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There are countless varieties of dog food you can choose from, including grain-free dog food. Some pet parents choose grain-free dog food as a result of allergies, while others may want the benefits of grain-free dog food. So, is grain-free dog food safe, and is it a good idea to feed your dog a grain-free diet?

In most cases, regular dog food is just fine for your dog, and you should let your vet decide if your dog needs specialty food. However, you may consider switching your dog to a grain-free diet if they have an allergy to grain that’s causing skin problems, such as red patches, itchy skin, and hair loss.

So, is a grain-free diet right for your dog, and is it safe to switch to a grain-free diet? Ultimately, it’s best to leave decisions about your dog’s diet to your vet, but a little learning never hurts. If you’re considering grain-free dog food, here’s what you need to know first.

Is Grain-Free Dog Food Better For Dogs?

You might be wondering if switching to a grain-free diet is better for your dog. The truth of the matter is that there have been no studies that show that grain-free dog food is better than regular dog food, even when it comes to the best grain-free dog food. You shouldn’t expect to see any immediate health benefits from switching your dog to a grain-free diet.

While a grain-free diet may seem healthier for your dog, the opposite is actually true in many ways. Like humans, dogs need a balanced diet to get all the nutrients they need to stay healthy, and some of those nutrients come from the grains in their dog food. Healthy grains are good for your dog’s heart, which means a grain-free diet can lead to heart problems due to a lack of certain nutrients.

In fact, recent reports indicate that grain-free diets play a major role in dogs with canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a condition that causes weakened heart contractions and poor pumping ability. As DCM progresses, the heart chambers expand, the valves may start to leak, and indications of congestive heart failure develop.1

90% of FDA reports of DCM from 2014 and 2019 were of dogs on a grain-free diet.

In 2018, the FDA reported that their investigation of dogs with DCM indicated that a high proportion of dogs (90%) were on grain-free diets.2 Additionally, researchers are examining the link between DCM and dogs on BEG (boutique, exotic ingredient, and grain-free) diets.3

Keep in mind that it’s best to talk to your vet about what kind of dog food you should give your dog. Different dogs may need different dog food, and some dogs may be allergic to the ingredients in regular dog food. There are also different types of dog foods for different breeds, different size dogs, and dogs with different health conditions. Only your vet can determine which type of dog food is right for your dog.

Grain Vs. Grain-Free 

As a pet parent, you might be wondering about the differences between grain-free dog food and regular dog food. The answer is more complex than the fact that one type of dog food doesn’t contain grains. It’s important to consider the nutrients your dog gets from the grains that are in regular dog food, and what those nutrients do for your dog’s health.

The grains in dog food are an essential part of heart health for dogs, just like healthy grains play an important role in heart health for humans. In fact, all the ingredients in dog food are in there to make sure your dog is getting the nutrients they need to be healthy. This is why it’s so important to choose healthy dog food, particularly if you own a very large or small breed.

It’s also important to consider the fact that many grain-free dog foods contain high amounts of certain ingredients, including peas, lentils, potatoes, and legume seeds. High concentrations of these ingredients may lead to your dog getting more of certain nutrients than they need, which can cause medical issues. This is why it’s important to talk to your vet if you’re considering switching to a grain-free diet for your dog.

Because grains in dog food can help support heart health, a grain-free diet can lead to certain heart-related medical conditions in dogs. Dogs who eat a grain-free diet for a long time may be at higher risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy, which can eventually lead to  congestive heart failure. 

While there’s no significant evidence that says grain-free diets are bad for all dogs or that grain-free dog food contains harmful ingredients, it’s best to make sure your dog gets a varied diet. Including grains in your dog’s diet can help them get all the nutrients they need to lead a healthy life.

The best food for your dog depends on Health, Weight, Breed, Size, Lifestyle & budget

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog

If you want your dog to be as healthy as possible, it’s important to choose the right dog food. There are tons of different types of dog food, including organic dog food, grain-free dog food, diet dog food, regular dog food, and more. In order to choose the best food for your dog, you need to consider several factors, including their breed, weight, any health problems they may have, and whether or not they’re allergic to ingredients in regular dog food.

Breed is an important factor when it comes to choosing dog food. Some dog breeds are more active than others, and different breeds also grow to be different sizes. It’s also important to consider the fact that some breeds may be more prone to health problems if they’re overweight, such as labradors.

If your dog is overweight, you might want to talk to your vet about choosing low-fat food that helps them shed some pounds. Excess weight can lead to several long-term health issues in dogs, so it’s important to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight.

There are also certain dog food brands that cater to specific health issues, including dog food for diabetic dogs, dog food for dogs with gastrointestinal issues, and dog food for dogs with sensitive skin. If your dog seems to have issues when they eat certain types of dog food, or if they have a health problem that requires a special diet, talk to your vet about what type of dog food is right for them.

Grain-Free Dog Food: FAQs

Why do vets not recommend grain-free dog food?

Your vet may recommend against grain-free dog food because it lacks ingredients that contain critical nutrients for dogs. Heart health is big for dogs, and grains help support heart health. If your dog eats grain-free dog food, they’re not getting those nutrients which can lead to poor heart health.

There’s also the fact that grain-free dog food tends to contain higher concentrations of certain ingredients, including lentils, peas, potatoes, and legume seeds. Eating too much of these ingredients may contribute to an unbalanced diet that can cause health problems, so your vet may recommend against a grain-free diet for that reason. Ultimately, it’s best to talk to your vet before choosing the best dog food for your dog.

Can grain-free dog food cause heart problems?

While there’s no evidence that proves grain-free dog food is bad for dogs, there is an association between grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that may eventually lead to congestive heart failure and even death. This may be a result of a grain-free diet lacking certain nutrients that help support heart health in dogs.

It’s also important to consider that grain-free dog food may contain larger amounts of certain ingredients, including peas and lentils. This can lead to a dietary imbalance in dogs, especially over a long period of time. It’s always best to talk to your vet before trying new dog food.

Should dogs eat grain-free or whole grain?

If you want to keep your dog healthy, it’s important to make sure they’re eating a balanced diet that includes all the nutrients they need. Unless your dog is allergic to ingredients in regular dog food, vets typically recommend feeding your dog normal food. However, larger breeds may be better off with low-fat foods that prevent excess weight gain.

Ultimately, it’s best to talk to your vet about what kind of food is right for your dog. Your vet can recommend dog food based on your dog’s breed, weight, and medical history. If you notice your dog gaining weight over time or if new health issues occur when your dog switches food, you can talk to your vet about trying another brand of food.

Dog being fed

Final Notes

Grain-free dog foods can be good for dogs who are allergic to grains, but there are also potential problems with a grain-free diet for dogs. Before you switch to grain-free dog food, talk to your vet about the pros and cons and how to choose the best grain-free dog food.

If you need a little help making sure your dog has the best food, Dutch is the simple solution. With Dutch, you can schedule an online video chat with a vet to talk about what kind of food is best for your dog, how much they should eat, and more. Try Dutch today and make choosing the right dog food a simple decision.


  1. “Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dogs.” Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 1 Nov. 2021, 

  2. “Grain-Free Pet Food: Helpful or Harmful Diet?” ASPCA,

  3. Freeman, Lisa M., et al. “Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs: What Do We Know?” AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Dec. 2018,

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.