The trend towards natural dog food is more evident every day. Among them are Grain Free diets. What exactly are they and what benefits do they bring to dogs?
There has been a clear shift towards natural pet food and cereal-free dog food. Among them are grain-free foods. What are they exactly, and what benefits do they have for dogs?
What is natural dog food?
Natural dog food is food made without any artificial ingredients (preservatives, colourings, flavourings or artificial antioxidants), either in the raw materials or added during the manufacturing process. In other words, it is made exclusively from natural ingredients which originate from natural sources.
As well as containing natural ingredients, the basic premise of natural pet food is to respect the fundamental nutritional principle of canines: animal-based protein is always the main ingredient. This can then be mixed with limited other ingredients (to adapt to the dog’s gut flora), in balanced proportions that are appropriate for dogs.
What is grain-free dog food?
Grain-free dog food is dog food that contains no cereals. Diets based on grain-free food could be recommended for all kinds of dogs, but particularly for those with symptoms of food intolerances or allergies.
From wolves to dogs: domestication has changed the digestive systems of dogs
All dogs, from the tiniest Chihuahua to the largest Mastiff, are descended from a common ancestor shared with wolves. Recent studies show that the domestication of dogs occurred more than 12,000 years ago in Europe and Asia simultaneously, making it as the longest history of coevolution ever recorded.
Today, dogs and wolves are still surprisingly close, genetically speaking: their genes are 99.8% identical, and the two species can breed together. The process of domestication has led to certain changes in the dog’s digestive system. Their natural preferences are still very similar to those of the wolf, however: animal protein is their favoured ingredient.
In 2013, the journal Nature published a study by the geneticist Erik Axelsson from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, which compared the genome of 60 dogs from 14 different breeds to 12 wolves. The study found that dogs have more genetic capacity to break down carbohydrates in their digestive system than wolves. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is probably because the earliest ancestors, who would later evolve into dogs, began to feed on leftover food from human settlements, which was rich in carbohydrates (such as potatoes, grains and legumes. From then on, many dogs have been fed on our leftovers.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop dogs from having a preference for carnivorous diets similar to those of their wolf ancestors. For that reason, grain-free dog food is an ideal choice, provided that it has animal protein as its main ingredient.
Benefits of grain-free, cereal-free dog food
There are many benefits of grain-free, cereal-free dog food and it is good to be aware of them so that you can decide whether to opt for this type of natural dog food.
Less food intolerance: as is the case with humans, in some cases grains can cause food intolerance or allergies. Grain-free dog food offers a cereal-free alternative for dogs that suffer from this kind of problem. A diet adapted to a dog’s nature: as we have seen, is one of many options for a high-quality canine diet, totally adapted to a dog’s nature. The main ingredient in this food is still animal-based protein: the foundation of any canine diet.
Grain-free food for dogs that want optimum nutrition
Just because a dog food is grain-free, it does not necessarily mean that it is good quality. It’s important to always check the nutritional composition of the food. That’s why, when choosing dog food, as well as reading the grain-free label, it is important to check its ingredients and properties.