Is Grain-Free the Right Option for My Dog?

labrador siteBecause of all the buzz about grain-free dog food, we get that question a lot at Powell Veterinary Service. And the answer is a very ambiguous “maybe.” Why the ambiguity? Many dogs do just fine on a pet food that contains grains. Some even do better eating a diet with grains because of their high-fiber content.

However, some dogs do experience problems eating grain. They may be hypersensitive to certain grains, like wheat and soy, and develop allergic reactions when they eat them. Food allergies are the result of an over-reaction of your dog’s immune system to certain proteins in your dog’s food. Proteins are found not just in the meats in the dog food, but also the grains and vegetables. The top allergy-provoking ingredients are: beef, dairy, wheat, chicken, egg and soy. Therefore, switching to a grain-free diet may or may not solve the allergy problem.

So how do you know if your furry friend might have a food allergy? Signs to look for include:

  • Itchy, red skin or a dull coat
  • Chronic ear inflammation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Shaking head or rubbing it on the carpet

Those symptoms are common indicators of many conditions, so owners don’t typically suspect food allergies. One reason is because their pup has been eating the same food for years. But food sensitivities usually develop and worsen over time.

The first step in diagnosing and treating a food allergy is to visit your veterinarian to rule out other conditions. If a food allergy is suspected, the next step is to determine which substance or substances are causing the allergy—and that can be a long, frustrating process. You can start by switching to a commercial hypo-allergenic dog food. If the symptoms improve in a few days, go back to your dog’s regular food. If symptoms reappear, you know your dog probably has a food allergy, but you don’t know which substance in the food is causing it.

Next, you could try a grain-free food to see whether symptoms improve. The results will tell you whether switching to a grain-free diet will help relieve your furry friend’s food allergies. If you find that eliminating grain doesn’t help, you’ll need to do food elimination testing to find the culprit. Your veterinarian can help set up a plan to systematically find the allergy-provoking protein. Do not do it alone as you could endanger your pet’s health by not providing essential nutrients.

If you live in Kersey or the surrounding area and suspect a food allergy, call Powell Veterinary Service, 970-352-9164. Together, we can determine the best diet for your canine companion.