Is Grain-free Kibble Healthier for Dogs or Dangerous?

When we first adopted Mango, we immediately got confused by the plethora of dog food choices. To start we took the easy way out and bought one of those big 30lb bags of grain-free CostCo kibble and thought, maybe we’re covered for a while. For Mango, the surprising availability of any kind of food 3 times a day for her very own seemed literally like manna from heaven. Win-win!

Why grain-free? Our first trip to the dog food store we discovered shelves of grain-free choices alongside the brands we were used to from our previous dog Holly. Brands like Purina, Science Diet and the like were still prevalent, but we found many of the newer dog kibble brands promote the message that dogs were not meant to eat grains. Curious, we began exploring sites like have reported that claim grain-free kibble will lead to,

  • More energy (hmmm, we're already struggling to keep up with her...)
  • Smaller, more compact stools (our daily goal) 
  • Shinier coats (Bingo! - she’s a supermodel after all)
  • Eliminates some allergies (Can’t hurt)
  • Improves dog breath (yes, please. Mango’s can lean a tad fishy)
  • Reduces gas (supermodels fart too, it turns out)

Sounds good. Besides, our last startup office in Denver was down the road from the Purina factory (leading maker of grain-based kibble) and on their cooking days the wind sometimes blew a thick kibble scent into our open office space, forcing us to flee for distant bike trails. Not a good reason probably, but scents translate into emotions they say, and that emotion was smelly. 

So grain-free it was. Costco had a massive bag of it. Mango loved it. Done & done!

But Wait! Grain-free may be BAD?

Like margarine, coffee, red wine, whole fat yogurt, tanning, jogging and so many other habits that so many times in my life get declared either panaceas or poisons on a rotating basis, it turns out grain-free kibble might actually be causing heart disease in some dogs. Maybe. A lot of doggy diet-focused sites like PuppyUp have given a lot attention (we’re just catching up) to this ongoing FDA study that suggest grain substitutes like potatoes, peas, lentils and legumes used in grain-free kibble might be a link to heart disease in dogs. And vets like Dr. Maureen Ward, with the Harrisonburg, VA Animal Hospital, argues strongly against grain-free diets for dogs. 

Lovely. Now we’re maybe feeding Mango heart disease?


This story gets more confusing by the day.

In this update Truth About reports that the FDA gave the big dog food companies (Purina and the like who mostly made grain based dog foods) advance notice of recent updated findings apparently so they could spin the news in advance of its release. But TruthAboutPetfood then proposes that maybe dry food in general is the problem, whether grain is included or not. 


Oh my. The FDA study is ongoing and without conclusion yet. In the meantime, we’ve been experimenting and evolving Mango's diet while we await FDA enlightenment. Stand by!

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