Should I put my pet on a grain-free diet?

As grain-free pet products are on the rise, here's the consensus on what's best for your pet

If you're a dog or cat owner, you may have noticed a number of brands marketing that they have "grain-free" food options for pets. That certainly sounds nice -- but is grain really good for your pet, or is it all just marketing?

What is grain-free pet food mean?

Grain-free is a fairly new term in relation to pet food. Typical dog and cat food made with wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, rice, and soy. So, grain-free food is made without wheat, corn, rice and other grains. However, for energy, dogs still need carbohydrate, which means most grain-free foods use alternative sources like potatoes and pea flour.

Should I feed my pet a grain-free diet?

Talk to your pet's veterinarian. When making any decisions regarding your pet's health, i.e. changing their food and treats, you should always consult a professional first. Typically, vets recommend prescription diets, or a more cost-effective brand like Purina.

However, while this is a new trend in pet food, you might not want to immediately jump on the grain-free diet train. The FDA is currently investigating the potential health risks associated with a grain-free diet.

“The FDA is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free dog foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients. The FDA began investigating this matter after it received reports of DCM in dogs that had been eating these diets for a period of months to years. DCM itself is not considered rare in dogs, but these reports are unusual because the disease occurred in breeds of dogs not typically prone to the disease.”

Safe Pet Food Brands

You pet's vet will always be the best person to suggest what brand is ideal for your furry little friend, but there are a few trusted brands that anyone can rely on when picking a pet food. Most vets will recommend a prescription diet, because they are highly regulated and the formulas tend to be very well tailored to animals as they are made by vets. However, prescription pet food can be pricey. For people who aren't able to afford something quite that expensive, there's the Purina Pro Plan. I've picked out some other suggestions below:

Vet-Formulated Pet Food Brands

Hill's Science Diet

Hills Prescription Diet

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet

Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition 

Nationwide Budget-Friendly Pet Food Brands

Purina Pro Plan

Safe Pet Treats

Greenies Dental Dog Treats

Greenies Feline Treats

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Ana Suarez is the senior commerce editor for Hearst Newspapers. Email her at