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Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food Debunked

Grain-free or not grain-free? Perhaps one of the most common, yet controversial, questions from dog owners has finally gained some clarity.

Groundbreaking Study Clears Grain-Free Dog Food

An ongoing theory touted by academic researchers and investigated by the FDA involving a potential link between canine heart disease, also known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), and certain grain-free pet foods have been debunked, according to a far-reaching study recently released by a working group of veterinary professionals and animal nutritionists.

DCM in Dogs The groundbreaking findings, which is the subject of a peer-reviewed article published in June 2020 in the Journal of Animal Science, showed no clear link between grain-free diets and DCM in dogs - despite recent arguments from academia and regulatory agencies.

“While determining the cause of recently reported cases of cardiac disease is of the utmost importance, based on this review of the current literature, there is no definitive relationship (between) these implicated diet characteristics and DCM,” according to the study, which involved an exhaustive examination of nearly 150 previous studies.

The new study pointed to potential sampling bias and other confounding factors for debunking the claim - saying the scrutiny comes “without merit because there is no definitive evidence in the literature.”

“At this time, information distributed to the veterinary community and the general public has been abbreviated synopses of case studies, with multiple variables and treatments, incomplete medical information, and conflicting medical data and opinions from veterinary nutrition influencers.”

It ultimately established no definitive link between grain-free diets and DCM and called for further study and analysis.

While the findings should be considered certainly good news for pups that thrive on grain-free diets, it’s crucial for dog owner’s to do their homework before feeding them any old meal. Because believe it or not - not all grain-free diets are created equal. 

What to Look For When Going Grain-Free

Grain-free is the best choice for your dog, but only if it's the right high-quality grain-free food.


Grain-Free Dog Food Simply put, while these foods are “grain-free," they do not provide your pet with the health benefits of high-quality grain-free foods.
Think of it as substituting bad for bad. 

Grain-free dog foods are foods that do not contain grains such as corn, rice, and wheat. Good grain-free dog food should have meat as its main ingredient. It should also be biologically appropriate, minimally processed, and moisture-rich.

Many low-quality grain-free dog foods contain comparable carbohydrate levels to those made with grains. Although technically "grain-free", their main ingredients are starches such as potatoes and peas. These low-quality, biologically inappropriate ingredients have been linked with health problems including obesity, digestive disorders, and skin conditions in dogs.

How to Choose the Best Grain-Free Dog Food

Let’s take a look at a few important characteristics that high-quality grain-free dog foods should possess, and how this could impact the health of your pup.

high in meat protein
  • High in Meat Protein  - High-quality grain-free dog food will list real meat as the main ingredient; not unnecessary fillers such as potatoes and starches. Dogs are primarily carnivorous and thrive on a meat-based diet. When real meat is listed as the first ingredient, you can be sure your dog's food contains a high ratio of a quality protein source that will support their overall health. 
Minimally processed
  • Minimally Processed - The best grain-free dog foods are made with minimally processed, whole, and natural ingredients. Dry dog foods are cooked multiple times at high heat, which destroys nutrients and diminishes flavor. By comparison, minimally processed wet foods contain ingredients and nutrients closer to their original state. 
Moisture-Rich
  • Moisture Rich - A dog's natural, carnivorous diet contains around 70% moisture. High-quality, wet grain-free dog food mirrors mother nature by providing adequate moisture to help the body function. Unlike dry dog food, it's biologically appropriate and can help prevent health problems including urinary tract infections, digestive issues, and obesity. 

What to Avoid in a Grain-Free Dog Food

When choosing a grain-free dog food, keep it simple. Always check the ingredients on the label and do not buy the food if the main ingredients (or first couple of ingredients) include the following: 

  • Meat and Bone Meal - Meat and bone meal is a product of the rendering industry. It is made from the portions of animals that are unfit for human consumption. Meat and bone meal is of lower quality than real meat. It is also highly processed, which makes it difficult to digest.
  • Starches - Starches like potatoes, green peas, sweet potatoes, and beet pulp are cheap filler ingredients in many grain-free dog foods. These food ingredients are biologically inappropriate, increase calories, and can contribute to obesity and other health issues.
  • Soy Products - Soy products are commonly used in low-quality grain-free dog foods as an inexpensive form of protein. They are biologically inappropriate, highly processed, and often genetically modified. This means that they are difficult to digest and can lead to health problems in dogs.
  • Carrageenan - Carrageenan is a thickening agent that's used to improve food texture. It has no nutritional value and has been associated with gastrointestinal inflammation in dogs.
  • Artificial Preservatives - Artificial preservatives are used by many pet food manufacturers to extend the shelf life of their products. Grain-free dog foods that contain these chemicals should be avoided, as they have been linked with toxicity in pets.

The Best Grain-Free Dog Food Money Can Buy

True dog lovers don’t skimp when it comes to their pup’s health and wellbeing. If you are concerned about the quality of your dog's food, KOHA offers high-quality grain-free dog food that's high in meat protein, minimally processed, and moisture-rich? Check out our Limited Ingredient Diets for dogs. 

Our premium wet dog foods contain no carb-loaded fillers, unnecessary thickening agents, artificial preservatives, or other harmful ingredients. Instead, we pack them with 70%-96% real meat to mirror Mother Nature. And with 8 delicious single meat recipes to choose from, you're sure to find a variety your pup loves.