The 10 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods
Keeping Your Furry Companion Healthy
If you've ever owned a dog or a cat, you can attest to the understanding that, like humans, animals have a soul, an identity, and you couldn't imagine living life without them as a part of your family. It stands to reason that a dog parent only wants what's best for their furry companion to ensure a long, healthy life. This consideration includes finding the right dog food, especially if your pet is prone to allergies or stomach sensitivities. In this respect, considering a grain-free kibble can be an excellent route to providing superior nutrition and a balanced diet to your pooch.
Though dogs (like many other animals) have become anthropomorphized by humans, the anatomy of their digestive systems has not deviated all that much from those of their ancestral carnivores. In the wild, wolves don't consume heavily-processed ingredients. Instead, their diets consist of natural, raw, and protein-rich foods, so it stands to reason that maintaining a similar type of diet for a doggy descendant would be a great place to start. This is not to say that a grain-free diet is the right move in every situation or with every breed, but foods rich in proteins, vegetables, fruits, and vitamins, and without unnecessary fillers, are certainly the way to a healthy digestive tract for your pooch. Many grain-free formulas contain nearly all of these active ingredients.
If you're wondering whether there are dangers to the use of excessive amounts of grains and wheat in your dog's diet, the answer is yes in some cases. To explain, consider a dog's lupine brethren once again. Both wolves and dogs have minimal natural digestive support for breaking down and metabolizing things like complex carbohydrates and cereal grains, particularly since the wolf diet consists primarily of naturally-found proteins low in carbohydrates. By contrast, complex fibers and grains either remain undigested or they're difficult to digest, meaning Fido's body is relying more on fermentation to break those ingredients down, which can lead to dangerous gastric issues.
Over time, consumption of these grains can cause damage to the lining of a dog's digestive tract, leading to bowel inflammation disorders or food sensitivities and allergies that were not previously present. However, some amount of grain can also be beneficial to a dog's balanced diet, so eliminating them entirely is not always the right answer either. Using discretion and consulting with one's veterinarian can be a valuable resource to determining the best diet for a new canine family member. Typically, complex carbs make up approximately 10% of a dog's diet.
Grain-free foods provide a wide variety of benefits to a dog, especially the moist and freeze-dried varieties if a dry kibble isn't always available. Other than aiding in easy digestion, grain-free foods keep dogs feeling satisfied for longer periods of time, and this is not due to the use of unhealthy filler materials, but rather from the richness of the proteins involved. These types of foods also deliver additional energy to your dog. Grain-free foods often result in smaller stools and less waste, as more of the nutrients are being absorbed by the body and utilized.
How To Find The Right Food
Regardless of what you decide to feed your pooch, balance is the most important thing to consider above all else. Keep in mind that you don't have to go crazy over grain-free diets. Though beneficial and though we've discussed conventional theories about dogs and their ancestors, there is no single prescribed diet for every breed. Different dogs can metabolize foods in their own unique ways, so it may take some trial and error to determine what works best for your pet.
Some dogs can benefit from additional simple carbs in their grain-free kibble formula. Just as an example, I feed my standard poodles a grain-free base formula with roasted bison, venison, and sweet potato. My dogs absolutely adore sweet potatoes. In fact, we go so far as to bake sweet potatoes fresh in the oven and mix the contents in with the rest of their kibble at dinnertime. They seem to enjoy it and digest it easily. For extra flavor along with the grain-free kibble, consider adding a bit of Greek yogurt into the mix as well. It's a great source of protein and probiotics, but be sure to use it in moderation, as it's still considered dairy and may not agree with all canine stomachs.
Secondly, one must carefully check the list of ingredients in their food of choice. Make sure that superfluous filler ingredients don't constitute the majority of the formula and that it's made up of a balanced mixture of whole fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Next, if your dog hasn't previously been on a grain-free diet, do not transfer the animal cold turkey, as that could be a shock to their digestive system. Instead, introduce the new food into your dog's diet slowly over the course of several days to a couple of weeks to ensure they like it, that they're used to the taste, and that they're not suffering from any stool issues.
Finally, make use of your veterinarian as a resource when you're not sure which type or brand of food you're thinking of trying. The vet office can be a wealth of good, breed-specific information with regard to diets.
A Brief History Of Grain-Free Dog Food
Canis familiaris, also known as our companion dog species that we've come to know and love today, evolved alongside humans as far back as thirty thousand years. As humans developed from a hunter-gatherer societies into stable towns and villages, our eating habits also changed, as did those of our pets, particularly considering we've learned how to store foods for longer periods of time.
Prior to the advent of conventional dog foods, most dogs lived on diets that included grains, meats, table scraps and homemade food from their owners. This started to change by the mid-nineteenth century with the first specifically-tailored foods for dogs, credited to American electrician, James Spratt. During his time living in London, Spratt observed dogs living around a local shipyard and feeding off scraps of discarded biscuits, sparking his design for the first dog treat. He then developed his own dog food consisting of a combination of wheat meals, vegetables and meat.
It wasn't until the 1900's that the idea of pet food became more popular in the form of canned horse meat, introduced in the United States after World War One as a means to dispose of deceased horses. By the end of World War Two, pet food represented a new opportunity to market by-products as a profitable source of income.
Commercially-available pet food really took hold during the 1950s, first in the form of canned food followed by dry pellets sprayed with synthetic nutrients. The 1960's and 1970's saw a diversification in flavors of available dog foods as well as the refinement of the extrusion process. Following the 2006-2007 pet food recall, raw food and grain-free diets became much more popular than ever before. Today, there is an overwhelming variety of grain-free kibbles and wet foods to suit most any breed.