Can Dogs Digest Grains? 5 Grain Free Dog Food Myths

Older golden retriever with a gray face standing in a wheat field

If you look online there are a ton of high end dog foods that are marketed at “grain free”. You can even find a few of these types of dog foods in mass market stores now.

And like any trend, many myths surround grain free dog food.

You MAY find that a grain-free diet may be best for your dog. But it’s not something to take lightly.

And you want to know everything you can before you switch your pup.

Here are five myths I found in my research.

Myth 1 – Wild Dogs Don’t Eat Grains, So Domestic Dogs Can’t Digest Grains

Wolf dog standing in a wheat field

The truth is, wild dogs and wolves DO eat grains.

Grains are a very small portion of their diet. But they do eat them.

First, being hunters, dogs primarily eat meat in the wild. But, they also eat the stomach contents of their meals. The animals they eat in the wild are usually grain eaters.

Can dogs digest grains? Yes! dogs do eat and process grains just fine.

Some wild canines even deliberately chew on grains for energy.

On the other hand, dogs do not need a lot of grains. And many commercial dog foods use too much grain for filler.

Carbs are absolutely necessary to human health. And for canine health. Carbohydrates are fuel.

And while the body can create fuel out of proteins and fats, it’s not as easy, and it’s not the same type of fuel.

In fact, the brain needs carbs more than it needs any other nutrient.

People who go carb free tend to suffer varying degrees forgetfulness and disorientation for this reason.

And some vets report similar problems in dogs on grain free diets. The function of carbohydrates in animals – especially dogs – is the same as humans. They give dogs energy and strong brain function.

Plus, a grain free diet isn’t truly a no carb diet. These foods substitute potatoes, yams, tapioca, or sweet potatoes.

Which brings me to myth 3.

Well, not true at all. You can purchase gluten-free dog food. But it’s not the same as grain free.

Some of the grain substitutes contain gluten >> green peas for example.

sack of green peas spilled on burlap

You probably didn’t know they contain gluten. Now, it’s just a small amount. But it’s there.

This may or may not be true.

The problem here is that most dogs have never been exposed to tapioca.So, there’s a high risk of allergy. Tapioca for dogs isn’t always the best bet.

Plus, tapioca isn’t nutritionally dense.

And it has a HIGH glycemic index… leading to concerns about diabetes.

On the other hand, there is not usually a LOT of tapioca in the food, so the overall glycemic index number isn’t usually bad.

Looking at potatoes and sweet potatoes, it’s not much better. Potato allergies are also common.

And vets see more yeast infections in dogs who eat a potato based food. Potatoes also have an extremely high glycemic index.

So, the concern about diabetes is here, too.

This goes for both potatoes and sweet potatoes. In the end, the critical thing to remember is that every dog is different.

Most dogs are at their best on a good quality traditional food. Some dogs do better on a gluten-free diet.

Others dogs do their best on a grain free diet. And still others need a diet balanced so carefully that it can’t be categorized.

The key is to weigh your options carefully >> And to consult your vet.

Dog licking veterinarian  on the face

For more information on the health and safety of your dog, read our post Reasons People feed their Pups Grain Free and 5 chews to NEVER give your dog.

Please keep in mind that we may receive a small commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.