We all want to do what’s right by our furry friends, and their diet is no exception. Unfortunately (and somewhat surprisingly) the pet industry is no stranger to fad diets and trends, so with grain-free dog food becoming all the rage and raw diets rising in popularity, it’s hard for owners to know what to do to make sure their pets are not only healthy, but the happiest pooches around.
So how do you know you’re giving your dog the very best? That’s where we can help. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of feeding your dog a grain-free diet, compared with the raw food diet, and good old supermarket pet foods—to see how each of them stack up. The rest? Well, that’s up to you.
The History of Dog Food Diets
Prior to the domestication (and subsequent worship) of our furry friends, dogs would largely hunt smaller prey and scavenge for food. This resulted in a mostly carnivorous diet with some occasional plant/vegetable matter. No part of the animal went to waste, with dogs consuming everything including the skin, flesh, organs and bones. They’d even eat the gross (for us) stuff like faeces and regurgitated matter. The original no-waste champions, if you will.
Domestication brought about a big change, with pre-packaged dog food becoming readily available. Even as pets though, they’re highly opportunistic “hunters”—which is why you need to think twice before leaving any food within snatching reach of a hungry mouth. The second World War brought about lower-cost initiatives, like adding grains as a bulking agent to commercial dog food products. Fillers like corn, barley and wheat were added to keep costs down and make household food budgets stretch further in harsh economic times.
And it was okay, for the most part. Not optimal, but needs must in tough times. But as we become savvier shoppers, and learn more about what goes into our diets, it follows that we’d become choosier about what we feed our pets. We want the best for them, after all.
Signs your dog may need a change of diet
With dogs, an optimal diet will show up in more than just their happy tummies—but so will a poor diet. If your dog’s dietary needs aren’t being met, it’ll typically show up in some of these ways:
Low energy levels for their age and breed
A change (for the worse) in behaviour
Dull, lifeless looking coat
Fur loss and/or skin irritation
Significant weight loss or gain
Loose poop and/or excessive gas
Suddenly refusing food, even when they’re hungry
Doggy diets examined:
If you’re considering a change in your pet’s diet, it’s advisable to do some research to make sure you’re making an informed choice. Here’s our take on the most common options available.
The Raw Dog Food Diet
You’ve probably seen videos of very pampered pooches with (what looks like) a million-pound diet floating around social media. Steak, organs, chicken necks, sardines, raw eggs, veggies, cheese and bones, all drizzled with an omega-rich oil. Looks more like someth
ing you’d get at a new-age fine dining restaurant, not something you’d give your dog of an evening.
Pros: When done correctly, this is a great diet for your dog’s stomach, teeth, and closely mimics the “ideal” food they’d get in the wild (provided they’re good hunters, which most pets are absolutely not). Plus, the plating and feeding process makes excellent content for social media if you fancy your pet an influencer. Check out Remi the Cane Corso and Odin & Hera (pictured) for some serious viral content (quality drooling comes free).
Cons: suffice to say this diet isn’t for everyone—not only is it highly labour intensive, but it’s expensive to do properly. You also need a higher than average knowledge of your pet’s individual requirements to formulate the optimal balance of vitamins, minerals, protein and fats for their age, weight, breed and activity level. We need a cheeky nap just thinking about it.
Commercial dog food
You know the names, they’re everywhere. Big brands with huge marketing budgets, all promising quality nutritional benefits and “premium ingredients” for your pet. But do they deliver on their promises? Sadly, most of the time, no.
Pros: It’s cheap, available everywhere, and you don’t have to put a lot of thought into the selection. Just grab and go—great if you’re on a budget or trying to feed a lot of tummies for as low a cost as possible.
Cons: There have been a lot of sacrifices made in the name of mass production, and unfortunately our pets suffer the consequences. These foods are highly processed, tend to lose a lot of their nutrients by the time they make it to your kitchen, and have a higher glycaemic index, leading to spikes in your pet’s blood sugar—with a crash following soon after. They also tend to aggravate sensitive tummies, leading to a host of unpleasant problems for everyone. Ever shared a bed with a gassy dog? We’ll say no more.
Grain-Free Dog Food Diet
Truth be told, this sounds like more of a fad than it actually is. It’s also worth noting that grain-free does not equal carb-free. Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy canine diet, but grain-free foods tend to increase the meat content, and include lower glycaemic starches and carbs like sweet potato and lentils. This allows them to provide the optimal balance of nutrients and minerals, in a format that’s both affordable and palatable for pets. No turned-up noses here, thank you.
Pros: This is an excellent diet option for pets with poorly tummies and food intolerances because the lack of cheaper “filler” content means it usually provides a more digestible meal. It’s also usually created in smaller batches by independent distributors, retaining more of the nutritional benefits so they actually reach your dog. In our experience, dogs who eat a grain-free diet have shinier coats, happier temperaments, and better energy levels. Better poops too, if that’s your motivator.
Cons: There are poor quality grain-free foods on the market, just like with human food. It all comes down to knowing who to buy from, making sure they use quality suppliers and products, and introducing them properly to ensure your dog’s tummy adjusts slowly. At Your Pets Pals we source our pet food ingredients from sustainable UK farms and fisheries, and work closely with our trusted suppliers to ensure quality, nutritionally balanced pet food that meets your dog’s needs. Also, with gentler ingredients on the tummy, there’ll be no more blaming bad smells on the dog. Hey, you can’t have everything.
Interested in trialling your dog on a grain-free diet? Try our grain-free dog food starter packs here.
We always recommend consulting your veterinarian before proceeding with any major dietary or lifestyle change for your pet. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org