You've probably seen dog food ads touting the product as "grain free." Does that mean you shouldn't feed your dog grain? Not necessarily. Grains provide carbohydrates and protein in your dog's diet. As with any diet, moderation is key. Quality whole grains can make up part of your dog's daily diet. Read the ingredients list on your dog's food carefully to ensure it contains whole grains, and not fillers.
What Grain Provides
Grains provide carbohydrates, which the dog's body converts into "fuel" for various activities. Among the most common grains providing carbohydrates in dog food are oats, brown rice, barley, corn, millet and wheat. Carbohydrate starches help your dog feel full after he's eaten. Consumption also causes mild tooth abrasion, which serves to keep his teeth clean by lessening tartar buildup. For practical purposes, the carbohydrates in dry dog foods allow the food to remain fresh longer, along with making it more palatable.
If you're feeding dog food containing grain on a daily basis, make sure those grains are whole. That means your pet is receiving all of the nutrients that particular grain provides, rather than just millings, cereals or hulls. While canine and human nutritional needs aren't the same, it's likely your doctor has recommended that you consume a certain amount of whole grains to reduce your risk of diabetes, renal and other diseases. Some whole grain consumption might reduce the risk of these diseases in your best pal.
Corn and Dogs
There's arguably no grain used more frequently in human and canine processed foods than corn. It also receives much of the bad press on the subject of grains in dog food. Purina, a major pet food manufacturer, defends the use of corn in its products because corn contains essential fatty acids and high levels of antioxidants. Purina's website states that only 1 percent of dogs suffer from an allergic sensitivity to corn and other grains. Such allergies are often touted as a reason not to feed dogs grain.
Reading the Label
While you can feed products containing whole grains to your dog every day, no balanced canine diet is made up mainly of grains. Read the label on dog food cans and bags. If grains are listed first, as the primary ingredient, avoid that dog food. Meat -- not byproducts -- should top the list, followed by vegetables, with whole or unprocessed grains no higher than third on the list.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.