I decided to change Chester and Gretel’s traditional kibble to grain-free because of the many health benefits of this diet. Some of my other friends are feeding raw but grain-free kibble is the best choice for me because it is more convenient and the best choice for those on a tight schedule (like me).
I stopped by Health Mutt for a visit the other day and got talking with the owner about grain-free foods. She agreed that kibble was the best place for me to start. She said there are so many choices out there that it can be overwhelming so she gave me just three to try: Acana Grasslands, Taste of the wild and Great Life. She said I could just go with one of those or use them to get started while I did some more research.
I started mixing this kibble with their normal kibble to start the transition while I am doing my research.
My research focused on the best grain-free kibble for small, active, working dogs. I have said several times that although Chester and Gretel aren’t working dogs in the classic sense, their nutritional needs are very similar to that of agility dogs. I consider all the hiking we do just like agility….just outdoors using natural obstacles.
One of the first things I came across in my research was this great post about choosing and using a grain-free kibble. It uncovers some important myths about grain-free food.
I learned that there are many people concerned about too much protein in their dog’s diet. I know my friends that feed raw primarily feed their dogs meat (and they are very healthy) so I didn’t even consider it could be a problem. I decided to look into the issue further.
What I found was that, although this is a concern heralded by many, recent studies have revealed that the relationship of high protein levels and kidney failure that sparked the concern were not sound. To learn more you can read the full post titled Protein and Kidney Failure from Your Dog’s Diet.
I also found a post titled High Protein-High Fiber Dog Food-What Does That Mean? very helpful in explaining about protein intake and your dog. It states that “Contrary to what many people think, high protein dog food won’t hurt your dog, whether you have a young, active dog, a brand new puppy, or an aging dog with changing nutritional needs. (Although Dogs with kidney problems should maintain a moderate protein diet, not a very high or low protein one).”
People are also concerned about the higher fat content in grain-free kibble even though it is a great source of energy. The post above also addresses the fat issue stating that “A few high protein dog foods have up to twenty percent of their calories from fat – which is a great choice for active dogs, but a bad one for sedentary pets.” Since we are so active, a higher fat content is for us. If your dog is sedentary, I would choose a lower fat option for sure.
I have read that more fiber content is better if your dog scoots (from full anal sacs). The fiber content in all dog food varies but the amount is not really a deciding factor for me. I have heard there are ways to boost your dog’s fiber intake to get rid of the scoots. For example, adding one spoonful mashed pumpkin (not the kind for pie) to their dogs food has worked for some. I am willing to supplement if needed.
So after my basic research, this is what I determined:
- Going grain free is an improvement over traditional kibble even if the percentage of fat, protein and carbohydrates are the same. The carbohydrates listed will come from non-grain sources which is healthier.
- The best grain-free kibble for active small dogs like us is one with low carbohydrates and higher fat and protein than traditional kibble.
- High protein content is not a problem if your dog is active, healthy and does not have kidney problems. Even if your dog does, a moderate protein diet is still OK.
I admit I DID start to get overwhelmed while doing my research. I looked at several of the most popular brands out there and I decided to stop there to help prevent confusion by too many choices. I will give you all the details and tell you which one we decided to go with in my next post.