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Pet Food & Ingredients

Are Grains Bad for Dogs? What You Should Know

January 15, 2024 - 7 minute read by The Team at Dr. Harvey's

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The Grain Controversy: Are Grains Bad for Dogs?

Almost every day, we get an email or a call regarding the controversy surrounding the use of grains in dog food. We’ve discussed the use of raw diets and grains before and why some dogs do exceedingly well on whole organic grains as a small percentage of their total daily intake.

Here, we’ll talk about grains for dogs and whether grains are bad for dogs or not. Read on to learn more.

Why Are People So Concerned About Grains in Dog Food?

What confuses people about whether grains are good or bad for dogs? We can boil it down to clever marketing and how much people care for their dogs. For a while now, many mainstream brands have been implying dogs shouldn’t have grains and have a diet that mimics their wolfy counterparts.

This isn’t true because dogs are omnivores, not carnivores.

Regarding how we love our dogs—we start making decisions about their diet as if they were human and not canine. We tend to forget our digestive needs are very different. The most prominent example is the idea that grain-free food is better than regular dog food.

Orthorexia Nervosa

The phenomenon of being focused on what our dogs eat is what Psychology Today calls “orthorexia nervosa,” which is when a person focuses heavily on healthy eating for themself and for the people (or dogs) around them. Clever marketing in people and pet food brands feeds into this problem.

This phenomenon is further proven by a study of over three thousand dog owners worldwide who were surveyed about the type of dog food they buy and why. Words like “holistic,” “natural,” “clean,” and “grain-free” were popular categories. In this survey, 50% of dog owners thought grain-free dog food was healthier.

Are Grains Good for Dogs?

A variety of spices and herbs

So, does this mean grains are good for dogs? Yes! Because dogs are omnivores, as mentioned before. A dog’s digestive needs require plants and meat. A proper diet for a dog is a whole-food diet with meat, veggies, and grains.

Additionally, grains provide a variety of nutrients like:

  • B vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Protein

Are Grains Bad for Dogs?

Is there any truth about grains being bad for dogs? Not really; the only time grains would be harmful to your dog is if they have an allergy to wheat or grains—which is extremely rare.

The same study of over three thousand dog owners found that those who said their dog had two or more allergy symptoms chose grain-free food. But the most common food allergies are dairy and beef, making up 60% of food allergy cases in dogs, while grains like wheat and rice are on the lower end of the allergy spectrum.

When you do choose to use grain-free food, you must look very closely at the ingredients. Some brands will replace grains with filler ingredients like potato and legumes—which aren’t bad on their own but can be challenging for your dog to digest in large amounts.

Remember, Dogs Are Individuals

While most dogs benefit from having grains in their diet, it would be irresponsible to say that all dogs need them.

For example, there have been many cases where a grain-free diet helps dogs. This could be because the dog was having a hard time digesting the grains or the dog suffers from a form of arthritis.

Because every dog is different, we offer pre-mixes with grains and without. Our Canine Health product includes 6 organic grains, vegetables, and herbs. Veg-to-Bowl is a cornucopia of vegetables and herbs and no grains. There are also Garden Veggies with a grain and grain-free version.

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Our complete and balanced “just add water recipe” has real meat as the first ingredient, plus a wholesome blend of superfoods, vegetables and fruits.

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Enough for several meals.

How Do I Know If My Dog Should Be Grain-Free?

A group of food on a plate

Knowing if your dog should be grain-free or not requires time and patience because it takes time to determine if your dog has a food allergy.

As we’ve covered before, a food allergy will show up through symptoms like:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Skin irritation (itching, hair loss, etc.)
  • Vomiting

You can handle this one of two ways—the elimination diet or getting an allergy test. An elimination diet may be better to start with because other allergies are more common than grains, like beef, and it could be that and not grains.

If you do the elimination diet and come to no conclusions, then you should get an allergy test. This requires going to your holistic vet, who will examine your dog to eliminate things like parasites or illnesses. Once the vet rules out those possibilities, they’ll do an intradermal skin test and blood test.

However, it’s important to note that these tests aren’t entirely accurate.

Final Thoughts on the Grain Controversy: Ingredient Quality Matters

All this information boils down to the dog food ingredients that matter the most. While some grains can provide little to no nutritional value, many do.

Like Linda Arndt says:

There is some notion out there in cyberspace that grains are bad, when in fact, grains are only bad when they’re fractioned, of poor quality, and used as the basis for commercial foods. In other words, when grain is listed first on the label—now that’s bad. “In super premium and holistic lines, grains are used as carbohydrate components, not as protein and not as filler, and that is a good thing.”

To keep your dog happy and healthy, you must find whole-food dog meals that encompass all the nutrients your dog needs. This means finding high-quality dog food with grains, proteins, veggies, vitamins, minerals, and so much more.

How Dr. Harvey Makes Eating Grain, and Grain-Free Easier

Preparing homemade food for your dog can be a daunting process. The purpose of our high-quality dog food with grains or without is to make this process easy and delicious. Just add meat and oil to prepare a wonderful home-cooked meal for your dog.

What could be easier or better?

Check out our variety of mixes today!

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See the difference in your dog!

Veg-to-Bowl is a grain-free dog food pre-mix made with nine different vegetables that when mixed with protein and oil makes a complete all-natural dog food for companion dogs.

+ $3.95 Shipping

Oops. Can you please fix the highlighted fields?

Try Before You Buy

See the difference in your dog!

Generous Sample Size

Enough for several meals.