Grain-free puppy foods are a popular choice for pet parents, but are they really any better than any regular puppy food? We’re going to take a look at some of the reasons why you might choose grainfree puppy food for your pet then tell you a little bit about five of the best brands out there.
- Why Grain-Free?
- Best Grain-Free Puppy Food Brands
- Benefits of Grain-Free Puppy Food
- Weigh the Pros and Cons
- Talk to Your Vet
First, it’s important to understand that there isn’t a single type of food that’s best for every puppy. Every dog is different so you should talk to your vet before changing your pup’s diet or to learn about what they think is best. Grainfree puppy food was developed to meet market demand as a lot of pet owners started wanting it for their dogs. While it can help with some problems, which we’ll get to later, there isn’t really any hard proof that it’s more beneficial than other diet options for a normal, healthy dog. That said, some pet owners swear by grain-free and believe that it has really helped their pets’ health.
A lot of people confuse grain-free for gluten-free but the two are very different. Gluten is found in some grains, like rye, barley, and wheat, but it’s not in all grains. Corn, oats, and rice are gluten-free so they may be included in a gluten-free recipe. Grain-free dog food doesn’t contain any grains, whether they’re gluten-free or not. Gluten allergies in dogs are somewhat rare, but they do happen. Talk to your vet if you suspect any food intolerance problems with your pup.
Some pet owners believe that grain-free diets are more natural because our dogs’ wolf ancestors didn’t eat a grain-heavy diet. That said, they didn’t really eat the same type of farm-fresh veggies and fruits that a lot of grain-free dog foods use, either, but grain-free recipes may be a little more representative of a dog’s ancient diet than one loaded with wheat and barley.
Is a grain-free diet better for your puppy? Well, there’s no definitive answer to that question. The most important thing when choosing any food for your puppy is to make sure it provides complete nutrition and there are plenty of great grain-free brands out there that do. Choose food that your puppy likes that contains ingredients that make you comfortable.
Have you decided that grain-free puppy food is the best choice for you and your pup? Here are five top brands worth checking out.
Best Grain-Free Puppy Food Brands
1. Taste of the Wild
Every variety of Taste of the Wild grain-free puppy formula uses meat at the number one ingredient. They choose only easily-digestible proteins, like venison, salmon, and bison. Protein is important to your puppy’s diet because it supports muscle growth, skin and coat health, and the immune system.
To further aid in digestion, Taste of the Wild includes probiotics that were developed specifically for their dry pet food. Each pound of dry food has 80 million live cultures to support a healthy GI system. These recipes are loaded with real fruits and vegetables, like peas, tomatoes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and more to not only improve the taste but also provide the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your puppy needs to keep growing strong and healthy.
Other beneficial natural ingredients include an omega fatty acid blend that gives you puppy healthy skin and a shiny coat, dried chicory root for added fiber, and DHA to support brain development in your young pup. Plus, they use no added flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Taste of the Wild is family-owned and operated and is one of the fastest-growing pet food brands in the world. They make all of their pet foods in the USA in facilities located in California, Arkansas, Missouri, and South Carolina. Ingredients are sourced from high-quality suppliers all over the world and they’re very transparent about their process, facilities, and ingredients.
CANIDAE is a small, family-owned company located in Brownwood, Texas. They’ve been making high-quality pet foods since 1996 using a wide variety of farm-grown ingredients. Most of their products use a single animal protein, including whitefish, chicken, and lamb, along with a rich and delicious combination of fruits and veggies. You’ll find carrots, pumpkin, blueberries, butternut squash, and more.
Their PURE Puppy recipe is made using 10 ingredients or less so your puppy gets everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. This grain-free food includes antioxidants to support a healthy immune system, probiotics for digestion, and omegas 6 and 3 for beautiful skin and a shiny coat.
CANIDAE also has an Under the Sun product line with a special puppy recipe made using only simple ingredients. Each features a single animal protein and farm-fresh veggies and fruits to deliver the antioxidants, probiotics, and omega acids your puppy needs to grow healthy and strong. As your puppy gets older, transitioning to other foods in the Under the Sun line is easy as they have adult dog and senior dog options, too.
3. Castor & Pollux
Something that stands out about Castor & Pollux is that their puppy pet food is both grain-free and completely organic. They pride themselves in making purposeful pet food – choosing natural ingredients that have been sourced responsibly.
Organic chicken is the number one ingredient in this puppy food because it’s easy to digest and has a lot of nutritional benefits, like amino acids, fatty acids, and protein. It also includes a superfood blend of coconut oil, blueberries, and flaxseed that’s packed with the nutrients your puppy needs to grow and stay healthy.
Castor & Pollux has been in business since 1999 when they became the first quality line of natural specialty pet foods. Their certified organic line debuted later, in 2003. By 2012, the brand had grown so much that it was acquired by Merrick Pet Care, Inc. which helped them expand their business even farther. The company also partners with non-profit pet rescues around the country to provide dogs and cats with delicious organic food and natural nutrition.
Wellness CORE gives your puppy advanced nutrition using premium proteins and nutrient-dense superfoods. It has everything you need with no fillers. It includes salmon oil to deliver guaranteed levels of DHA to support your puppy’s brain development, antioxidants to support its immune system, and phosphorus and calcium for strong bones and muscles. The smaller kibble size is ideal for puppies and the recipe contains no meat by-products, fillers, soy, corn, grain, artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors.
Wellness uses a strict quality assurance program at its company-owned facilities in Indiana. All suppliers have to meet stringent requirements and are held to standards higher than the requirements of the FDA. All ingredients are tested before they’re used. Wellness also takes a lot of pride in their manufacturing facilities, sticking to rigorous practices and standards for sterilization to control bacteria and pest infestations. Extra care is taken to store ingredients properly and everything is routinely tested for quality and safety.
As we said, every puppy has its own unique nutritional needs and Wellness CORE helps you find just the right food for your puppy’s breed. The small breed puppy formula has smaller-sized kibble so it’s easier for tiny dogs to eat.
Finally, we recommend ORIJEN grain-free puppy food. There are two types available, Puppy and Puppy Large. Both are rich in protein and fat to give growing puppies everything they need to grow up strong and healthy. ORIJEN uses free-range fowl and cage-free eggs delivered right to its kitchen in Kentucky to make their grain-free recipe. Two-thirds of the animal ingredients are raw or fresh for a nutrient-rich meal your puppy will love.
ORIJEN developed its recipes keeping to the traditional diet of wolves, factoring in saliva, enzymes, a short digestive tract, and high stomach acid content. All of their ingredients are sourced from trusted ranches, farms, and fisheries.
Benefits of Grain-Free Puppy Food
People who feed their puppies grain-free food claim there are some noticeable benefits. Here are some of the things grain-free puppy food might do for your dog.
Improves your puppy’s coat.
Sometimes, feeding your puppy grain-free food can make their coat softer and silkier. Why this happens isn’t really clear but it may be due to the omega fatty acids included in most of these recipes.
Stools are easier to clean.
Grain-free food may produce less waste because there is less bulk fiber. Stools may be smaller and more compact and your puppy may go less frequently so there’s less to clean up.
Improves the condition of the skin.
Some breeds have sensitive skin that gets itchy, dry, and irritated. This might be because there are fewer allergens in grain-free food but it could also be because of the generous amounts of omega fatty acids.
Some dog breeds are particularly susceptible to food allergies and using grain-free food can help avoid these issues. The most common dog allergies are dairy, chicken, and beef but grains may bother some sensitive breeds, including boxers, cocker spaniels, Labrador retrievers, Lhasa apsos, german shepherds, collies, and dalmatian.
Better smelling breath.
Grains contain a lot of carbohydrates that leave a film behind on your pup’s teeth. Bacteria in your dog’s mouth feed on this film which gives you puppy bad breath. Grain-free foods might not eliminate this problem but they have been said to make it better.
Grains tend to cause a lot of gas when digested that can be quite foul-smelling. In addition to the odor, gas can also cause your pup a lot of discomfort as the gas moved its way through its little body. Grain-free diets may be able to help with this problem.
Puppies need a lot of protein for bone and muscle growth and grain-free foods often have a higher protein content than other puppy foods. Good quality brands, like the ones we recommended here, also tend to use higher-quality protein.
Easier for digestion.
Your puppy can digest grains just fine but some might find it a little hard on their stomach. Grains take a little more effort to break down. On the other hand, grain-free recipes usually replace grains with potatoes and sweet potatoes which are much easier for your puppy to digest.
There’s no general consensus about whether or not GMOs are harmful but a lot of people still prefer not to feed them to your puppy. One of the most common genetically modified ingredients is corn and, since corn is a grain, you can be sure it won’t be included in your puppy’s grain-free formula.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Choosing a puppy food is really important so take your time and do your research. Regardless of the ingredients, your pet needs a nice mix of carbs, fats, proteins, and nutrients to grow up healthy. There is not a single puppy food that is perfect for every breed.
Talk to Your Vet
As we said, there is no real evidence that grain-free food is better for your puppy. While research is still ongoing, a lot of pet owners swear by grain-free formulas. If you’re interested in trying a grain-free puppy food, talk to your vet to make sure it’s a good choice for your puppy.
The thing to keep in mind about puppy food and dog food, in general, is that it has to meet all of your pet’s needs. There are multiple ways to do this and grain-free puppy foods are healthy, nutritious options. Choosing the right brand is key to giving your puppy the best food possible. The brands that we looked at use ethically sourced, trusted ingredients prepared in safe, sterile facilities and promise to keep your puppy happy and its belly full.
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