If you’re thinking about changing your dog’s diet, make sure to work with your vet. This is even more important if your dog has chronic health problems or a weak digestive system.
Several years ago, we put our elderly dog on a grain-free diet. At the time, he was 11. It was clear he was failing. He had a difficult time getting up from the floor. His legs would shake. His thirst had also increased.
Almost immediately, his health started to improve. Since then, we pretty much feed him grain-free food. Occasionally, I’ll give him a bit of potatoes. Or, I’ll give him a little gluten-free pasta. (One or two spirals.) But, other than that, he’s thriving without grains.
Unfortunately, we fell into the same trap as many other pet owners. We assumed the inexpensive dried kibble sold in those big bags would supply all his nutritional needs. We thought it was good for him. Now that I’ve learned more about feeding dogs, I realize it wasn’t. Dog food that contains corn as the first ingredient is not the best choice. Aside from the fact that dogs in the wild don’t eat a lot of corn, there’s another problem. Nearly all of the corn sold in the United States is genetically modified.
In one study, rats fed genetically modified grains developed enormous tumors. So, if rats don’t do well with GMO’s, perhaps they’re bad for dogs as well. At the very least, it’s something to think about. Did you know that half of all dogs who reach the ripe old age of 10 are diagnosed with cancer?
Costs of a Grain Free Diet for Dogs
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In the beginning, it cost a little more to put our dog on a grain-free diet. That’s because we fed him a high-quality grain-free kibble called Taste of the Wild. Buffalo, lamb and chicken are the first ingredients. It contains no corn. But it does contain vegetables and antioxidants, including blueberries and raspberries. This was far superior to the kibble we were feeding him.
Our dog thrived on this formula, probably for about a year. Maybe it was a little less than a year. But he did very well on Taste of the Wild until he totally lost his taste for it. I do recommend this brand of kibble, if kibble is what you choose to feed your dog. If you can’t find it locally, it’s available online.
Grain Free Diet for Dogs Pros and Cons
Once our dog lost his taste for kibble altogether, we decided to move on. Our choices were people food or canned wet food. In the meantime, I’d been reading up on natural health for dogs. I began to realize that people food wasn’t such a bad choice, after all.
So I made a point of saving table scraps for my dog. I also realized that some people advocate feeding dogs raw food. Once I became comfortable with the idea, I made sure to throw a few chunks of raw chicken in Buddy’s bowl whenever I was cutting a chicken breast. Instead of putting the chewy, fatty parts in the trash, I was able to feed them to our dog.
I’ve been giving our dog raw meat for years, with no seemingly ill affects. I probably wouldn’t do this if I bought chicken raised with antibiotics, just in case it contained a strain of super powered bacteria. But I buy organic chicken, so this isn’t a factor. It works for our dog, and this meat is free. (It would otherwise go into the trash.) But check with your own vet before feeding your dog raw meat.
Cheap Grain Free Food for Dogs
By far, the cheapest way to feed your dog grain free food is to make sure to save table scraps. (You also have to be very careful to not give your dog onions, garlic, shallots or other foods he or she shouldn’t eat.) Our dog is a medium-size Cocker spaniel. So if I’m cutting a pound of chicken breasts, the parts I would normally throw away will equal about half a meal.
If everyone in the family works together to save table scraps, there will probably be enough for a full meal for the average medium-size dog. Dogs also love leftovers that would otherwise get thrown away. My own dog loves sweet potato skins. Actually, it seems to be one of his favorite foods, along with cucumber peels. (However, I’d only give him organic cucumber peels. Conventional cucumbers may be waxed, and pesticides will concentrate in the wax.)
Right now, our dog is 15 1/2. At this point in his life, we’ve decided to totally indulge him. He still needs to be on a grain-free diet. We buy him two 1-pound packages of ground turkey a week. (My husband cooks it, since I can’t stand the smell.) We also supplement with 1 to 1.5 cans of wet grain-free dog food a day. These cost about $2 a can.
I realize this diet is more expensive than keeping our dog on grain-based kibble. But I honestly don’t think we’d still have our dog today if we did that.