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Grain-free/not grain-free

  • OK, I thought of starting a debate on the issue.

    The following assumes good quality products. I'm not considering RAW/ BARF, since not everyone has time and/or knowledge to go that way.

    Veterinary research proves the digestibility of rice and corn at 100%, and gluten and wheat aside (because of the allergy factor), personally I don't see where the grain problem lies.  Grain tends to be seen as filler, but if it's digested fully, it can't be considered as such, in my opinion.  Grain is mostly carbs, that if digested provide as much energy as protein. Even grain free has carbs in some form.

    Then, quality additives like omega oils, vitamins, glucosamine for joint cartilage protection, L-carnitine and others, i think, help to make balanced foods.

    And, of course, in the end it's all about how your pet reacts to a certain food/brand/formula. 

    Any opinions on this? 





  • Im not smart but I know that my girls are doing amazing on the grain free food.  Lost weight, better coats, no eye boogers like before, no gas.....

  • I know that when Moto ate food with grain in it his eyes oozed green goo. And grain makes pits much more vulnerable to bloat.

    I would love to see the study in regards to digestibility. Although just because you can digest something in no way implies that you should or that it is good for you.

    If you have a moment, read this...Orijens "White Paper" 


  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242

    IMO most grain is a filler, especially corn... Dog would not eat corn in the wild so why should they eat it in their kibble? A wild dog would eat very little grain and most would come from the stomachs of the prey they kill and eat and would be laced with the types of bacteria that they would need to break down the grain. In most kibble that contain grain they have very little probiotics to help the dogs breakdown the grain.

    Also, there are numerous studies that show feeding a high protein diet to dogs helps them live longer more healthy lives. For a while it was thought that a high protein diet may have a negative impact on a dogs liver, but recent studies (one of which was published in the Whole Dog Journal) shows that higher protein diets have no negative effects on a dog liver and actually help them to age slower as well as battle some other diseases (tho I can't remember which ones).

    Also, there is the allergy issues - which effects Japanese dogs often. For example, Kaia can not have corn, or most grains. She gets sick and itchy (even looses hair). Hilo has similar issues with grain.

    Those are the reasons we feed grain free - oh and because we have seen amazing results from feeding high quality grain-free kibble and some RAW.

    The issue is not a carb vs. no carb thing, its more a filler vs. no filler (or less filler) thing. A high-quality grain-free food will have the "quality additives like omega oils, vitamins, glucosamine for joint cartilage protection, L-carnitine and others" added to the food.

    Having written all that - there are some good high-quality foods with grain in them.

    Keep in mind that Akita Inu are notorious for not being able to properly synthesize and digest grain.


  • Here go the white papers on grain digestibility 


    As I concluded before, in the end it's all about how your dog reacts to a certain food. So, of course we should adapt what we give them to how they do on it.

    I asked Silvia about the food she gives her Akitas, and she advised me on Purina ProPlan Salmon and Rice or NutroChoice. This, until I told her I was planning on giving Acana. All of these include grain, if I remember it correctly Nutro even includes corn. I'm not going to give corn, not because i think it will be harmful, but I see rice as a better choice. Even the people I know that feed raw meat, include cooked rice and fruit on their dog's diets.

    On another note, high protein diets tend to put more stress on the kidneys (although dogs, as carnivours, are prepared to handle it) because of the nitrates that have to be processed out. There was a breed in Austrlia that was fed on kangaroo  meat alone, and they didn't last long. If I'm not mistaken, lifespan was around 7 years. Carbs "burn" cleaner, and don't leave much behind. Although the "fuel" of choice for carnivores is fat, which has more than double the caloric charge of both protein and carbs. Of course, for a house pet, that won't go running and hunting or go starving for some days, fat makes less sense than in the wild.

    Speaking of wild, Brad, in the wild a dog wouldn't get any carbs either, or at least very few, and still grain-free diets get potato in their foods. And if there is digestibility and (why not?) palatability, I don't think any ingredient can be considered filler. Filler, for me, would be something that not only wouldn't be digested, but would have no effect. Even fiber has it's purpose, although it can't be digested by either humans or dogs. And in the end, you mentioned something that was kind of my point. We shouldn't deem a food as bad just because it includes grain, because there are high-quality grain inclusive diets.


  • brandon_wbrandon_w
    Posts: 3433

    If you are going to feed foods with grain, make sure that the food contains whole grains, and not broken down glutens, or many different "parts" of corn.

    There are a lot of good foods with grain out there made by Wellness, Solid Gold, Merrick, Fromms, Innova, etc.  Nemo was on grains for years and did fine.  I think he does a little better on non-grain foods.  Maybe he just digests potatoes a bit better than rice and barley.

    No matter what, go with high quality foods from good companies.  A good place to start looking for brands is Whole Dog Journals lists.  These foods might cost more to begin with, but I truly believe they will save on vet costs in the long run.  Why would I want to feed my dog anything with "animal" fat in it. What animal?  From what processing plant, from what year?

  • kwyldkwyld
    Posts: 506

    I read in the book "Home Prepared Diets for Dogs and Cats" by Strombeck that rice IS more digestable than potato, which is used a lot in grain free kibble formulas.  But as Brad, Jessica and Rachael mentioned above, some dogs are simply allergic to rice, even if it's the most completely digested type of carb used in kibble formulas.  Vegetables in dog foods and in general are considered carbs too.  I would think using more meat in a food and upping its protein content through MEAT, not corn or wheat gluten or another grain as the source of protein, would be better because meat has all the amino acids that dogs need to survive, and I don't think grains do. 

    High protien diets don't put stress on normal functioning kidneys, dogs that already have diagnosed renal failure or decreased kidney functioning SHOULD NOT be fed high protein diets because they can't process the protein as efficiently as normal kidneys.  Leonberger, the dog you mentioned eating only Kangaroo meat would of course not live very long, because that is not a balanced diet for dogs, no canine can only survive on meat only.  Potato in kibble formulas are used to hold the kibble together, if it wasn't used, the kibble would fall apart.  Same with tapioca in Nature's Variety foods, they have to use something to hold the kibble together.  A dog in the wild would be eating carbs, they would be the grasses and digested veggies in their prey's stomachs.  I also used to feed my dogs foods with grains in it, but they have more stamina, muscle tone, great thicks coats, and Kohji's dry skin and nails are healthy now that I switched to grain free foods. 

    Post edited by kwyld at 2008-02-18 10:10:22

  • High protein stresses kidney because of the nitrate residues that have to be expelled through urine. A normal kidney can handle this to a limit, in a way it's comparable to human kidneys. Being carnivores, it's probable that dog's have higher resistance to heavy protein waste, but it still has to  be disposed of by the kidneys.

    As for the whole grain, yes I'm planning t give food that at least refers grain to be whole and gluten free. I know some companies tend to break down their grain in various forms, in order to be able to disguise a major quantity of it. Some ingredient lists get simply ridiculous, with 4 or 5 corn byproducts in them. Of course, I will keep an eye out for how my dog is doing on this diet and change it, if I need to. But I'm not planning on feeding only the dry food, when I'm home i will do my best to feed as close to RAW as possible.

  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    I said liver in my post - I meant kidneys. sorry.
  • okironokiron
    Posts: 735

    I would prefer grain free over grain. But I rather them have grain rather than go hungry.  So as long as it's available, we could afford it and they'll eat it, my animals will get grain free.

  • Ok, so I know this is an old thread but I'm debating going grain free... The hard part is getting all three Shibas on the same diet. Hachiko is tall for a Shiba and has trouble eating enough and keeping weight on, I had started feeding her a mostly raw diet but she gets bored of food VERY easy and find myself having to switch it up often. It the last few months we've bounced around from plain ground beef, cottage cheese, brown rice with fish oil to honest kitchen to Simply pet. She's not big on bones tho... It was driving me crazy! Enter Keiichi, he gets Simply Nourish, Hachiko has actually been eating the dry good (yay!) problem is that now both of them have gas! I'm not even sure how good Simply Nourish is for them =/ So I was thinking about trying them out on Innova (maybe puppy formula to gain weight?) or Blue (maybe grain free, maybe puppy?) any recommendations?
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495 have THREE Shibas? I thought you only have two...

    Have you looked at Saya's raw diet thread? I believe ground beef isn't a good raw source I forgot why but I remember reading that from raw experts so you might want to look into that.

    Do you know what's causing the gas? Try adding probiotics to help with the gas and try not to switch around much. Focus on what works for each individual shiba.
  • We've been in the process of adopting Takumi for over a month now(he's not officially in our home yet but his adoption fee was paid and everything), last week Keiichi had just kinda gotten dropped on us in a "he needs a new home ASAP" kinda thing. We didn't really mind because he's such a total sweetheart.

    I hadn't really intended on feeding her raw, it was just that for a while it was all she would really eat. Same with the switching of the food =( she would literally just stop eating. Her perfect weight is between 23-24 lbs but often falls between 22-23 lbs on her strikes. I'm fine feeding them separately if I have to, but they all seem to like the Simply Nourish (a first for Hachiko) but she's never had gas before and now she seems to. I know earlier in this post someone mentioned grain free causing less gas so I wasn't sure if that was reason enough to switch...
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495
    Try the probiotics/Greek yogurt first to see if it'll help. Bootz sometimes has random case of gas and I fed her yogurt for a couple days and the gas went away.

    But if you want to make the jump for grain free the popular ones are TOTW (cheap but decent quality), FROMM and Orijen (high in protein)

    I don't hear much about Innova....but in the end you have to try it out to see what works for your shiba.
  • My dogs have less gas with the grain free food. They're both eating grain free Blue Buffalo puppy food right now. I give them yogurt, pumpkin, fruit, eggs, and cheese from time to time as treats and they get salmon oil as a supplement for their coat.

    My dog didn't like Innova and TOTW gave her the runs. I think it all depends on the individual dog and what works for them.
    Post edited by bikingleia at 2013-02-23 21:39:43
  • SayaSaya
    Posts: 6678
    Saya and Bella gets ground beef, turkey, lamb, ewe, and once in blue moon emu..

    I think it's OK ground beef is usually cheaper then beef roasts or stew beef. Only issue is it has more surface area for bacteria. I haven't had issue with ground beef.. Coarse I try keep eye on recalls for ground meat..

    Fromm kibble is pretty good Saya has had them for treat and Bella had it as main kibble once she had pork grain kibble, duck kind too. Bella had beef grain free once.. It's pretty pricey though.

    Totw is what Bella is on right now well almost fully she still has a bit of old food should be few more days then she'll be on it.. So far she likes it..
    Nicole, 5year old Bella(Boxer), and 4year old Saya(Shiba inu)
  • Ground beef can have a higher fat content and it upsets the stomachs of some dogs. Also some dogs don't do wonderfully with changes in protein.

    @kitsune - we do wellness core which has worked well for us. Our little one has trouble keeping weight on but she's a bit more extreme (you could see ribs, and if she got sick, vertebrae and it would take months to put the weight back on once she lost it). If it's just normal slenderness, kibble should be fine but if she needs to put on more weight you'll have to add cheese, eggs, and possibly carbs to Hachiko's diet. We've finally got Vi looking non-bony but it took years of fussing around with her diet and she's still extremely slender. I'd go with grain free and supplement Hachiko's diet if you need to put weight on her. You'll have better control of the carbs you give her (we did sweet potato) and I think it's healthier.
  • I also use Wellness Core which is grain free. There are also other Wellness brand products that are high quality and include grains. They also have canned foods (mixing this into your dogs diet might help add some weight). is a great resource for food reviews. I also recommend signing up for their recall email alerts. I know there are a few other threads discussing methods of adding weight to your dog so try using the advanced search function. Good luck.
  • Blue Buffalo grain free puppy was on sale today so I figured I'll try it (I heard puppy food tends to be higher calorie so better for weight gain). Hachiko and Vi sound a lot alike, I've tried so many things with her and honestly the only time she gained any weight was after her car accident when her paws were bandaged and she wasn't so hyper lol. I'll have to try sweet potato with her... I don't eat it so much myself, but it's worth a shot I guess...
  • HaloHalo
    Posts: 278
    I also have been using the blue buffalo freedom grain free puppy food, but my puppy last few days has had the most awful gas =( think I will the yogurt and see if that helps. My poodle had weight trouble too, fed her eggs a couple times a week, sometimes she got tired of them, so I would add a little cheese or very finely chopped chicken to it, and she loved it, helped her keep her weight up. And its really good for their coats and skin at least I heard =)
  • We've been feeding the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy food for a month now and amazingly Hachiko is still eating it. She doesn't eat a lot of it, but she eats it. Neither her or Keiichi will touch the sweet potato tho...
  • ashley15ashley15
    Posts: 63
    Has anyone ever tried Authority Puppy Grain free? I have heard good things about it and my breeder recommended it.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
    @ashley15 -

    Never heard of it, but DFA gives it 4 stars.
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • KikkiKikki
    Posts: 73
    Seems Taste of the Wild is quite popular amongst Shiba Inu owners. I never heard about the brand until we got Yuna. Her breeder fed them TOTW so we were gonna continue with that for a while before slowly switching her over to Innova Prime which our 2 older dogs, Belly and Trip, eats. However, she's doing great on TOTW and the 2 other dogs really like it too so it seems we'll be switching all dogs over to TOTW instead. It's a lot cheaper than Innova Prime (which is the grain free version of Innova) and received the same rating, 5 stars, on
    photo 09add2ab-be4c-4b53-98a7-1a6bc4311b43_zps71ebc933.jpg
  • CrystalWolfCrystalWolf
    Posts: 235
    I know that when Moto ate food with grain in it his eyes oozed green goo. And grain makes pits much more vulnerable to bloat

    This is true since my pit has been on taste of the wild she no longer has stomach problems as well as bathroom problems and she loves it. But then again she loves all food.

    Riku is on taste of the wild for puppies and my cat is on the cat kind.

    I have mentioned in another thread, that I had a friend that was feeding her Great Dane science diet and he would never eat all his food and she was still putting water in it and he was about 6 yrs old. I introduced her to taste of the wild ( comes in many flavors I feed the bison one so does she) and her Great Dane also loves it. Eats it all has gained weight and now at a healthy weight where as before you could see his ribs.
  • We have had great results with grain free, the nice thing about grain free is that since they digest the food better then are feed less kibbles, less kibbles that are more well digested=less poop and less poop is always better. lol
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495
    @hiirotheshiba, when i switch my shiba from grain to grain free she didnt have less poop.
    But if you really want less poop, go with a raw diet! I think on kibble she pooped 2-3 times a day. With Raw she poops once a day on average...with 2 the MAX.
  • @Bootz Raw might be a little tough since I work so much...
  • BearsDadBearsDad
    Posts: 167
    I feed only Origen to Bear, he does great on it, personally I would never feed a kibble that has grains in it, the switch from grain to no grain was so positive in everything from his energy level to his coat. As previous posters have said, if he was in the wild he would not be feeding grain
  • Very happy as well with Orijen and what I meant by less poop is brand A serving size is 3 cups if Brand B only need to feed 1 cup then less food being consumed means less food coming out... Lol

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