puppy with green background

What to feed your puppy: Knowing whether to go grain free

Dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages require different diets to ensure they stay healthy and strong; this is especially true of puppies who have a lot of growing to do in their first 12 to 18 months. For instance, whilst puppies need more protein to feed their growing muscles, an imbalance between protein and other nutrients can negatively affect their growth and development. Whilst owners have traditionally had to choose between feeding their puppy wet food or dry food, now there is also the option of grain-free food. Whilst it’s no coincidence that this trend appeared around the same time humans started asking for grain-free and gluten-free diets, grain-free can nevertheless be the right choice for some puppies.  


Can dogs digest grains?

The argument against grains in puppy food stems from the idea that our pets’ ancestors never used to eat grains, so it was thought that dogs don’t naturally eat them and aren’t capable of digesting them. This isn’t true. Dogs have adapted to be able to eat grains in their diet now – that’s what eating scraps off our tables for a few thousand years will do! Grains provide valuable energy to a growing puppy. Of course, whether with or without grains, it is essential to feed your puppy food which is carefully formulated to their life stage so they are getting the right amount of essential nutrients. If you are not sure what to feed your puppy, you can find some great choices here.  


Does gluten free mean grain free?

No. Gluten refers to a protein found in specific types of grain, e.g. barley, oats, rye and wheat. However, there are plenty of grains which don’t contain gluten such as maize and rice. In other words, all grain-free puppy foods are gluten free, but not all gluten-free puppy food is grain free.


puppies cuddling


Is grain-free food better for your puppy?

Provided you are not feeding your puppy food which is over-sufficient in one nutrient or under-sufficient in another, it is perfectly healthy, and often cheaper, to continue to feed him or her traditional food. If you’re unsure how much to feed your puppy, click here. Whilst grain-free food can be a little more expensive than traditional foods, it is equally as healthy for your dog and is particularly beneficial for puppies who are intolerant to grains. There has been speculation recently that grain free diets may contribute to canine heart conditions. However, this can sometimes be rectified by increasing the level of taurine in your dog’s food. Taurine has many functions, including strengthening heart muscle and preventing muscle degeneration. It can be found in meat and dairy, but not in grains or legumes. James Wellbeloved Grain Free dog foods are not legume based; instead they contain a mixture of potatoes and peas instead of grains. To keep your dog’s heart healthy, James Wellbeloved Grain Free dog food contains a blend of taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin and herbs which work together to protect your dog’s heart and joints.  


Is your puppy intolerant to grains?

Whilst it is often up to the owner’s preference whether they feed grain-based or grain-free diets, there is one instance when grain-free food is necessary for your puppy – if he or she shows signs of intolerances from eating traditional foods. Signs of a food intolerance include:

  • Chronic itchiness, chewing or licking of body parts
  • Sores or rashes
  • Inflamed skin
  • Bald patches or hair loss
  • Enduring flatulence, loose stool or vomiting

  Grains are one of the least likely allergens in dogs (the highest being beef and dairy). However, if your puppy is showing any or all of these symptoms and you have tried a variety of traditional foods, you might want to consider switching to a grain-free diet. For the majority of puppies, traditional food is perfectly healthy and if your dog enjoys it and is eating a balanced diet, then that is all that matters. However, for those of you with puppies that are showing signs of allergies, grain-free food represents a great option.