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Grain Free vs. Grain-Inclusive Pet Food

Grain Free vs. Grain-Inclusive Pet Food

Dog and cat eating food from a bowl
The pet food industry has seen rapid advancement in the last few years. Some would say we are lucky to have so much selection, but are we really? With so many options available, finding healthy, complete, and balanced options can be challenging. By now, most of us know that by-products, artificial flavours, and preservatives, add little to no nutritional value to the food and additionally can cause many health issues. One of the most common questions from dog owners is whether to go with a grain free or grain inclusive formula. To help you determine which diet is best suited for your beloved pet, we’ve highlighted some of the benefits of each option.

Grain Free Dog Foods

How do I know if my dog needs a grain free diet? Very active dogs can benefit from a higher protein diet containing mostly meat and some fruits and vegetables. This diet is also recommended for dogs with skin allergies, frequent eye and ear infections or certain stomach sensitivities like excessive gas or runny stool. Keep in mind that not all grain free products are created equally. When a food contains no grain, in consequence, it must have more of another ingredient. A high quality product will have higher meat inclusion; meaning that most, if not all of the protein content is derived from meat and not a substitute. Even though this diet does not contain grain of any kind, it is important to know that a very small amount of a binding agent is always needed to make kibble; tapioca and lentils are great natural binding agents that are not considered grains. Some fruits and vegetables will also be added for fiber and antioxidants. These should be found in smaller quantities, always listed as middle or towards the bottom of the ingredient list on the label.


puppy eating dog foodThe term “meal” is often confusing for pet owners. For most reputable companies the term meal is a good thing. It means the moisture has been extracted from the meat to make a high quality concentrate that has more nutrients per serving.  This is only true if the meal contains no by-products.  Always make sure the meal is protein specific, such as “chicken meal” or “lamb meal” and not generic such as “meat meal” or “animal meal”, which by definition could contain any species of animal. Foods that are nutrient dense are said to have a higher kilocalorie count or Kcal. Kcal is a measurement of how much energy is present in a given amount of food. So while the price of grain free kibble will usually be higher than a grain inclusive kibble, the cost will be partially offset by the fact that your dog will require smaller servings which will result in you buying it less often.

Grain-Inclusive Dog Food

Occasionally, dogs with certain stomach sensitivities find a grain free diet too rich and need some grain in the food to ease their digestion. Also pets that are not very active may benefit from a grain inclusive diet. Grains can be good as long as they are present in the food in a smaller amount, it should never be the first ingredient in a kibble. For some dogs, grain can be the cause of certain health issues like skin irritations, allergies, eye and ear infections, digestive issues, among others. Grains like wheat, corn and soy are just fillers that spike sugar levels and offer little nutritional value to the food. These fillers have given all grains a bad reputation. Fortunately not all grains are the same and don’t deserve to be grouped in the same category. It is important to understand and recognize which grains are healthy additions to the food and which ones aren’t. Often customers want to feed a grain free kibble because they don’t want to feed any wheat. While feeding grain free is a way to avoid wheat, there are certain grain inclusive foods that do not contain any wheat. Grains like oatmeal, barley, brown and wild rice are excellent grains that help bind the kibble together while keeping it healthy and safe to feed every day. These grains are high in protein and fiber and low on the glycemic index, making them a smart choice in a grain inclusive diet. Because this diet will have slightly less meat, the price point will be lower, while still being a very good quality kibble.

For Our Feline Friends

When it comes to cats it’s a little more tricky because cats are what we call obligate carnivores. The dictionary definition of obligate means “necessary/essential.” Combining obligate with carnivore is pretty clear. Cats must eat meat, it is biologically necessary. All good quality cat food will be higher in protein and meat inclusion. Most good quality cat food will automatically be grain free and the ones that are good quality that still contain some grains will be in very small amounts. Feeding a cat kibble that contains little to no meat protein will affect their quality of life. Always read the labels to ensure that your cat food is nutritionally dense.

We carry loads of food options for your growing puppy or mature kitty. Stop by and work with us to find the best food for your happy pet today.



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