veterinary myth busters

Veterinary Myth Busters: The Grain Free Food Myth

Hello and welcome back to the second episode of a mini-blog series I am hosting called #VeterinaryMythBusters. Today, we are going to be debunking the myth that grain free foods are the best foods for dogs. Veterinary clients have been saying this for the past few years, and most veterinarians agree that this is a trend with very done in the way of reputable research to validate this point.

Yesterday, my fiancé, Jen, and I went to a popular pet supply chain to compare food prices, ingredients, and packaging of 5 popular pet food brands. What we found, and my analysis of those foods, is available in a free resource that you can get by clicking here . The summary? Grain free products, Non-GMO products, and self-proclaimed “premium” products are a marketing scam meant to guilt pet owners into over spending on pet foods. Based on my research while making this blog post, I stand by what I have always told pet owners who ask me what they should be feeding their pets:

“If you are spending more money on a bag of food than what you would be spending on Hill’s Science Diet, Purina Pro Plan, or Royal Canin, you are spending too much money on things that do not positively impact your pet’s health.”


Now, before I really dive in, I need to have a couple of disclaimers to protect me from the long arm of lawyers that these very clever pet food companies employ:

  1. My online analysis is not meant to replace advice by your family veterinarian. I encourage you to visit them to talk about what food they recommend.
  2. Not all pets do well on the same type of food. There are some pets that need grain free food, but this encompasses the vast minority (estimate less than 5-10%). Certain breeds (such as Irish Setters) can inherit a form of celiac disease, and they obviously benefit from a grain free food. If your veterinarian has advised you to feed grain free, don’t stop without consulting them first.
  3. I am not a veterinary nutritionist, but I am a veterinarian that believes that by feeding a nutritious (but reasonably priced) food, pet owners can spend their resources more wisely to enrich their pet’s life.
  4. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Now, to the meat of this post: Is corn bad for dogs?

Firstly, corn is much more than a filler. It is very nutritious, with about 70% carbohydrates, 9% protein, and 4.5% oil. It is a good source of protein that contains about 74% of essential amino acids. It also contains high levels of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants. These are very beneficial to the skin, coat, and GI tract of animals. Although it is not the most digestible source of protein, dogs can digest corn to a degree that makes it nutritious to them. Plant proteins aren’t as digestible as meat proteins for all meat eating animals (including humans), but grain is much less expensive and environmentally friendly to product than meat protein. When fed to dogs in combination with other proteins (such as soy, wheat, and meat protein), corn is a valuable part of any dog food formula.

Secondly, most dogs with food allergy are not allergic to corn. The most common food allergens in dogs, in order, are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb/mutton, soy, pork, rabbit and fish. Your pet is much more likely to be allergic to meat, fish, or dairy protein than he is to any grains.

Lastly, if you have an itchy dog, or a dog with chronic diarrhea, the type of food *may* be a contributing problem, but that is unlikely. Most itchy dogs have ectoparasites or other allergic skin diseases including allergies to pollen, mosquitos, and dust. If your dog has diarrhea, the culprit could be internal parasites, bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, eating people food or bad treats… the list goes on. Switching your pet’s diet without consulting your vet first can actually worsen these problems, so please do not switch to grain free unless recommended by your veterinarian.

Thanks for reading my post on grain free pet food. I hope you enjoyed this episode of #VeterinaryMythBusters. Questions? Concerns? Comments? Join the Conversation below.

My question for you: What do you look for in a pet food? Have you had any positive or negative experiences with certain foods?

References & Resources
Conference Proceedings:  Wild West Veterinary Conference. “Nutrition Myths and Raw Food Diets,” Ann Wortinger.
“Grainless Diets: Are they better?” Susan G Wynn, DVM.

3 comments on “Veterinary Myth Busters: The Grain Free Food Myth

  1. Pingback: Four BIG Reasons why you need to spay your female dog – Your Pet's Best Life

  2. Pingback: What food should I feed my dog? – Katie Hogan, DVM

  3. Pingback: 3 Secrets to Help You Save on Pet Care and Veterinary Bills  – Katie Hogan, DVM

Leave a Reply