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Grain-Free Pet Food: A Low- or No-Carb Food?

Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.

Despite some recent controversy, grain-free pet foods remain very popular among U.S. pet owners. One of the reasons given by some pet owners for feeding a grain-free food to their furry family member is the focus of this month’s post.

Is grain-free pet food a low- or no-carbohydrate food?

“Grain-free” and “low-carb” or “carb-free” don’t go hand-in-hand. When pet food companies replace grains in their pet food formulas, they often use other sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, peas, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), potatoes, lentils and tapioca (aka cassava). All of these ingredients provide carbohydrates that dogs and cats can use for energy — just like rice, brown rice, corn, wheat and barley.

While some grain-free pet foods provide fewer carbohydrates than those made with grains, other grain-free pet foods contain carbohydrate levels similar to or even higher than diets containing grains. Or some of the carbohydrates may be replaced with higher levels of fat and/or protein. That’s why it’s important that you don’t assume that the grain-free formulation you’re feeding your dog is a low-carbohydrate one. When comparing Diamond Naturals adult dog food formulas, the carbohydrate content of each formula is similar, regardless of the ingredients used to make the kibble.

The important thing to keep in mind when choosing a food for your pet is that different dogs can have different nutritional needs, and the same holds true for cats. Whether you choose to feed a grain-free pet food or not, you still must choose a food that provides complete and balanced nutrition for your furry friend. Yes, choose a food made with ingredients that you, as a pet owner, can be comfortable with. But remember: From the perspective of your pet’s body, it’s the nutrient profile of the food that’s important, not the individual ingredients in that food.

An interior graphic with text that reads, 'Debarking Pet Myths: Grain-free pet food is always a low- or no-carbohydrate food — Totally False'.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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