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Grain Free Pet Food: How to Make a Healthy Decision

Updated on June 30, 2010
Photo by Anita Lumley
Photo by Anita Lumley

When our cat died from kidney failure and a fusion of her intestines, my husband and I were puzzled. She was only a 6 year old cat. Not young in the cat world but not old either. I suppose her nine lives were just up.

Our veterinarian, a wonderful, compassionate man, went beyond all of our expectations to find the answer to our puzzle. She could have died from a virus. She could have died from old age. But, none of these answers seemed to quite fit what we knew about our pet.

What does my story have to do with grain free pet food? In our puzzlement, we became concerned about our other pets: a 4 year old cat, and two puppies. Our concern led us to the one source we never gave much thought. Their food.

Photo by Dan
Photo by Dan

Many pet food manufacturers use grain as a foundation in their pet food. Why? Because it's cheap. Also known as fillers, grain is an inexpensive way to fill a pet's tummy. When grain becomes the majority of ingredients in a dog's food, complications may arise: allergies, skin irritations, and weight-gain. Grain is not a major source of nutrition for carnivores, and different types of protein from different sources have their advantages. Dogs can not make all the amino acids they need; they must eat animal protein to gather essential amino acids to remain healthy. Keep in mind, canines in the wild do not seek out large amounts of grain for consumption, rather they consume them while eating small rodents and other prey.

How can a owner choose the right food for the health of their pets?

Read the Ingredients

Read the ingredient label on every package of pet food. What is the first ingredient on the list? It should be some sort of high quality protein like chicken, bison, turkey, or fish. What are the second and third ingredients? Any pet food that is based on a protein rich and limited grain recipe will be beneficial for cats and dogs.

Shop Around

My husband and I have gone through three different types of pet food since the death of our cat. We did our research on every type of food we bought. Compared the food we were using with a cheaper brand. And finally settled on a brand that we like. Try to find a food that has the first few ingredients as a rich source of protein (chicken, bison, or fish) then determine how much money is reasonable to spend on pet food. We were buying the best food possible for our dogs, but the price was a little steep. We checked out a similar brand that was cheaper but still healthy for our dogs.

Go to The Manufacturer's Website

I highly suggest going to check out the manufacturer's website. Many times the website will have information on the company's manufacturing process, in-depth nutritional information, and coupons. The coupons alone is reason enough to hop online.

Monitor Feeding Habits and Energy levels

How does the dog or cat feel after feeding time? Do they seem to have energy that lasts throughout the day? We never noticed how our pets were reacting when we were feeding them lower quality food. After we changed to protein based food, our cat seemed much more energetic than before and one of our dogs actually started to fart less. We would have never seen these differences if we were not actively engaging in our consumer habits.

Talk to other pet owners

Approach pet owners in public, if you're comfortable, that own a dog or cat similiar to size and breed of your own pet. Ask them what brand of food they feed their animals and why. If you're at a friend's house, a chit chat about pet food could be informative and casual. Everyone has different experiences with pet food, but keeping an open mind and asking questions will help make a good decision concerning healthy pet food.

My husband and I were in a pet store shopping for a better quality of cat food when another customer approached us. The friendly, fellow pet owner asked us about a brand of food we were considering. We casually discussed our cats and potential food choices for them. The conversation wasn't more than ten minutes, and never turned too personal. Sharing experiences with another pet owner and swapping information with someone at a pet store, a family reunion, a college class, or at a park is a wonderful way to meet new people and make a more informed decision about pet food.

Thank you!

There are several reasons to start buying healthier pet food. The cost is somewhat higher than the lower quality foods, but has benefits for spending the extra green. We noticed we seem to go through less bags of food per month. Our cat lost weight, he was way overweight before, and our puppies became more lean and muscular.

Losing our cat was tough, a lot like losing a family member. We are still not sure what caused her death, but we are sure that our other pets are eating healthier than ever before. Switching to a pet food that was grain free was the best thing for our peace of mind and for the health of our pets. Doing research into what is in pet food before giving it to a pet is smart, economical, and safe.

Would you feed your dog/cat grain-free pet food?

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I lost a wonderful 8 yr old rottie she meant so much to me I didn't know that the food I was giving her probably caused her to develop kidney cancer and brain cancer. I can't bring her back but I can protect the dog I have now after research I first tried to fix her food from scratch but that became t

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      The natures best science diet dog food definitely has grains. The say "whole grains" to trick you into thinking it's healthy.... Uhg! I feed my dogs taste of the wild all four varieties! And I love how affordable and how great my dogs act and look on it! I will promote these products like it's my job because I love that this company provides pet owners with a quality grain free food that doesn't cost a ton of money!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I feed can but they still like some dry; My two love the Solid Gold, Indigo Moon grain-free.

    • Anita_Lumley profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Springfield, MO

      Brandon, thanks for commenting. I'm glad to hear your cats aren't trowing up. I wish we would have switched foods before we lost our female cat. I didn't know fancy feast makes a grain free cat food--that's awesome.

    • profile image

      Brandon Johnson  

      9 years ago

      We have 4 cats we switched from science diet to the fancy feast classic (grain free) and I can tell the difference in energy and happiness . All my cats have allergies and stomach problems , they don't throw up like they used too! ;)

    • Anita_Lumley profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Springfield, MO

      Thank you sriparna!

    • sriparna profile image


      9 years ago from New Delhi

      Excellent hub Anita, so much information about feeding the right food to our pets. I am not a pet person, but the fact that canines do not look for grains in food, unlike humans where whole grain diet is very much recommended was worth knowing. Voted up useful. Congratulations for hubnuggets nomination!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hello Anita! Are you up for some excitement? Well ready or not, here is the announcement! This hub has been nominated for the Hubnuggets in the Pets & Animals category! Yoohoo, isn't that cool? Don't delay, check it out now: Be sure to vote and invite your pet lover friends to vote too! Best of luck!

    • Anita_Lumley profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Springfield, MO

      Thats awesome! I thought about a raw diet for our dogs, but after doing some research, it's not a good fit for our lifestyle. lol We struggle to buy meat to put on our own table. I do like the concept of feeding my dogs variety; I try to do that by feeding them different flavors of wet dog food. Giving them food that has more moisture is also good for their kidneys.

    • profile image

      thedog-maonline, llc. 

      9 years ago

      My dogs can not eat any grains. I have Goldens that are very sensitive to corn, wheat, grains, oatmeal, etc. I see an amazing change when I switch a dog over to grain free or a raw diet.

    • Anita_Lumley profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Springfield, MO

      Thanks, Yvonne! I hate that some vets, people we trust with our pet's health, are more concerned about making money than their patients. I love our vet, he has never tried to sell us a product.

      Ugh, every time I see Science Diet, I hate that I was once fooled by them. When we rescued our two cats from an animal shelter, we were given free bags of Science Diet. We, of course, assumed it was quality food for them.

    • pyvonne profile image


      9 years ago

      Science diet is the worst you can feed, its loaded with by-products which is horrible and lots of corn and the only manufacture that puts ethoxaquin in their food,which is a deadly perserative.stir away from the vets trying to sell iams,ekunuba,science diet.they make a 45% profit on what they push on their cliets.just anit right!!! yvonne

    • Anita_Lumley profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Springfield, MO

      No problem, Jolisa. We were feeding our cats Science Diet. After the death of one of our kitties, we did a lot of research. Turns out Science Diet isn't so great; it's mostly corn meal. Now Science Diet has a Nature's Best line of products that doesn't seem to include grain (from looking at their website). I think pet owners have given the pet food industry a message by buying pet food that is healthy and grain free.

    • jolisa profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information, thanks, I have 2 cats and very much believe in the importance of a good diet for them. I have also heard that a grain diet is not that good.


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