The food you give your dog should resemble its ancestors' original diet in the wild as closely as possible. Experts believe this means reducing the amount of grain in the diet, both to help improve digestibility and to reduce the risk of food or skin allergies. Various health conditions also respond to dietary changes, with arthritis being one condition that may be exacerbated by a diet high in grains.
Dog Food Ingredients
Commercial dog food brands are required by law to list the ingredients on the packaging. Items are listed according to the quantity of the product in the food, starting with the ingredient with the highest quantity. Real meat should be the main ingredient, but most foods sold in stores begin the list with corn, crude fiber or other grains. In the best case scenario, this means the main component in the food is good quality grain; in the worst cases, these are pseudonyms for poor-quality corn husks and wheat chaff that the dog may struggle to digest.
Time to Change
Foods with high grain content are designed to make the dog feel full. These "fillers," while high in fiber, do nothing for the dog's intestinal tract, and are lacking in nutritional value. This results in the dog's system needing to eliminate waste more often. One way to recognize when it's time to change dog food is when your dog has to make stool more than two or three times a day. An allergic skin reaction or a "hot spot" is also frequently attributable to a diet rich in grains.
Buy Grain-Free Food
Change to a dog food that uses less grain and more digestible carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, pasta or rice. Grain-free food usually costs more, because the cheap grain has been replaced by more expensive ingredients. Many reputable dog food manufacturers offer kibble and canned dog food that has meat listed first on the ingredients, and which state on the packaging that they are grain-free. Check the fat content of grain-free commercial foods because fat increases in relation to the higher protein content in the food.
Cook for Your Dog
An alternative to commercial products is to cook the dog's food yourself. You can ensure that you use only the best quality, natural brown rice and pasta, and meat fit for human consumption. Add fresh, fiber-rich vegetables such as butternut, pumpkin, carrots or green beans. A home-cooked, grain-free diet provides the best possible food for your dog.
Switch to Raw Food
The Biologically Approved Raw Food (BARF) diet is gaining popularity, not least because it is grain-free. Also referred to as Bones and Raw Food, it was introduced by veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst in 1985. The diet is based on feeding balanced amounts of raw foods such as meat, bones, fruit and vegetables.
Start your dog on its new grain-free diet with a mixture of 25 percent of the new food and 75 percent of the old, gradually increasing the quantity of new food in the mix over a period of a week or two.