Pros and Cons of Grain Free Dog Food (2024)

The struggle of deciding on the right diet for dogs has been a trend among many dog owners. And if you’re new to dog parenting, you are probably faced with the same dilemma. There’s a host of information that gets thrust at you in that regard.

Today, you will learn the advantages of grain-free-food for your pets. The next day you hear from a fellow pet owner about the disadvantages of grain-free food in a dog’s diet, and it’s just very confusing sometimes. 

pros and cons of grain free dog food
Pros and Cons of Grain Free Dog Food

However, it’s worthy to note that while some dog owners support grain-free food as the ideal for dogs, there’s equally a significant number of people who oppose this notion, but the truth is that both parties are right to some extent. So let’s take a deep dive into the benefits and downsides of grain-free foods, so you have the right perspective. 

Pros and Cons of Grain-Free Food

According to research carried out by the FDA on grain-free food, it was discovered that some ingredients found in grain-free food, were a potential cause of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.

DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle, whereby the heart is dilated and is unable to pump blood. It also causes an enlarged heart.

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Why then should I feed their pet grain-free food?” Good question. Let’s dive right in.

royal canin dog food packs
Royal Canin dog food packs at the store display.

Pros of Grain-Free Foods

Grain-free foods have innumerable benefits to offer your furry friend. Here are some of the many benefits it makes available to your dog:

Easy digestion

It can be really difficult for dogs with low amylase (an enzyme for breaking down starch) to digest some grains, for example, corn. As a result, your canine friend will most likely suffer gastrointestinal problems if you feed him grains. However, feeding your dog grain-free food would likely ease this pain.

If you find out your dog has a low amylase level, then you might want to consider grain-free food. Brands that produce grain-free dog food also make use of beef stew to make the food beneficial and enjoyable for your four-legged pal.

Shih Tzu in a hurry
Shih Tzu is in a hurry and needs to poop!


Grain-free dog food is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. If your dog has an allergy, grain-free food products might come in handy, but first, find out from your dog’s vet what could be the root cause or triggers of your dog’s allergy before deciding to switch totally to grain-free products. 

Although grain-free food is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction, that does not mean it can’t. This is why it is important to find out the root cause of your dog’s allergy. It is also important to consult a vet before switching completely to grain-free food to ensure you are not withholding important food nutrients that grain-based food provides.

a happy pug smiles
A happy pug smiles

Helps enhance fitness and pastime degree

Aside from the reduced risk of allergies being triggered, grain-free food also enhances your dog’s fitness and activity level. It provides adequate energy needed for a high activity level.

Chihuahua runs with a stick
Chihuahua in a pink ribbon runs with a stick.

Fewer complex carbohydrates

Grain-free dog food contains fewer complex carbohydrates, which makes it an ideal diet for dogs diagnosed with cancer or diabetes.

Similar to humans, feeding dogs carbohydrates can, amongst other things, lead to increased blood sugar levels and being overweight, which practically puts their lives at risk. Certainly, no pet owner wants this for their dog don’t you agree? It is also advisable not to feed your dog complex carbohydrates, whether or not they have diabetes or cancer.

Welsh Springer Spaniel bowl
Welsh Springer Spaniel eating on his bowl.

It makes your dog’s skin healthy

The natural oils that your dog’s skin produces are important for forming a lush coat and healthy fur. These oils spread from the skin to the rest of the follicle, and they protect the hair, fortify it, and prevent it from getting frail and breaking off.

The pores on your dog’s skin need extra help to provide the needed quality oils. Getting the right diet for their body to produce these oils takes care of this need. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are often recommended for this purpose.

It is furnished with things like animal fat, in more quantity than any grain.

Afghan Hound stands
Beautiful Afghan Hound standing proud.

Better dog breath

Nutrition has a significant impact on dogs’ dental health. Often, bad nutrition leads to terrible breath. Therefore, if a dog goes on a nutritious diet, like grain-lose food, it helps them gain better breath.

Grains tend to leave particles of carbohydrate on your dog’s teeth after eating. 

Although the particles eventually get washed off by the dog’s saliva or water when it drinks, the time intervals between the particles being left on the dog’s teeth and being washed off allow for bacteria in the dog’s mouth to feed on them, which produces foul odors in your dog’s mouth.

Now that you’re well aware of some of the advantages of grain-free dog food, let’s look at some of the downsides to it before you make the final decision.

Chihuahua open mouth
Chihuahua mouth wide opened.

Cons of Grain-Free Food

Like every good thing in life with benefits, some downsides simply cannot be ignored. Let’s examine some of the cons of grain-free food.

Grain-free foods are costly

Compared to regular grain-based dog food, grain-free dog food is more costly. Although this isn’t a concern if the price isn’t an issue for you.

dog inside a store
A dog sitting on a shopping cart inside a store.

It is less suitable for dogs that aren’t active

Grain-free dog food is not ideal for dogs that aren’t always active. This is due to the amount of energy grain-free dog food provides your dog with.

This amount of energy won’t be friendly to your dog’s health if it isn’t always active. Grain-free dog food also contains protein that can make older dogs or less active dogs overweight.

tired and sleepy Chihuahua
A tired and sleepy Chihuahua.

Challenge with picky eaters

If your dog is a picky eater, you might have a problem switching to grain-free dog food. Your four-legged pal may just not like it. It’s normal for a dog to refuse a new food at the first trial, but if it keeps refusing after several trials, you may want to stick to the one it likes.

American Cocker Spaniel bowl
American Cocker Spaniel looking at his blue bowl.

High carbohydrates

Although grain-free dog food has fewer complex carbohydrates in it, the carbs present in it may still be too high for some dogs, for example, dogs on a strict no-carb diet.

Jack Russell Terrier with bowl of food
A Jack Russell Terrier looking at the camera with his food.

Lack of fiber

Grain-free dog food often lacks the fiber that grains produce. Therefore, giving your dog grain-free food requires that you’re observant and careful enough not to overfeed your dog, because the fibers are essential to making dogs feel full for long enough to prevent them from overfeeding.

Now you know some of the pros and cons of grain-free food. What then are the pros and cons of grain-based-food?

fiber for dogs
Is high fiber foods good for dogs?

Advantages of Grain-Based Food

Some of the advantages of grain-based food are that it induces healthy bowel movements in dogs and also provides a nourishing source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Also, grains possess lower fat content than common meats, and you can rest assured that your dog on grain-based foods, reduce the risk of your dog becoming obese or weightier.

puppy owner picks poop
An owner picks up her puppy’s poop in the garden.

Disadvantages of Grain-Based Food

Many of the grains present in commercial dog food are often cheap and have a fairly high Glycemic Index (GI). GI is an index that rates components by how fast and how much they can cause blood sugars to rise. An elevated count of GI carbohydrates can produce a chronic inflammatory reaction in the body, which can ultimately lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

obese brown Dachshund
Fat brown Dachshund with his ball at the beach.

Factors to Consider Before Deciding on a Grain-Free Food for Your Dog

There are certain factors you need to take into consideration as a dog parent before deciding on the best diet for your canine companion.

Your dog’s activity level

A dog’s nutritional needs are usually determined by its activity level, which varies with different breeds. Dogs with a high level of activity need more protein in their diet. Grain-free foods provide an adequate protein diet for this.

Pug runs
Pug actively plays at the park.

Your dog’s health status

Before switching to or starting with the grain-free diet for your dog, do well to ensure your dog doesn’t have any health problems that high protein can worsen.

sick dog sleeping
A sick dog sleeping on a pillow.

Your dog’s eating habits

Some dogs are picky when it comes to food. If yours happens to be one, you may want to introduce the new diet gradually, and observe how they react to it. Check to see if they like it or if it has a positive or negative impact on their digestive system.

dog feeding bowl
Dog holds feeding bowl through his mouth.

Professional Advice 

It is wise to seek your dog’s vet’s advice before choosing a particular diet for your dog. Since they are professionals, they can easily recommend food that satisfies your dog’s nutritional requirements.

vet and puppy
Puppy play with his vet at a clinic.


Although grain-free dog food can be a great option, that doesn’t make it the best choice. As you now know, grain-free food has its advantages as well as disadvantages. This proves that there’s no super formula for dog food that is perfect for all dogs. 

Also, you might want to discard the thought of grain-free food as the cure for your dog’s allergy. The fact that it has a lesser tendency to cause allergic reactions does not mean it is 100% allergen-free.

On a final note, now that you have learned of the pros and cons of grain-free food for dogs, the place of a vet in deciding on your dog’s diet cannot be overemphasized. It’ll go a long way and do your dog a great deal of good to get recommendations from your dog’s vet.