ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Should you Buy Dog Food with Grains or go Grain-Free? Join the debate

Updated on March 25, 2015
Feeding dog grains or grain-free diet?
Feeding dog grains or grain-free diet? | Source

Should you feed your dog a diet with grains or should you go grain-free? The Internet is sure full of websites with oodles of information, and things can be a tad bit complicated and overwhelming when we try to sort through pages and pages. At the same time, we must ask ourselves, who are the people behind these articles tackling dog nutrition? Is it an expert in the field, a pet owner or an astute marketer, just trying to promote a product? Is it a pet food company trying to sell you their food? Is it a vet who has been lectured by a sales rep to sell certain types of food? These are important questions we should ask ourselves when we're looking for information for our canine companions. It's very easy to be misled or fall into the trap of believing everything we read just because it's on a website that looks professional or the flashy marketing claims look trustworthy.

So who are really the experts in the field when it comes to nutrition? In a previous article, we found that the experts in the field when it comes to nutrition are veterinary nutritionists. These are veterinarians who have made training in nutritional science their primary specialization. They're diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) and therefore, their names are often followed by the DVM acronym with stands for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and the DACVN acronym which stands for Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Yet in this article, I will be sharing some interesting and intriguing findings these experts report about grains and that left me quite surprised. At the same time, though it's fair to look at both sides of the story when it comes to the use of grains in dog food. And even here, I was surprised again as well. So should dogs eat grains or should they entirely go grain-free? We will see what to experts have to say on the subject, and how, for a good part, this remains a great subject of controversy, but first, let's take a closer look at a dog's diet from an evolutionary standpoint, shall we?

Did you know?

Celiac disease, also known as gluten-induced enteropathy can affects dogs too. An analogous disorder was found in some lines of Irish Setters. Affected dogs developed diarrhea and weight loss after being fed foods with gluten, a protein substance found in some grains. The condition was found to be genetic and feeding a gluten-free diet made of potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa or buckwheat seemed to solve the issue.

Do you think dogs are:

See results

The Evolution of Dogs and the Role of Grains

The whole domestication process and origins of the dog remain subject of ongoing research and speculation, and there are several theories in regards to how it all happened. In several of my previous hubs, I discussed about the theory hypothesized by biologist Ray Coppinger about wolves domesticating themselves about 15,000 years ago when humans started living in villages and these proto-dogs started frequenting their dump sites. Today, there's belief that the dog was domesticated about 19,000 to 32,000 years ago, a time-frame that coincided with the the era when humans were hunter-gathers, and therefore, much earlier to the adoption of extensive agriculture. According to National Geographic, researchers found that a dog's DNA closely matched the DNA of the ancient wolves from Europe that are now extinct. This means that likely the domestication of dogs started in Europe; whereas, before it was believed to have happened in Eurasia and Eastern Asia. There are chances these canines scavenged on the mammoth remains and other carcasses hunter-gatherers left behind. As they were tamed, these canines may have helped in hunting and guarding from predatory animals and therefore co-evolved along with humans.

Yet, a more recent study now is telling us a whole different story! Most likely, dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago, and not 30,000 years ago in the Paleolithic Era as believed. This means that they were NOT evolving with the hunter-gatherers, but rather joined humans when the practice of farming and agriculture took place. Which story is true?

Regardless of how dogs evolved, it can't be denied that before being domesticated, canines were eating a diet made of raw meat. After all, raw meat was as well the evolutionary diet of humans too! Things get a bit murky though here as proponents of raw diets will say that dogs were meant to eat raw meat, while others may say that dogs after all, evolved and therefore adjusted to scraps and a man-made diet.

If dogs met humans when they were hunters and gatherers, they likely ate the remains of hunted meat. Then later on, as the years went by, with the advent of agriculture, grains were introduced to a dog's diet. While dogs certainly love steak, their digestive system appears to be capable of also digesting starch. A study has shown that when dog and wolf DNA is compared, dog DNA demonstrated significant genetic variances. Genetic differences involved the development of the dog's nervous system, which explains the behavioral changes necessary to aid the dog's transition from wild animal into man's best friend, and along with that, a greater ability to digest starch under the presence of amylase, a protein known for breaking down starch, the main nutrient found in grains. So, depending on how we look at things, we may assume that dogs were originally meant to eat meat, and therefore, that should be their main diet, but it also makes sense that those genetic changes happened for a reason and therefore grains, fiber and starch in a dog's diet are natural additions as well. After all, dogs are no longer wolves, just as humans are no longer chimps.

Interestingly, the same diet related controversies have been occurring in the human world. We have people stating that we should eat the caveman-like, Paleo diet also known as hunter gatherer diet, which consists of lean meat, nuts and berries. Proponents of this diet claim that our metabolism had a hard time catching up with the foods available with the advent of agriculture and therefore our bodies struggled to adapt. According to Science Magazine, it was found that certain people are genetically more capable of digesting starches such as the Japanese and Americans of European descent because of their history of cultivating grains. This may perhaps explain why many people have difficulties digesting gluten, legumes or are lactose intolerant. Could the same be happening to dogs? Can it be that a dog's metabolism may be struggling as well to catch up with eating grains? Can dogs really digest grains well?

Critics of the Paleo diet, on the other hand, claim that Paleolothic humans actually ate grains and legumes and that we're more nutritionally flexible than previously thought. In a similar fashion, veterinarian Pathy Khuly claims that the dog’s wild ancestors as well ate plenty of grains. Whether they indulged in the occasional berry or they ate the prey's stomach, which was full of grains, they received their portion of grains back then. Yet, Dr Hendricks claims that after a kill, wolves will leave the stomach contents behind and foraging played a minimal role in their food intake. Additionally, he observes that despite the genetic changes in the digestion of starch, these changes alone aren't capable of altering the entire digestive evolution of a species. He concludes saying that dogs feature plenty of traits that are 100 percent carnivorous, and therefore, dogs are undeniably carnivores that "just happen to have an adaptive metabolism as a result of living with humans for millennia, and that’s why the dog is perfectly capable of eating a grain-based diet, as most commercially fed dogs do." Quite interesting observations indeed! Next, let's see the effects of grains on dogs and what the experts have to say.

Do you trust veterinary nutritionists?

See results

Should you Feed Grains to Dogs or go Grain Free? What Some Vet Nutritionists Have to Say

Grains are basically carbohydrates which are further categorized as starches or fibers. According to the Whole Dog Journal, starches are contained in grains and some veggies such as potatoes and peas. In order to be digested and utilized, starches must be broken down by enzymes, produced by the pancreas and intestinal wall. Fiber, commonly found in plants such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains, unlike starch, is not digested by enzymes, but it's fermented by intestinal microbes. Common carbohydrate sources added to dog foods include grains, fruits and vegetables. How do dogs react to eating grains? Are they harmful to dogs or do they provide some benefits? Let's see what some veterinarians specialized in nutrition have to say.

Dogs Can Digest Grains

Many people still claim that dogs aren't capable of digesting carbs because they lack the necessary enzymes, but as we have seen, dogs adapted to grains as they co-evolved with humans and studies showed they do have the necessary enzymes to digest them. Turns out that starch is highly digestible for dogs when prepared appropriately along with other sources of carbohydrates. Since carbs found in kibble or canned food are cooked, they're readily digestible. For those who like to prepare home-made foods for their dogs, it's important that the grains are cooked well, and some may need overnight soaking. Yet, not all dogs digest grains in the same way. The dog's stools may offer a glimpse at how well dogs digest.

Grains are NOT Simply Fillers

A common subject of controversy is the role grains play in commercial food. Many claim they are used as fillers and are "empty calories" as they have no nutritional value when added to dog food. According to veterinary nutritionist Cailin R. Heinze, when cooked properly, grains contain protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fiber. While fiber may appear to provide "empty carbs" consider that sources of fiber like soybean hulls, wheat, rice, oat bran and beet pulp help regulate the transit time of the bowel contents and form stools. Veterinarian Susan G. Wynn, which completed a residency in nutrition at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine claims: “Grains contain certain fibers that are beneficial for the growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut, and they also contain various required vitamins and minerals.”

While grains like oats, rice, and barley are sources of nutrients and sources of energy, it's still wise though to look for dog foods that list a high-quality animal product among the first 3 ingredients, further suggests veterinary nutritionist Lisa M. Freeman. Some pet food companies may sometimes take things to the extreme and formulate diets that contain way too many carbs for the purpose of cutting costs. Veterinary nutritionists Sean Delaney and Sally Perea, DVM point out though that when it comes to an ideal number of carbs, it ultimately depends on the individual dog as some dogs may thrive on lower carbohydrate foods while others do not.

Grains Don't Trigger Allergies as Thought

Dog owners often report that grains are sources of allergies, but it turns out things aren't really as dramatic as thought. In most cases, food intolerances, which involve the digestive system, are much more common than food allergies, but even in these, grains are not commonly a culprit. Food allergies, which involve the immune system causing the all-too-familiar itching and scratching, are mostly triggered by animal-based proteins such as beef, dairy, chicken, soy and egg and sometimes wheat. Dr Wynn points out that grains aren't part of the majority of allergy offenders. Veterinary nutritionist, Cailin Heinze agrees on this and adds "If it says a grain-free diet will help a dog with allergies, that would be a company I would be suspicious of, as only a dog that has an allergy to a specific grain would improve on a grain-free diet, and grain allergies are quite rare."

Grain-Free Doesn't Mean Carb Free

Many times, people purchase premium dog foods thinking that they are better because they are grain-free. Yet, they're not aware that while these foods don't contain grains, they still contain carbs! This is because you can't make kibble without some type of carbohydrate to shape it in its actual form. For instance, many of these grain-free diets, don't add grains, but they'll substitute them with other carb sources such as potatoes and tapioca. Yet, turns out that when compared to grains, potatoes and tapioca have less protein and more sugars which technically makes these diets less nutrient-packed than some diets that contain grains!

The bottom line, is that in some cases, grain-free diets may actually be less nutritious than foods containing grains, so it's important to carefully assess the overall quality of the food rather than focusing on individual ingredients; however, it's also true that when it comes to the overall nutritional profile of a food, labels contain minimal information which is why it's best to look for diets formulated by nutrition specialists or consult with a nutrition specialist for guidelines for the most appropriate diet for your dog.

Some Dogs do Better on Carbs

Veterinary nutritionists often warn that there's no such thing as a diet that's good for all dogs as every dog is ultimately an individual. This is why several don't recommend feeding foods for all life stages in a one-size-fits-all fashion. Also, when it comes to health, there are certain dogs with certain health conditions that do better on foods with carbs. According to veterinary nutritionists, Susan G. Wynn, Sean Delaney and Sally Perea, an example are dogs suffering from pancreatitis or e hypertriglyceridemia, which don't do well on low carb diets as they often have a high fat content. These dogs do better on foods with higher carbs and lower fats. High fiber diets are also beneficial for dogs with large bowel diseases and some small bowel diseases. Additionally, according to the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, pregnancy and lactation are times when dams need glucose, and inadequate carbohydrates, during these times can lead to problems.

Some Dogs do Better Grain-Free

Yet, we return to the philosophy that no diet is a one-size fits all. While dogs have the ability to digest carbs and therefore, grains, some dogs may do much better on a low-carb or grain-free diet. Some examples? Dogs with diabetes or cancer. A clinical trial found that a diet low carbohydrates and high in fat along with fish oil and arginine accelerated the time to remission in dogs with lymphoma. However, Dr. Wynn points out in her blog that the high fat and low in carbs diet may help dogs with cancer only, and obviously will make a dog cancer patient with pancreatitis much worse. This is why, once again, a one-diet- fits-all is not suitable for every cancer patient.

Let's Sum it Up

As seen, experts in nutrition are showing that grains are not that bad as thought. Veterinary nutritionist Deborah Linder claims that there is no evidence suggesting that a healthy dog would be better off on a high protein, grain-free diet just as there's no evidence that a grain-free diet would prove harmful to a healthy dog . So are grains really so bad? If we think about it, in the old days when commercial food was yet to be invented, humans were feeding table scraps, and back in time, owners likely weren't that eager to give 100 percent meat, so for a good part, dogs were already eating carbs. While grains in a diet don't necessarily mean bad news, it's important though to recognize that some food companies exaggerate and use too many carbs to cut on costs. Also, some dogs with certain health conditions benefit from low-carb diets, while others may do better on higher carb diets. Consider though that grain-free diets are likely not free of carbs. In order to be made, kibble needs some type of carb and grain-free diets often contain potatoes or tapioca to accomplish that. On top of that, consider that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet that's suitable for all dogs.

Do you trust holistic vets?

See results

Should you Feed Grains to Dogs or go Grain Free? The Other Side of the Story

It's always a good idea to hear two sides of the story, so we can make informed decisions. In this case, we will be looking at professionals who do not think that carbs and therefore grains are metabolically appropriate for dogs and cats. When board-certified veterinary nutritionist, Lisa P. Weeth, claimed on The Pet Radio Show that corn and grains are easy to digest, contain good protein and pose no health risks, these claims sure got some reactions from general practice and holistic veterinarians. Let's see what these other experts have to say.

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker on her Healthy Pet website, explains that dogs and cats weren't meant to eat all those grain-based, carbohydrate-rich foods. Not only these diets are not biologically appropriate for these species, they are metabolically unnecessary and are creating the same degenerative disease processes as seen in humans. She explains how the purpose is to increase profits so to use less meat which costs significantly more.

In her words: " It's interesting that veterinarians have started marketing some of these carbohydrates as a good source of energy. But absolutely, we know that dogs and cats are not requiring any of these grains – they break down into sugar." This would explain why we are seeing a surge in diabetic dogs and cats and obesity with its ripple effect on muscle, bones and organs. Dr. Becker also points out that most courses offered at vet schools aren't taught by nutritionists, but by representatives of major pet food brands who obviously will promote their products. As a result, conflict of interest is quite widespread in the industry.

She also discusses how dogs ate raw meats for thousands of years and that's what they're ultimately designed for. She claims ""Canis lupus, the wolf, is 99.9 percent genetically identical to the domestic dog. There really is no genetic differentiation between a wild wolf and a domestic dog… That gives us some idea how we should be nourishing our pets." Dr. Becker further adds that most dogs improve on grain-free diets, mostly because dogs have no biological need for grains as they don't graze on grain like horses and cows do. The only exception are the predigested grains that come from the stomach contents of prey. So dogs may and do survive eating grain-based diets, but the big question is do they really thrive?

On top of that, Dr. Becker claims raw food offers about 70 percent moisture; whereas, commercial kibble only offers about 12 percent. Yet, she cautions that in order to feed these diets you must be careful to meet the dog's nutritional requirements. Dr Becker finally concludes that she passionately disagrees with what veterinary nutritionists claimed in a Veterinary Practice News article and that in her opinion it appears quite obvious that there seems to be an obvious endorsement by these professionals for products made by the world's largest pet food manufacturers.

She also claims in another article that she suspects that major pet food manufacturers are growing concerned about consumers learning more about nutrition, and therefore, are likely encouraging veterinary nutritionists to defend their pet food formulas. After all, this is quite similar to what is happening in the medical field as well. Many doctors often are fast to prescribe a certain medication simply because sale reps have recommended them over and over. Same goes with recommending chemo, a multi-billion industry, that many claim does only damage than anything else.

Let's Sum Things Up

Dogs ultimately remain carnivores at heart and biologically their bodies are meant to consume meats not grains. The great variety of health issues we see in pets today is likely due to the dietary changes and processed foods we have been feeding for so many years. Low quality grains may harbor hazardous molds that can have devastating effects. Even though the professionals in the field may say that grains are easy to digest and good for dogs, we must sadly critically evaluate if these pros are endorsing certain foods.

The Bottom Line

So how should pet owners proceed? Pet owners searching for the best nutrition should not blindly trust marketing claims and should evaluate how the dog feels and acts on a specific diet and keep in mind the dog's individuality. Critical thinking and questioning information is not a bad idea. Just because something is commonly accepted doesn't necessarily means that it's good. We have now seen two sides of the story when it comes to grains and the debate is now on. Vote in the poll below or share your thoughts in the comments section.

Disclaimer: this article is fruit of my research and not meant to be a substitute for professional veterinary or nutrition advice. By reading this article, you accept this disclaimer.

Alexadry© all rights reserved, do not copy

Do you think dogs should eat grains?

See results

Do you feed grain-based food or grain-free dog food? Share your thoughts!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Glad to hear your dog is thriving on the all raw diet, thanks for the votes up!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Our dog had stomach problems until we switched to an all raw-meat diet. I was skeptical at first but her improvement has made me a believer. Fabulous hub. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and am sharing.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      My Min. Schnauzer cost me a fortune running back and forth to the Vet for her dry itchy skin. All he did was give me more pills. I did some research for myself, and came to the conclusion Baby was sensitive to the ingredients in commercial dog food.

      I began making her food with pinto beans and sweet potatoes. I add either fish oil or coconut oil. After three weeks on this home made food, she stopped itching!

      I even bake sweet potato for her treats; she loves those.

      I wrote a Hub about my experience . May I link your Hub into mine?

      People can spend a fortune and a lot of time trying to rule out what to feed their dogs.

      Voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Wow, what a wonderful age to reach for a dog, amazing!

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      5 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      My Uncle's old farm dog a mixed medium dog lived to be 23 years old and was a happy dog that ate Wayne Dog food from the feed meal. Great Hub. Stella

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      No problem at all, I really appreciate your thought on this! It's a very interesting topic and I agree, people should do more homework on what is being fed to dogs.

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago

      The company I rep for has all-life-stages formulations and I have mixed feelings about them. I always learned that adult dogs have different nutritional requirements than puppies, and that senior dogs have different requirements than adult dogs, etc.

      But, there are only two regulated and standardized formulations... growth & reproduction (puppy and kitten food) and adult maintenance. All others, such as holistic, senior, large breed, small breed, weight control, etc. have no standardized or regulatory definitions. They mean whatever the manufacturer says they mean.

      It used to be accepted that puppies could go on adult food right off the mother, but as our knowledge of canine nutrition advanced, things changed. Plus now you can get conflicting information from credible sources.

      I think that's bad enough without going to reviews, which I don't put a lot of faith in. Someone will blame a food for their dog's problems but don't mention the fact that they also give him pepperoni pizza, happy meals and donut holes every time they go through the drive-thru. Oh, and ice cream and cheese...but it's their holistic food that make Boomer fart.

      Nowadays, pet food is more about marketing than it is about science. Within categories of brands, premium/super premium, holistic, etc. you see pretty much the same ingredients.

      People will choose a food because on the front of the bag it says it's for soft skin and shiny coat, when the others within that category will provide the same good skin and coat, but they say it supports joints, brain function or something else.

      I realize it's sometimes hard for pet owners to cut through the marketing BS and think of the science, but some don't even try. That's how the pet supply industry exploits what it calls "the humanization of pets," and provides a "feel good" pitch that so many respond to. Sorry, didn't mean to rant.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      "Optimal health is simply the slowest possible rate at which one can die." I really like that quote Bob, it's very true. I think part of the reason why many veterinary nutritionists point out that dogs are individuals is because in some sort of way they are covering their "rear" so to say. I would guess they see quite often how a diet may prove deleterious to a dog with certain medical issues. Yes, it could very likely be that most dogs can do well on the same complete, balanced AAFCO labeled diet, but then again would they thrive as if they were on a customized diet? This brings back to the all life stages maintenance diet versus the customized diets based on breed, sex, age, size, health reproductive status etc. I find it quite interesting how reviews of foods are so mixed, from dogs eating the food and thriving and dogs getting terribly sick on it. but then who posts reviews? I would assume those who are really happy and want to spread their enthusiasm, but most of all, those who are really upset and want to warn others, we need to see also those in between though, and perhaps they're the majority, the ones you talk about--which brings back the issue of critically evaluating everything we read. Such an interesting debate!

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago

      At the risk of sounding reckless, I think there's a tendency to micromanage things. Saying all dogs are different, to me, is rhetorical. While some individual dogs may have specific health issues, generally just about all dogs will do fine on any complete and balanced dog food.

      I think the same holds true for humans. Yes, we're all different but all the in dog breeds...have the same anatomy and physiology. While some of us may have health issues that preclude certain foods, or parts of foods, the vast majority of us would do fine living off the other guy's grocery list.

      I think there's a lot of wiggle room when considering health and it's relationship to quality of life. One way to look at things...especially as one is poised to down that "heart attack burger" that optimal health is simply the slowest possible rate at which one can die ( I read that somewhere...wish I had thought of it, though).

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Amanda, I agree the website does deserve a pat on the back for not accepting advertising or donations from pet food companies to support their website. They appear to have good intention of informing the public and making them aware of recalls. Perhaps, a disclaimer, something warning that their food ratings don't mean that a dog would thrive on the food as every dog is an individual would help. I just feel it just takes a lot of responsibility saying what food is best for a dog because there are so many variants. Even when I ask my doctor questions about a good diet he never gives me a straight answer. Perhaps because even in people, there are many variants, like pasta may have no effect on some people, but celiacs cannot tolerate it, some people can digest milk and others are lactose intolerant. Then you have those who eat fats, junk food and live to be 90 and those eating healthy barely making it to 50 . In Italy people still feed their dogs leftovers (pasta, bread and rice--and sometimes the occasional meat) and I see dogs living long and healthy lives.. Genetics at the end must also play a role in health other than diet and then one must wonder if when a dog gets sick, is it really the food? or would that illness appears regardless? I see many owners pointing the finger at food for getting sick, but who knows if there are other factors at play? When it comes to nutrition, you would expect veterinary nutritionist to know best, that's their specialty, but then Karen Becker's observations...they sure make you wonder who at the end you should really trust....

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      That's so true Bob, sometimes when I end on some debated issues in dog training, I see some trainers posting studies and then others find another study that claims the total opposite! It's time then though to see who actually funded those studies and drum-roll some of them were funded by companies who actually sold the product that's being debated in the first place. Being cynic is a good thing when it comes to these things.

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago

      I have a pet shuffle...that I use relative to the dilemma we're discussing. It seems that every generation or so, various industries related to the sciences go through some sort of epiphany, which I believe is mostly constructed.

      At some point, the field gets crowded and everyone's doing the same thing, so suddenly someone cites a study that shows we've been following bad science all along, and now this new way is the right way.

      That opens up a whole lot of room in a crowded field, plus creates all sorts of new economic opportunities...research grants, the lecture circuit, books, consulting, etc.

      Call me a cynic, but study data can be manipulated and fabricated to satisfy an agenda. I recall a Whole Dog Journal piece from 2013 that told about Dr. Marc Hauser, an evolutionary biologist and researcher at Harvard from 1992 to 2011, who resigned in 2011 because Harvard found him guilty of fabricating and manipulating research data.

      I hear or read about studies, many in conflict with each other (as in the global warming cash cow), and look around at the empirical evidence and factor that in. In the end, it sometimes seems to be a craps shoot!

    • amanda5577 profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan

      I understand your skepticism of the site. The reason I find it to be more valuable and trustworthy than other sites is that the information they find can also be found through public resources, many of which are based on empirical research studies. I also like that they admit that the views and opinions expressed beyond scientific data are strictly their own and that they do not accept advertising or donations from pet food companies to support their website. This would make them less prone to writing biased reviews. I would rather read their reviews than get suckered in by a company who is trying to promote a specific brand rather than make recommendations specific to my animals' needs. But anyhow, I think it's important that you mentioned that ratings, regardless of where they are from, are not "one size fits all". One thing I would love to see is more vets who specialize in pet nutrition. When I was asking my vet about a diet for my senior dog who has an autoimmune disorder, they made a few recommendations but couldn't really answer why one food was better than the other, and I was left with more of a trial-and-error. It's definitely good to have other reputable resources as a guide. Thanks again for posting such a wonderful, engaging article. I'm sure it will help many pet owners! Voted up :)

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the votes up Tilsontitan, I can't decide if reading this hub could help more or confuse more people, but yes, at the end of the day the take out message is that we must conduct as much research, check our sources and really look at how our dogs are doing, and yes there are too many variables to say this "type of dog food is good for all dogs" otherwise by now, there would really be a universal dog food that all dogs did well on and there's not. This started as a simple article on grains and ended up in over 3000 words of one vet says this one vet says that.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Hello Amanda5577, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's so true that each dog needs different foods. Yes, I am familiar with Dog Food Advisor and some of my colleagues refer their clients to that website if they ask for info on nutrition. I am just a bit skeptical about the website as it's run by a dentist, a social media expert, research assistants and a veterinarian, yet, it's not said how much the vet contributes to it and if he's specialized in dog nutrition. And as you say, different dogs need different foods so their ratings can't provide a one-size-fits all recommendation. If you read through the reviews indeed, you'll often see mixed reviews, dogs thriving on some foods others almost dying on it! I looked up for instance the food I feed which is rated very highly but then in the reviews there are dogs with diarrhea (which can really occur with any dog who's switched over too fast) to dogs who got very sick and n particular a a dog who got very sick on it with blood values off the chart.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Bob, I really appreciate your insight on this topic. Yes, it's very interesting indeed even because it reflects what's happening with humans as well in many ways. It's awesome that you keep yourself so informed on the topic so you can help buyers make an informed decision. Karen Becker makes excellent points, and reveals an insider view of things that unfortunately shows that not always the experts in the field suggest what's best for the dog, nothing really new if we think of how doctors prescribe stuff just because the reps say it's good to do. Another great addition for dry skin is coconut oil, since giving it to my dogs, their coat is glossy and my dog hasn't had hot spots since. I am seeing now some grain-free manufacturers adding it in their ingredients-- at least the brand I buy adds it to their patties. Thanks for the votes up, best regards.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I agree with "different dogs, different foods". Not only allergies but the fact that different breeds are able to process foods in different ways.

      As always you provide a lot of back up and facts to support both sides. I guess the decision is up to us and our dogs. Certainly feeding grains or carbs to a dog who is allergic to them would be harmful.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • amanda5577 profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan

      I think it's important to distinguish that different dogs need different foods. I agree that protein is crucial for any dog, however, high protein diets can be detrimental for some dogs, especially older dogs or those prone to kidney disease. Dogs don't really get any nutritional benefit from carbohydrates, but many diets with carbohydrates are also high in fiber. Some dogs require high fiber diets in order to thrive. It's important to be aware of how your dog reacts to his or her food and adjust it accordingly. It's more important to keep an eye on what types of protein are being used. Protein or protein meal (e.g.- chicken or chicken meal) will be superior in quality to any kind of protein by-product. Some brands that use by-products are not considered fit for human consumption. Personally, I wouldn't feed my dog something that low-quality. It's always important to do research. I wrote a hub a while back about choosing food for your cat or dog, and one of my favorite resources I would recommend to any pet owner is which posts food recalls, brand reviews, and the science behind nutrition and values of different ingredients. Thanks for writing such a wonderful, informative hub. Pet nutrition is such an important topic and every bit of research helps.

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago

      Another terrific, well-researched hub Adrienne. I've been selling pet food at retail for 24 years, so this debate has always been with me. I've tried to learn as much as I can...considering the credentials of experts and so-called experts...and the bottom line from my vantage point is that you get credible arguments from credible sources on both sides of the debate. We have, and remain to be, not sure who's right.

      I recognized a lot of the names in your hub, one of which I accuse of writing puff pieces in support of grains, and seemingly in support of those major brands you elude to. In one of her articles on cats, she confirms that cats have no nutritional requirements for carbohydrates. And neither do dogs. That, to me, is the take away point.

      Dogs can digest carbs, but do they derive any benefit the way true omnivores do? I'm on the side that says probably not. Dogs regularly digest non-food items and pass them harmlessly onto the lawn. And just the fact that they eat them, doesn't automatically mean it's good for them. They'll eat cat poop, for crying out loud. Personally, I stand with Karen Becker's side of the debate.

      Over the years I've come to the conclusion that wheat and soy seem to contribute to dry ski in dogs and cats. When I've encouraged customers to stop giving their pets food with those grains, and to check the ingredient panel on treats, and to stop giving pizza crust, toast, etc. the skin almost always improved. I realize my data are simplistic and anecdotal...but undeniable in over two decades of dealing with the problem of dry, itchy skin in dogs.

      In pet food, carbs are indeed the glue that keeps you from bringing home a bag of crumbs. The low-end foods use wheat, corn, soy and grains that have been linked to skin and digestive issues. We do have a nutritional requirement for carbs and we can't digest corn very well. Dogs on those diets high in corn almost always produce large volumes of stool.

      The better foods use oatmeal, rice, barley and rye. They do have a little value beyond holding the kibble together...oatmeal has properties for skin (think of oatmeal shampoo), and barley and rye are, at least, low glycemic carbs which should be able to support stable blood sugar levels. And rice is simply a highly digestible carb. Dogs on diets with a lot of rice in them don't usually produce those large volumes of stool.

      In the grain-free foods, manufacturers commonly use peas, tapioca and potatoes as binders.

      My personal bottom line is that dogs don't require carbs and therefor derive little, if any, benefit from them. They simply tolerate them...except that wheat and soy tend to contribute to dry, itchy skin, which the dog makes worse through self-trauma.

      It is an interesting debate, though, no? Voted up, useful and interesting.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)