruner
October 30, 2018 7:26 pm

I feed my dogs diamond natral whitefish and patatoes

October 18, 2018 12:54 pm

Statistical info: The UC Davis study was based on 30 dogs and another 150 since the study was released or a total of 180 dogs. The population of dogs in the us is about 90 million. So even if 10% of the dogs in the US eat grain free that’s still 9 million dogs a sample of only 180 dogs is creating quite an uproar. I have a 17 year old, a 9 year old, and a 6 month old who all eat grain free. Most people guess the 17 year old’s age at around 5, the 9 year old has not had a single health issue ever and he has been eating grain free since his second bag of dog food ever. The six month old is vibrant with the most beautiful coat ever. Their diet will remain the same for as long as their food remains available.

July 26, 2019 12:10 pm
Reply to  Lee

Hi Tom,

There is NO statistical power in this. The “n” is so small that there is no way to have a confidence interval greater than 95% with a M.o.E. of = or < (+/-) 3.5%. The only way to have a "statistically significant" (which is EXACTLY what we call it in the statistical world) you would have to have a much larger sampling of dogs. At 180, there is no way to even run a basic linear regression analysis on this, much less a more complicated logistic regression. Also, how were the dogs information collected? We need to know exactly the methods for acquiring this information. Is this study of 180 dogs EVERY case that came in? Was it random? Was it systematic? Convenience? Cluster? Stratified? What???? Without knowing this, our 10th grade level basic bare bones T-test would even be skewed beyond any statistical significance to show any correlation between the two objects (i.e. grain free food and DCM). Let's just take the numbers given. 180 dogs, 9,000,000 dogs in the USA, and 93% had an allergy to just beef, since that is the highest number, I'm using that as the best argument for showing why Tom is right and why Lee is wrong (which you'll see still works against you, Tom, and for Lee.) If there are 9,000,000 dogs, and we have a sample of 180, with a confidence interval percentage of 93%, that gives our confidence interval at 3.73%. If we put that 3.73% confidence interval into our equation for how large of a sample population we would need to get a 95% confidence level (which is different from our confidence interval), we get an answer that we would need a MINIMUM of 690 dogs. That's 383% more than what we currently have, which then again proves that this is not a statistically significant population sample.

I agree with people that we should be feeding a grain included diet, however, Tom is not wrong to say that this study is really REALLY not worth the panic it is causing.


May 15, 2019 5:50 pm
Reply to  Lee

I think everyone is simplifying the situation, or blaming poor dog health on one single cause; in this case, grain free diets. Here is an article from Tufts that explains a series of factors that could or could not cause Cardiomyopathy in dogs.

Jane Bruner
October 30, 2018 7:33 pm
Reply to  Lee

I have chilihuahua and I feed them diamond natral whitefish and potatoes

October 20, 2018 10:51 pm
Reply to  Lee

If you’re not going to reference the statistical power of the study or the statistical significance that the results produced then please don’t mislead people by quoting ‘statistical info’… presumably to discredit the findings. The population size has nothing to do with the sample validity. You then enlighten us with your own uncontrolled sample size of… 3 🙂

December 20, 2019 9:02 pm
Reply to  Tom

who do you think funds this research and or skews the results?

September 2, 2018 11:55 am

Take your pup outdoor regularly at the least each hour and proper away after they awaken, at some stage in and after playing, and after ingesting or consuming.

August 25, 2018 5:09 pm

I have a 14 month old beagle. I have switched foods several times, natural balance, fromm, now nitro limited ingredients grain free- salmon and lentil. I didn’t mix food gradually this time. He is going like 3x day poop, sometimes two times in one walk, looks solid but sometimes loose when I pick it up, I changed from fromm cause people say it’s weird that u can only get it from a small mom and pop store. Oh help, now I feel nutro doesnt have too many choices. Thinking of just going to beneful. I also give some wet food to nutro dry. 2 teaspoon with dry. Please help….choices and advice..thank you…my vet said give grain food….big help

April 1, 2019 9:41 am
Reply to  Sharon

I agree with Michelle. My vet said to try adding brown rice… here in So. California there’s a place called Just Food for Dogs that sells lamb and brown rice with sweet potatoes-nutritionally complete and balanced-all recipes are. My girl GSD loves it. To finish off her old food, I added cooked oatmeal and she thinks it’s mine, so she gobbled it up like a big treat.

Holly Brewer
March 16, 2019 7:36 am
Reply to  Sharon

Sharon you cant keep changing your pets food at a whim because your reading conflicting comments or whatever. Dogs digestive system are very sensitive you MUST gradually change their food. You are doing so much harm to them and causing unnecessary pain to your pup. Please dont just change with out doing it the proper way.

September 2, 2018 9:41 am
Reply to  Sharon

If Fromm was working and he liked it I don’t see the problem. Their grain as well as grain-free food are both high quality….the grain food is more affordable and will help solidify stool but still good quality. Plus I don’t think grain free is necessarily great for your dog like many think, many related articles to this. Diamond (which is the same as Kirkland at Costco) I have also found to be good and the dogs love it. It is very affordable and good quality. In general I stand by smaller local companies with long history, you know what you’re getting and where it came from. Beneful (and many other big name brands) not long ago had dogs die from eating their food and many lawsuits related to these issues…my friend found chunks of plastic in her dogs’ food and finally switched to soemthing with a better reputation.
Why only mom and pop? I live in Florida (company is in Wisconsin) and I see Fromm this at feed stores and regular pet stores like PetSmart and PetSuppliesPlus. If possible I would avoid big name companies….
If you continue to have problems with every food you try, consider researching “raw diet” I know people with dogs with digestive issues and this finally worked for them.

Holly Brewer
March 16, 2019 7:45 am
Reply to  Melanie

There is an issue with every diet you feed your pet. My 8 yr old Maltese is having issues with allergies and ear infections my 2 yr old boxer mix allergies. Over the course of the last 8 yrs my Maltese has been on a few different brands of food. I’ve made their food, bought high quality name brand foods(which she didnt like). I’ve done research on the raw diet for her and decided that is way out of my reach as far as price and their is conflict between vets on this diet. The thing that concerns them most are feeding bones or ground bones and getting splinters in your pets GI tract,not getting enough vitamins or getting to much vitamins. Either way it could spell disaster for our beloved pets. My advice is to do research and please when you do decide on something switch them the correct way

April 1, 2019 9:44 am
Reply to  Holly Brewer

Right-I also experienced my girl getting a bacteria in her colon which points to raw beef. Cooked bones splinter, but I’m told raw ones don’t. Not sure, but wouldn’t a lot of carnivores in the world get none splinters stuck it it was true regarding splintering?

Michelle Schenker
August 27, 2018 10:11 am
Reply to  Sharon

We would recommend talking to your vet about your dog’s diet and digestive concerns to come up with a healthy plan for your dog.

Marilyn Thomas
August 20, 2018 12:15 pm

The FDA is doing a study on the safety of grain-free dog food. It appears that some animals are having heart issues. I changed back to non-grain-free food until the study is completed. My dog used to struggle to have a bowel movement and using waste bags to pick them up, her movements were hard as rocks, since changing back to “non-grain-free” she isn’t struggling anymore and the movements are normal.

Owner of Kier and Kenna
September 13, 2018 8:51 pm
Reply to  Marilyn Thomas

It is difficult to find puppy food options that are not grain-free but are quality. I know about the heart issues too and don’t want my pup on the grain-free because he is one of the more susceptible breeds. Apparently you can supplement the food with ?Taurine? and something else but I’m having trouble location the specifics about that. Fortunately we have a vet appointment in a few days anyway so I can discuss it with him.

Gordon Bailey
April 12, 2017 7:30 am

I firmly believe in meat or fish only dog foods with no grains. The food itself may cost more but a healthy dog not having to make several vet visits is a fortune saver. You can always share a little pasta and rice with no sauces and spices.

April 1, 2019 9:47 am
Reply to  Gordon Bailey

I wouldn’t recommend white rice as it goes thru the digestive system undigested. As evidenced by lots of rice looking bits in their stools. Brown rice, on the other hand, is a quality whole grain and is digested as such.

June 6, 2018 1:02 am
Reply to  Gordon Bailey

I love Taste of the Wild, it’s actually the brand not as expensive as the grain-free brands can be. I would not be able to get TOTW if not for their competitive pricing (for the 30 lb – adult breed). Let’s just say, Science Hill Diet is $45, this is also. It’s 5 lbs less, but I try to use a coupon or Petco’s repeat delivery option to bring down the price, otherwise I believe it’s $47+.

April 1, 2019 9:51 am
Reply to  Maria

Hill’s uses corn as their grain. When I had Golden’s 30 years ago, I fed Putin’s Dog Chow like everyone else and no health problems. I’m curious if the problems with corn nowadays is the fact that it’s likely GMO. I also received a couple of recall notices from Science Diet’s PRESCRIPTION foods. High levels of vitamin D! I’m so disappointed with them.

August 11, 2018 2:01 pm
Reply to  Maria

Taste of the wild has been RECALLED many times

April 1, 2019 9:52 am
Reply to  dogster

Can you back that up for me? I subscribe to dog food advisor, who reports on and records recalls. I went back a number of years and found nothing on TOTW.

February 2, 2019 6:06 pm
Reply to  dogster

Not since 2012. I have fed totw for 9 years. No issues.

April 1, 2019 9:54 am

Glad to hear that. I bought the lamb totw, to supplement and add calories to my thin GSD and thought I had done the research. Phew! Thanks

Owner of Kier and Kenna
September 13, 2018 8:55 pm
Reply to  dogster

Other top quality foods have as well. It makes it difficult to make wise choices. When a great company sells out to another company, you often see a drop in quality. I have never had a bag of TOTW that was being recalled and have used it for a long, long while.

Kathreen Miller
February 27, 2017 2:36 am

Diet plays a really important role in pets health whether it is grain free diet or raw diet. The main thing is if your pet is getting proper protein, fats, carbohydrates, and carbs etc. Proper nutrition leads to, good health of pets and is natural pain relief for dogs in any sort of pain.

Debra Fair
February 21, 2017 12:15 pm

I have a Great Dane on Grain Free Bison Lamb and Pea. Her anal area is red ,she eats grass, swallows like she wants to vomit,and if she does it is foamy with grass. Every time I take her to the Vet it is “Always”her food. What do I do? Thank you

Janet Alaniz
August 8, 2019 2:43 pm
Reply to  Debra Fair

Debra Fair : first of all are you giving your loving doggie human food? Because alot of time if you give your dog chicken or beef it could be the way you are giving it to them. If so always always rinse the meat or chicken off very well after cooking to get all the grease out of it and squeeze all access water out of it or it as & cut it sideways otherwise if you peel it in strips & if it is greasy it gets stuck in their throat & is difficult for them to pass it down. Also access water gives them the runs. Or are you sure that your dog is not picking up long human hair in the carpet or floor makes them eat grass to throw up also example: plastic, like sandwhich baggies or dryer sheets could also ne a reason as I know of a small dog that has these issues & these were the reasons when it happens. I hope you find the reason behind it as it is heart breaking watvhing ur pet suffer.

February 8, 2019 1:00 pm
Reply to  Debra Fair

Every dog on commercial dog food desperately needs probiotics. It sounds like her food might be the problem, but it might not be. If the vet has done a CBC and doesn’t see anything standing out it could be the food.
Here’s my best tip across the board whatever is going on: PLEASE please please give your dog kefir every day. It’s a probiotic, and whatever else is going on with your dog, having a strong gut (which is where most of our immunity comes from and is the same for dogs too) is vital to good health. Kefir is a liquid and it’s been around for centuries as a strong probiotic (putting healthy bacteria in the gut). You can find it in the yogurt usually in a small bottle that looks like a little milk bottle. Dont’ give too much or it’s dehydrating, but DO give 1 TEASPOON per 25 pounds of dog weight. So, if your dane is 100 pounds, give 4 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon). Probiotics are a MUST, and even more so if a person or a dog is on antibiotics, because those kill bacteria including the good bacteria which are needed to fight illness. There are many types of bacteria in the gut and many probiotics only include some, and they might not be the ones needed, so to keep it simple give kefir as it’s cold, and if frozen into an ice cube will seem like a treat to the dog.
I also throw veggie bits for my dogs to eat when I’m cooking, because it’s very good for them, and they think it’s a treat.
I assume also that you know that Great Danes aren’t supposed to do any rigorous activity or playing for a bit after they’ve eaten because their breed has a unique stomach and can get GDV.

November 4, 2018 12:22 am
Reply to  Debra Fair

Bison is hard on their stomach, just boil chicken thighs (99 cents per pound) and maybe white rice until her stomache feels better or she might bloat. its cheaper and better for dogs otherwise try to find lamb and rice formula. AND switch your vet!

September 2, 2018 9:46 am
Reply to  Debra Fair

I would consider researching raw. Perhaps she is allergic to something In. The dry foods causing the anal irritation. It tends to also be easier on the stomach too so many she’ll stop.eating grass. Or else consider a food specifically for allergies and/or digestive issues.

April 16, 2017 3:35 am
Reply to  Debra Fair

Pea is full of protein too. You could try alternating her protein rich food with vegetarian canned or vegetarian kibble food. Or mix them in with it. Protein is important but too much is not beneficial.

February 8, 2019 1:03 pm
Reply to  Betti

That is absolutely true about too much protein. Too much can give a dog diarrhea and overwork their internal organs. Not enough is just as bad. Many dog foods are too high in protein, and people don’t realize it because the label says a certain percentage of protein, but that doesn’t include what they’re getting from other ingredients in the food.

Gordon Bailey
April 12, 2017 7:32 am
Reply to  Debra Fair

Try, Now brand salmon!

Kimberly Alt
February 22, 2017 9:59 am
Reply to  Debra Fair

Ask your vet what kind of food would be good for your dog. A change in food can make her feel better.

February 19, 2017 10:20 pm

I just switched to grain free as my older dog was ravenous and going through vet grade dog food quickly $$$
She has stopped licking her paws, she is more satisfied after eating, she’s more calm, and definitely has less gas. In 1 week the differences are very noticeable.

June 6, 2018 1:06 am
Reply to  Karen

Yesss, the one thing people don’t mention, is why grain-free is so great! The most important thing you can do, is eliminate your fear’s of dog bloat (which I believe, causes 40% fatality in dogs; which is why you must wait an hour before and after any type of exercise, so they don’t develop hardened stomach’s – painful and they will have trouble eating, you will notice their sluggishness in different ways).

Grain-free kibble is better for their digestive systems, which are 100%*** paleo.

April 1, 2019 10:01 am
Reply to  Maria

My vet says dogs eat animals in the wild that have tummies full of grains, so paleo is another fad, in my opinion. Domesticated dogs have evolved over centuries of eating table scraps, etc., and can easily eat some grains.

January 26, 2019 9:10 pm
Reply to  Maria

My Pyrenees (9 1/2) & Dalmatian (6 1/2) have been on Merrick Grain Free (now healthy weight grain free) forever and doing well. But today at Vet. They said Grain Free causes heart problems and go back to Grain!! Has me worried don’t know what to do?! A person reads one thing THEN another also!!

July 13, 2018 8:12 pm
Reply to  Maria

All gastro-intestinal illnesses (of which bloat is just one) account for about 15%-20% of all dog deaths (averaged across all ages). I think what you are confusing your number with is the mortality rate of bloat (the percentage of dogs that die when they suffer bloat), which is usually listed as 25-40%.

July 31, 2016 7:39 pm

Dogs will eat their own vomit and your cat’s poop. I’m sure they can handle grain. More energy? I have never seen a dog that wasn’t overflowing with energy, unless it was just completely worn out with exercise. I think this grain-free nonsense is just a ploy to get ppl to spend more money on dog food. Dogs have lived long, healthy lives on kibble for years and years. Unless your dog has some sort of special dietary needs, no reason to change that. Save yourself some money and get the regular, grain-filled food. Your dog won’t give a hoot either way.

Btw, my sister is a dog nut that went meat only with her dogs many years ago. She even wanted to go as far as to bring in live animals for her dogs to hunt in the backyard! I would not allow such a thing because it is disgusting and barbaric. I don’t care what the “natural instincts” of the animal are, I’m not going to be responsible for the death of other animals for that instinct. Millions of dogs live and function just fine without killing other animals. Dog owners sure can be crazy!

Jane Bruner
October 30, 2018 7:50 pm
Reply to  KaraMarika

I feed my dogs diamond natral whitefish and potatoes diamond natral a good dog food.and my dogs are chilihuahuas

June 6, 2018 1:09 am
Reply to  KaraMarika

The reason they lick their behinds (which, if you ever bothered to do any research, you would realize), is because they are attempting, very desperately, to obtain unavailable nutrients, or poorly digested materials! So, let’s just posted here. I don’t think I can handle reading your post any further than that (nor is it necessary, just from skimming).

October 22, 2018 9:50 am
Reply to  Maria

The lack of knowledge in both the OP and the responses is so painful to read.

FIRST, to all you people vouching for grain-free because of itching that stopped, you likely addressed a different allergen causing the itch, most likely beef. See here and here.

SECOND, to those claiming that dogs cannot process grains, you are just flat out incorrect. The genetics of dogs has been altered both intentionally and unintentionally for the past hundreds of years. To expect their required diet to be the same as the Wolf and their predecessors is incredibly simpleminded. They have mutated and evolved several important genes for the process of breaking down grains, and metabolically, there is no difference in their ability to uptake the nutrients.

READ and stop believing your s**** anecdotal evidence!

November 27, 2017 6:28 pm
Reply to  KaraMarika

My dogs are allergic to wheat products. Since I have put my dogs on grain free foods their coats are shiny, they don’t stink, and their moods have changed for the better. You don’t have any idea what you are talking about and you definitely are NOT a dog person.

June 6, 2018 1:14 am
Reply to  Deb

I don’t know, I’m a human, and the tone of the post is odd to me as well.

Denuta Dardane
November 3, 2018 5:02 pm
Reply to  Maria

What’s so bad about odd?

Gordon Bailey
April 12, 2017 7:37 am
Reply to  KaraMarika

Look in the mirror before you go calling folks that feed meat to a meat eating carnivore crazy! Remember those farm animals and fish provide fertilizer for all the organic farms in order to produce the vegetables they so crave!

April 10, 2017 12:58 am
Reply to  KaraMarika

And there are humans who survive on little more than rice and water. Therefore all humans MUST be able to thrive on rice and water. The difference is, one is THRIVING, and one is SURVIVING. We switched our dog to grain free YEARS ago. She’s 13 this year and ppl are constantly shocked as she acts more like she is 5 or 6.
If one is that worried about price, 4health puts out a grain free that comes in at just over $1 per pound, and is available at Tractor Supply. We had our dog on it for 6 years until we moved into an area where Tractor Supply is very inconvenient.

John MArtin
May 18, 2018 7:26 pm
Reply to  Sarah

Comparing the digestive track of a human to a dog is plain silly.
In Humans where absorption of food takes place, the human intestinal tract is a lot longer than a dogs and therefore the body has more time to absorb nutrients from more complex foods such as plant and grain based foods.
Dogs can not digest complex foods such as plants and grains because their digestive track is considerably shorter. Don’t assume that what is good for you is good for your dog – Your NOT a dog.

Kristy Gervais
October 26, 2017 7:50 pm
Reply to  Sarah

Though I agree with your comment, I wasn’t fond of the 4 health food which I had previously used the 4 health prior to switching to grain free.
I use Diamond & my dogs love it!

February 7, 2017 3:19 pm
Reply to  KaraMarika

Life expectancy is impacted by grain free diet. Dogs can and do live to be 15 to 16 years old instead of 10 to 13. Incidence of Bloat, which is dangerous in large breeds, is dramatically reduced. You are letting your finances determine your food choice. There are quality grain frees with lower price points to make it affordable and you feed less.

February 1, 2017 10:49 am
Reply to  KaraMarika

You have no clue what you are talking about. I have two dogs that itch constantly. By eliminating the grain from their diets, it has helped a lot. Take the dog to a vet for itchy ears and paws and all they do is prescribe creams that do NOTHING to address the real issue which is diet. I totally disagree with all you are saying and until you experience this issue then you know not of what you speak.

Nichole Stone
August 17, 2018 11:32 pm
Reply to  Barb

We spent thousands determining the allergens and it was actually certain meats amd environmental factors. Beef is supposedly a really common irritant. Foods rich in omegas seemed to help the itching. I think the dawn soap baths and an egg a day with the food was the most helpful for the itching.

April 1, 2019 10:05 am
Reply to  Nichole Stone

Dawn? Dishwashing liquid? I had a doc tell me not to use Dawn without gloves bc it puts weird things (my words, forgot the scientific words) in your blood! I’d love to try that on my itchy little man, but wonder how you came about using Dawn?

Hooked on Health
June 29, 2015 8:40 am

I didn’t even read the whole article. Dogs are carnivores, people. Look at their teeth, exactly the same as other carnivores. This means meat. MEAT!

April 1, 2019 10:10 am

So do those carnivores in the wild spit out the grains ingested but not yet digested by that bunny/rat/mouse/bird? Don’t think so!!!!

March 29, 2016 2:42 pm

Dogs are opportunistic omnivores. Sorry to destroy your entire argument. I know this as I have a honours degree in animal welfare and behaviour.

June 6, 2018 1:21 am
Reply to  Tony

I think you’re going to need a more regimented course. Aand, retake sociology (human). Also, high school biology – digestive system. Humans will also eat anything, hence the sociology, you know what, you figure it out. 😉

LeAnda Carver Latstetter
July 20, 2015 1:33 pm

That is why this article is advocating for grain free. That means MEAT!

Sloan D. Payne-Waters
December 11, 2015 6:47 pm

Hahahaha! I was beginning to think I was crazy. I thought this was for grain free, and I know I know how to read!

Hooked on Health
July 21, 2015 9:20 am

Purchased dog food contains a ton of other ingredients not just meat. They couldn’t afford to sell it if it was all meat plus it wouldn’t come in a bag and be able to be sold on a shelf with a long shelf life. Raw meat is the way to go…

OK, I read the article and it is still advocating kibble, just grain free kibble but dogs do not need vegetables, just meat, organ meat and bones.

March 2, 2016 1:11 pm

The dog’s digestive system is still very similar to the wolf and the wolf lives off raw meat, mice, deer, etc. and some plants/vegetation that they find, so there is a case for dogs to absolutely need some vegetables. Also a diet just of raw meat, bones and organ meat will be too rich a diet and it is known in the dog world that too much protein can cause behavioral problems, agressiveness, etc. So the author is correct in my opinion that dogs need (in a perfect world) cooked root veg as at least 40% of the diet wth raw meat/bones/organs.

April 1, 2019 10:11 am
Reply to  lex

Thank you…common sense rooted in research, not a paleo dog book.

July 13, 2018 8:06 pm
Reply to  lex

Similar, but not at all the same. Domesticated dogs have 10 additional expressed genes that are directly related to the digestion of carbohydrates. I’m not saying don’t feed your dogs grain-free or raw diets, but to compare modern domesticated dogs to wild wolves after thousands of generations of genetic selection is ridiculous.

April 1, 2019 10:13 am
Reply to  Bob

Bob, thank you so much! Please share how you learned these things-and I appreciate your links above. Just curious if you are in the animal profession or just a smart person who does the research!?

July 18, 2014 9:22 am

it’s unfortunate that you’ve chosen to share this misinformation which is based on marketing instead of on nutrition. You’d be hard pressed to find a REAL expert in animal nutrition who supports what you’re saying here.

March 3, 2018 12:36 pm
Reply to  DVM

I just read the article you cited. It’s from a GRAIN company. They make a lot of assertions that grain is good for dogs but there is not one citation for a research study proving it is so.

DVM student
April 15, 2018 12:21 am
Reply to  Teresa

Please do not attempt to talk down to a DOCTOR of veterinary medicine who is legally considered an expert on this subject. Did you even bother to read who authored this article before you commented? “Kristi is a regular writer for Cover Story Media, including Canine Journal. She has over 10 years of experience in PR and Communications. Her experience ranges from script-writing, event and stage management, coordinating press conferences, photography and writing for local magazines and her own blog.” She has absolutely no expertise on veterinary medicine or nutrition.

Here is another article that may be more palatable for you. It is authored by a DVM and clearly explains that grain-free diets are only beneficial if the pet happens to be allergic to grain, which is quite rare. Dogs do not get Celiacs or gluten intolerance.

July 9, 2018 8:19 am
Reply to  DVM student

I agree with you. We’ve had standard poodles for 45 yrs, and fed the first two, due to lack of money and experience, with supermarket foods, and as we became more affluent, fed them better, meat based diets, including adding home cooked toppers. Here’s the thing:ALL were healthy, happy and active dogs and lived approximately the same life span, about 12 -13 yrs.
Also read the SkeptVet for more evidence based information.

July 9, 2018 9:40 am
Reply to  Dolores

P.S. We are talking nine doggies over that 45 yr history.

June 6, 2018 1:25 am
Reply to  DVM student

I think you’re overestimating “DOCTOR,” and underestimating the rest of the commenters with experience. No one*, except for one individual, claimed their dog had an allergy. You can still develop digestive issues w/out having an intolerance.

Also, do you have a doctor thing? Because there are doctors that say anything, commit crimes, hurt the vulnerable, white collar-crime, etc etc.

May 13, 2018 11:49 am
Reply to  DVM student

Vet doctors like to promote grain in diets to keep dogs sick . Just because they have a degree in veterinary medicine doesn’t mean they are ethical. How are they going to charge exuberant fees if everyone’s pups are healthy . Do your research find a good vet who isn’t out to rob you blind . Also don’t allow them to talk to you in vaccinating every
Year and feed. Grain free!!!!!!

April 1, 2019 10:17 am
Reply to  Robert

You can’t be serious. What an insult to every human being who has spent years and years learning about animal health so that they could trick people into keeping their dogs sick? That’s just a mean thing to say and unlikely true about 99% of vets, I bet. No research available on crooked vets. Goodness!