Understanding Grain Based Foods

November 6, 2018

There's a lot of controversy about grain free foods lately.  Every day we have people that come into the store that are horribly misinformed because of poorly written news articles (that leave out important facts, etc.) or just rumors on Facebook.  The veterinary community is also not on the same page.  I have many vets and all have different opinions.  It's no different then people doctors really.  I have one doctor who recommends I follow a Paleo diet and another who tells me I need to incorporate healthy grains.  Seems like when it comes to nutrition   -- no one can agree, whether its a person or a pet.  Remember that there is no one correct way to feed an entire species.  Each pet (and person) has it's own specific dietary needs.


There have been some articles and statements to consumers about stop reading the ingredient deck in their pet's food.  Really?  Would you do that with your own food?  I want to know what's going into my body and what's going into my pet's body.   Read the label...It's your right to know what you are feeding.  Educate yourself so you can make the right choice for your pet and not rely on fancy packaging, gimmicks or commercials that suggest a low quality food is the best choice for your pet because the TV says so.


So let's talk about grain based foods today. 


Should I feed A Food With Grains?


If you want to feed a kibble based diet and your pet has no known medical reasons to not be on a grain free diet, then feed a wholesome grain based diet.   But pick your grains and grain based food wisely and know the definition of foods listed on the back of the bags.   There are many dogs that do very well on high quality grain based pet foods.  Hopefully this guide will help you make an educated decision.



Can Dogs Digest Grains?


Yes dogs can digest grains.   They produce pancreatic amylase which enables them to digest starches.


What Benefits Do Grains Provide?

  • Fiber helps the digestive system

  • Fiber in oats helps stabilize blood glucose levels, control cholesterol and help absorb nutrients

  • High in vitamins and minerals

  • Grains can reduce a diet’s calorie content while providing satiating fiber, serving a useful purpose in weight reduction.

  • Carbohydrate-based energy from grains benefits dogs with certain medical conditions, such as those with kidney or liver disease who require a protein-reduced diet or those with pancreatitis and intestinal bowel disease that require a low-fat diet.

  • According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, whole grains strengthen the body’s energy, or qi, and blood. 

  • Grains provide an economical energy source in home-prepared diets.

What Grains Are Found In Dog Food?


Just about everything that we find in people food and farm animal food:


Gluten Grains:  Barley, Rye, Spelt and Wheat

Gluten Free Grains:  Corn, Oat and Rice

Pseudo Grains (comes from the seed of a broad leaf bushy shub vs grasses) -  Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat


What Problems Arise From Feeding Grain Based Foods?


Problems arise when grains are substituted for high-quality animal protein. Corn and wheat — two of the top five ingredients known to cause food sensitivities in dogs — are sometimes used in place of animal protein in dog food. Gluten grains have also been linked in contributing to a variety of inflammatory health issues.  


So look at your ingredient deck!


Ingredient Deck Definitions. 


Know what's in your pet's food.  Not all grain or grain free food is created equal.  Here are a few things you'll see on pet food labels:


Meat (Specifies Chicken, Fish, Poultry, Cow, Pig, etc) - Fresh meat but contains 70% moisture. It is heavier than grains prior to cooking. The moisture contained in the meats is reduced by 2/3rds after the cooking process, leaving the total formula as a grain or plant base food after processing.


Meal (Specifies Chicken, Fish, Poultry, Cow, Pig etc) -Meat meal is equivalent to 3-4 pounds of muscle meat that has been dried and is less than 10% moisture and contain 50% - 65% meat proteins. In processing the meat meals do not shrink below the grain weight.  Meat is cooked and processed first before adding it to the pet food formula.  Foods with meat meal in the top 3 ingredients have higher animal based protein content.


(Meat, Chicken, Beef) By-Product** -  an item made from slaughterhouse waste. This is what’s left of a slaughtered animal after all the striated muscle cuts have been removed.With the exception of hair, horns, teeth and hooves, this item can include almost any other part of the animal. This contains amino acids.


Be very cautious of where this comes from though...it can also contain parts from "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.


**Howl To The Chief does not carry any pet food made with by-products


A few Ingredients To Avoid In Dog Food:

  • Anything that says "hulls", "runs", "cellulose" - these are all cheap fillers that offer no nutritional value.  

  • All Artificial Colors

  • Preservatives:  BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin and Propyll Galate


Other Terms You Will Hear In Pet Food Land:


  • Natural -- uh what exactly does this mean?   This is AAFCO's definition:  NATURAL - A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.  But that only applies to labels - not to commercials, gimmicks, etc.  Read the label and use your own judgement.

  • Holistic - there really isn't a definition for this in pet food.  To me it means it is treating the body as a whole.  Again - read your labels and use your judgement.

  • AAFCO - Association of American Feed Control Officials  - A government run agency.  Their job is to ensure that the animal feed or pet food is safe for its intended use and for its intended species.  AAFCO’s ingredient definitions process is what goes on behind the scenes, and it has been going on for almost 100 years. AAFCO’s science-based approach mandates that scientific studies to validate the use of an ingredient in animal feed or pet food have been completed to the satisfaction of AAFCO. (All pet foods at Howl To The Chief are AAFCO certified).


So What Grain Based Foods Do We Recommend?


Prior to me purchasing Howl To The Chief (formerly Chateau Animaux), I worked for a pet food distributor.  I have sold every dog food pretty much ever known to mankind. So the choices I make for the store I base upon quality, knowledge of the processing plants that I have toured, company transparency, recall history and trust.   Here is a list of what grain based foods we offer and why:


FROMM - 5th family owned and operated out of Wisconsin.  Assisted in the development of the distemper vaccination. They own their food manufacturing plants and use an outside testing facility for safety.


Fromm Gold - contains 4 different types of proteins, wholesome grains, probiotics, salmon oil and added taurine.  Available in puppy, large breed puppy, small breed, adult, large breed adult, weight management and senior.  An affordable option for every budget.


Fromm 4 Star - while not a limited ingredient diet, this food concentrates on one specific protein, wholesome grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, probiotics, salmon oil and added taurine.  It is an All Life Stages food available in Chicken, Duck, Whitefish and Pork.


Fromm Classic - Basic Chicken and Rice with added wholesome grains and taurine.  An excellent affordable high quality alternative to grocery store brand dog foods. Available in puppy, adult and senior.

Verus - This locally owned food is available in chicken, whitefish or lamb and is packed with wholesome brown rice and oats, non-chinese sourced vitamins, minerals and a patent pending freeze dried live probiotic.  They also have a puppy and weight management option.  

Canidae - All Life Stages formula's first three ingredients is chicken meal, turkey meal and fish meal followed by complex carbohydrates, probiotics, antioxidants and Omega 6 & 3 Fatty Acids.  This food is high in meat inclusion. Available in 5lb, 15 lb, 30 lb and 44 lb bags making it an affordable choice for multi dog house holds.

Nutrisource - a great line for every dog, including dogs with sensitive stomachs. Each formula contains a revolutionary supplement system, Good 4 Life, which includes 4 key ingredients. They work together to condition, repair and promote gut health in all animals-often improving health with the first feeding. Available in Beef & Brown Rice, Lamb & Brown Rice, Trout & Brown Rice and Chicken & Brown Rice (Puppy, Adult, Senior, Large Breed and Weight Management).  Another good affordable option.

Nature's Variety Instinct - Be Natural - (Coming Soon) the only grain based food that each piece of kibble has a freeze dried raw coating! Made from cage free chickens in the first two ingredients followed by hearty whole grains (oatmeal and brown rice).  This a new product launch from Nature's Variety and is replacing their Prairie line and I think it will be a winner.  We offer an in store frequent buyer program too!




So there you have it.  I hope you have found this post informative when making a decision to feed your dog a grain based diet.  As always, no matter what you feed, I always recommend adding Answers or Primal goats, milk, salmon oil and freeze dried raw to your pets food! 


Please contact me at info@howltothechief.com should you have any questions!




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