Selecting healthy and nutritious food for your dog can be cumbersome. The diverse dog breeds we see today result from selective breeding and crossbreeding over centuries to achieve the desired size, trait, and temperament. Humans started domesticating dogs some 30,000 years ago. Needless to say, their dietary habits have also changed over time, although there have been little or no changes in the fundamental constituents of their diet.
So then, Can grain-free dog food cause diarrhea?
Well, not really. On the contrary, a grain-free diet has been shown to prevent diarrhea. There are conflicting schools of thought on why grain-free food is bad or good for your dog.
Before we get into it, we first have to understand what grain-free dog food is and what causes diarrhea in dogs.
What Constitutes Grain-Free Dog Food?
Just as the term implies, there are no grains like rice, wheat, millet, oats, soya, etc., in grain-free dog food. They are entirely devoid of all grains and only contain other dietary products such as meat, eggs, and other dairy products. In recent years, grain-free dog food products have gained popularity among pet owners. Today, you can find a variety of products in the market to choose from.
Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
It always concerns us when our furry four-legged friends get sick. Some of the reasons that cause diarrhea in dogs are as follows
- Ingesting toxic food, water, or objects
This is one of the most common reasons for diarrhea in dogs. Dogs are naturally curious and, more than often, rummage through the garbage sites or waste bins, eating and drinking things that may be hazardous for their health. Such habits can upset the stomach and digestion, and it’s usually short-lived. However, if the symptoms persist, it’s best to consult a vet to get the situation assessed, as it may even be fatal sometimes.
- Change in diet
Sudden change in the diet could be another cause of diarrhea in dogs. Change in diet should be gradual to let the body take time to adapt to the new food. It’s advised to mix the new food with the old food and observe how the dog responds to it first. If it goes well, keep gradually increasing the portion of the new food till it gets adapted to the new diet. An allergic reaction to some food can also cause diarrhea.
- Reaction to certain drugs
Dogs under certain medications can also suffer from diarrhea. Some antibiotics, analgesics, and drugs prescribed to treat heart problems in dogs are known to cause diarrhea. If your dog is under medical treatment, talk with the vet to consider prescribing an alternate medication plan. Drugs such as Meloxicam, Metacam, and Rimadyl, etc., are known to induce diarrhea in dogs.
Animals cope with stress in a variety of ways. Sometimes dogs may experience diarrhea as a result of stress. Moving into a new environment, meeting new people, introducing a new pet/s, having the first car ride, a visit to the vet, etc., maybe some of the reasons to feel stressed. It may last for a few hours or few days at most and usually isn’t something to be much worried about.
Another cause of diarrhea in dogs is the presence of parasites like tapeworm, hookworm, giardia, etc. Apart from diarrhea, other symptoms include weight loss, swollen bellies, cough, lethargy, etc. Ensure to deworm your dogs at 2-3 weeks old and follow up with the deworming schedule as advised by the veterinarian. Spoilt food and drinks, garbage disposal sites, sewers, puddles, etc., are breeding grounds for parasites. Make sure to keep your dog away from unhygienic places.
- Medical condition
Underlying medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, blocking of the gastrointestinal tract, liver or renal diseases, etc., could be some reasons for diarrhea in dogs. The help of an experienced professional must be sought to diagnose the cause and initiate proper treatment swiftly and accurately.
Having established that a grain-free diet doesn’t lead to diarrhea, let’s delve in and weigh the pros and cons of a grain-free diet for our furry friends!
Top 5 Benefits of a Grain-Free Diet
- Better Digestion
Grain-free food diets for dogs contain high content of protein and low carbohydrates. Hence, they are easier to digest. Grains in the form of wheat, rice, barley, oats, etc., have higher carbohydrates content, and as such, this results in indigestion.
Carbohydrates are digested with the help of an enzyme called amylase. Studies show that amylase is not present in adequate quantities in dogs. As a result, breaking down grains is not easily achieved in a dog’s digestive system. Consequently, it leads to gastrointestinal problems, because of which a grain-free diet is encouraged.
- Improvement of bad breath
Carbohydrates from grains are considered one of the major causes of the foul smell of a dog’s breath. The small particle residues of carbohydrates in a dog’s teeth are acted upon by bacteria in its mouth, resulting in a foul odor.
Bad breath often associated with dogs can be alleviated by switching to a grain-free diet promoting better oral health.
- Healthier coat/fur
Dull coat/fur is a common occurrence in dogs and is often a dog parents’ concern that can be improved by switching to a healthy diet.
For healthy coat and skin health, a grain-free diet is recommended. Grain-free food diets which are rich in protein are good sources for obtaining omega-3 fatty acids. And this leads to thicker, shinier, and healthier coats with a reduction in shedding too! Proper nutrition and promotion of sebum production are achieved by the consumption and utilization of these fatty acids.
- Great for pregnant and lactating dogs
Pregnancy is a crucial stage in any dog’s life. Not only are they put under tremendous stress and duress, but increased demands on the body are exerted too. The pregnant or lactating dog has to remain as healthy as possible to provide and support the litter dependent on it.
A high protein diet is recommended to meet the proper nutritional requirements of the pregnant or lactating dog. As such, grain-free food serves as a good source for providing nutrients and energy required for the mother dog and the puppies under its care.
- Increased level of energy
Energy is mainly obtained from the utilization of proteins. Hence, food free of grains serves as an excellent source of energy. Grain-free diets are protein-rich and have an overall improvement in dogs’ health, ultimately leading to increased energy and activity levels in dogs.
5 Significant Drawbacks of on a Grain-Free Diet
- High carbohydrate content
A grain-free diet doesn’t always imply that it has low carbohydrate content. Often, grains are replaced with other carbohydrates containing foods like quinoa, peas, lentils, potatoes, etc., which can hold a higher content of carbohydrates.
The high content of soluble carbohydrates presents a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of dogs. Excess levels of carbohydrates can lead to several health ailments such as obesity, arthritis, food intolerance, etc.
As such, it is essential to carefully read the ingredient list before purchasing a grain-free food supplement.
- Not a suitable diet for aged dogs
Since gluten-free diets are protein-rich from where energy is derived, it is not ideal for introducing it to older dogs with less activity. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity and the associated problems that it entails.
- High price/Expensive
Another downside of a grain-free diet is its cost. Grain-free food costs twice the amount of grain-based foods. As such, introducing your dog to a diet free from grains will not go easy on your wallet.
- Dog’s food preferences
While some dogs gradually shift to grain-free foods with no fuss, the same doesn’t apply to all. Some dogs are just picky eaters and refuse to eat their grain-free meals. In such cases, changing its diet may never happen.
- Associated heart disease
Studies have shown that pets on a grain-free diet exhibit a higher risk of developing a fatal heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This disease weakens the heart muscle and decreases its ability to pump blood and thus, leads to heart failure.
Breeds larger in size, such as Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Doberman, etc., are predisposed to suffer from DCM compared to smaller breeds. As such, if you are feeding your dogs only grain-free foods, it can increase their chances of contracting it. Therefore, grain-free dog food with legumes such as peas, lentils, etc., are the primary concern of ingredients and should be looked out for.
It’s understandable for pet parents to be a little apprehensive while switching to a new dietary course for their pets, and asking can grain-free dog food cause diarrhea is perfectly reasonable.
Ill-informed or misinformed choices and decisions can prove detrimental to a pet’s health and wellbeing. Hence, as responsible pet owners, one should make informed and educated decisions to choose the best product for their pets.
Having gone through the article, the next time you visit the store to get pet supplies, you will already know which product will be best suited for your dog. Taking the extra effort to read the ingredients and nutritional chart or content can make all the difference!
Some of My Favorite Products For Dog Owners
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If you’re looking for the most up-to-date recommendations, check out my recommended products section that I’ve created to help every dog owner!