Grain-free dog food has gained popularity as a perceived healthy choice for dogs. However, recent research reveals hidden risks associated with these diets. It turns out that whole grains can be a beneficial addition to most dogs’ diets. If you’re considering adding grains to your dog’s food, here are five expert tips to guide you.
Why is Avoiding Grain-Free Dog Food Important?
In June 2019, the FDA highlighted a possible link between grain-free dog food and heart disease. Dogs on grain-free diets were found to have a higher risk of dilated cardiomyopathy. Contrary to common belief, most food allergies in dogs are not related to grains. Additionally, studies indicate that whole grains offer health benefits for dogs. As such, most dogs don’t require a grain-free diet and would actually benefit from the inclusion of grains.
The 5 Ways to Add Grains to Your Dog’s Diet
1. Assess the Need for Grains
Adding grains to your dog’s diet is not as simple as mixing in some oatmeal. It’s crucial to ensure that your dog’s food remains nutritionally balanced. Many grain-free foods are already high in carbohydrates from sources like potatoes and legumes. It’s still unclear whether the lack of grains or the common grain substitutes contribute to heart issues. Nonetheless, there are times when adding grains can be beneficial.
Reviewing your dog food’s label is key to understanding whether adding grains is necessary. Ideally, dog food should contain no more than 50% carbohydrates, with protein accounting for 10-20% and fat for 5-10%. If your dog food exceeds 30% protein, incorporating grains might be advantageous.
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2. Choose the Right Grain
Several grains are commonly used in dog food, including wheat, rice, corn, barley, sorghum, millet, and quinoa. Each grain has its own unique health benefits. It’s important to consider your dog’s potential sensitivities when selecting a grain. Wheat and corn are common allergens for some dogs.
Consider the ease of access and preparation when choosing a grain. Brown rice and oatmeal are excellent options due to their health benefits, availability, and ease of preparation. Brown rice is easily digestible and rich in B vitamins and fiber. Oats are low in gluten, high in protein, and suitable for dogs with blood sugar or cholesterol issues. Oatmeal is a convenient way to include oats in your dog’s diet. However, feel free to experiment with different whole grains as well.
3. Prepare the Grains
Once you have chosen your grain, it’s essential to properly prepare it. Most grains need to be cooked to ensure easy digestion. You can cook grains similarly to how you prepare them for humans. For example, boiling rice in water is a common method. However, avoid adding ingredients like fats or dairy products during preparation. If you decide to add corn to your dog’s diet, opt for plain grits made from cornmeal rather than cornbread.
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4. Incorporate Grains into Your Dog’s Food
Once the grains are prepared, you can start adding them to your dog’s food. If your dog eats wet food, simply stir in a few spoonfuls of grains. Grains can also be mixed into dry food as a topper. Some dogs may even enjoy eating the grains plain. Pay attention to your dog’s preferences and adjust accordingly.
5. Find the Right Balance
When adding grains to your dog’s diet, it’s crucial to consider their nutritional needs. Start by adding small amounts, usually a tablespoon or two at most. Dogs usually don’t require large amounts of grains due to their high carb content. Keep an eye on the additional calories and carbs the grains introduce into your dog’s meals. Ensure that your dog’s protein and fat intake remain adequate while keeping carb intake in check.
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Adding grains to your dog’s food may not be necessary for every owner. However, in certain cases, it can be a fantastic way to supplement a protein-rich diet and provide additional nutrients. We hope these expert tips will help you determine whether incorporating grains is the right choice for your dog.
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