​Why Should I Add Grains to My Dog’s Diet?

​Why Should I Add Grains to My Dog’s Diet?

Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on May 24th 2023

Why Should I Add Grains to My Dog's Diet?

To grain, or not to grain, that is the question. Grain-free diets gained traction and popularity in 2007 during a sea of recalls from pet foods produced in China that were causing severe health issues to our pets, including, but not limited to, kidney failure. The idea of grain-free diets dense with exotic proteins and legumes appealed to health-conscious people. They have been promoted as delicious, nutritious, and better for gluten-sensitive bellies. But contrary to popular belief, allergies, and intolerances to grains are rare in our canine companions. Whole grains are a healthy choice for most dogs, and some owners are considering adding their own grains to dog food to make it healthier and get some of the benefits from grains. If this is you, here’s what you need to know!

Not All Grain-Free Dog Foods are Created Equal!

Many grain-free formulas replace grains with other species-inappropriate ingredients like corn, potato, legumes, and lentils instead of replacing those grains with animal protein. Dogs are ill-equipped to handle these kinds of plant-based protein ingredients in such large quantities. Feeding natural and healthy animal protein, rotating the source each week, and adding good healthy oils, also rotated weekly, together with vegetables and a small amount of appropriate, organic, human-edible non-GMO grains, will dramatically improve a dog’s health and well-being.

The bottom line, grain-free dog food isn't necessarily better for your pup. Let’s take a look at what grains bring to the game. Grains provide many essential nutrients:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Calories
  • Carbohydrates

Research has shown that including some grains in your dog's diet may help to boost microbiome diversity. This can help with your dog's overall immune health and wellness. Every dog needs fiber to regulate their digestion. Fiber regulates intestinal transit time, so it can help with both constipation and diarrhea.

Whole grains are a good source of key nutrients and have valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables. Dog foods should be nutritionally balanced, and many grain-free foods are already high in carbs from sources like potatoes and legumes. Looking at your dog’s food label is the most important step in deciding whether you want to add additional grains.

Want an easy way to add grains to your diet? Try adding the Volhard AM Porridge! The Volhard AM Porridge is a dehydrated foundation mix that is made of human-edible ingredients and non-GMO grains. You also get the benefit of some other healthy ingredients, such as eggs and herbs, that can help a diet be more supportive while also helping to prevent parasites - all from the USA and nothing sourced from China. It is easy to rehydrate, and you do not have to do any preparation except add water, kefir, or bone broth to rehydrate. Five minutes and you have added some healthy, digestible grain to the diet! Another plus is that this foundation mix has been third-party tested, and Volhard provides you with the full nutritional data and testing results. Every batch is also tested for E. coli, mold, fungus, Salmonella, and Listeria.

Oats and Groats: The Benefits

Oats are low in gluten, high in protein, and good for dogs with blood sugar or cholesterol issues.

Oats are hearty, nutritious, and tasty. Dogs can benefit from oats if served in moderation. Oats are a great alternative carbohydrate for dogs sensitive to wheat or other grains. Oats contain linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps keep the skin strong and healthy. They are also a good source of soluble fiber, which can help regulate blood glucose levels. Oats are a warming grain that calms the nervous and reproductive systems and strengthens the spleen, pancreas, immune system, and heart muscle. Rich in silicon, oats help make bones strong. Acidic and not very allergenic, they are tolerated best by most dogs.

From the pancreas and heart to the nervous and immune systems, both the body and the mind will enjoy the positive effects of including oats in a balanced diet:

  • Oats are high in protein: Oats are one of the most nutrient-dense foods your dog can eat, with 13 grams of protein per cup (27-3% of their composition). Oat protein is a valuable substitute for soy protein because it is not allergenic, whereas soy protein is.
  • Oats are rich in nutrients such as iron, manganese, and zinc.
  • Oats contain significant amounts of B vitamins and linoleic acid: The vitamin B complex and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, promote the production of healthy skin cells, fortify the skin barrier, assist in wound healing, and help curb inflammation.
  • Oats promote bone health: their high silica — the bioactive form of silicon — composition helps improve bone density.
  • Oats calm the nervous, reproductive, and immune systems.
  • Oats strengthen the pancreas and the heart muscle.
  • Oats are acidic and negligibly allergenic, which is why they are tolerated best by most dogs.
  • Oats help keep cholesterol levels low.
  • Oats promote constant milk production in lactating dogs.
  • The high amount of fiber (4 grams/cup of cooked oats) improves digestive health while soothing an upset stomach.
  • Oats improve skin health and have anti-itching properties.

According to Chinese Medicine, oats are a warming energy that strengthens the spleen, stops diarrhea, lowers blood pressure, and aids spontaneous sweating. It is best used with the following conditions: leucorrhea, hypertension, diarrhea, boils, carbuncles, and erysipelas (similar to shingles, although this appears on the lower limbs).

Buckwheat groats are the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant; they’re a gluten-free “pseudocereal” because they act more like a grain than a seed, much in the same way as quinoa. Buckwheat is a gluten-free source of fiber and helps maintain your pup's digestive tract health, especially dogs that have GI (gastrointestinal) issues. It also helps dogs with high blood sugar because it slows the release of glucose into the body. It is a great substitute for dogs that are sensitive to wheat. Buckwheat groats are an alkaline seed with a sweet flavor. It cleanses the intestines and improves appetite. Buckwheat contains rutin, a bioflavonoid, which helps to strengthen capillaries and blood vessels and inhibits hemorrhaging. It, too, is tolerated well by the majority of dogs.

Buckwheat groats contain high levels of antioxidants such as rutin and quercetin, which are protective against cancer, heart disease and free-radical damage. Rutin is also thought to help fight inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Buckwheat groats are also a source of prebiotics. This means they act as “food” for the healthy gut bacteria, or probiotics, that live in your dog’s digestive tract, which research shows may play a role in immune function, mental health, allergies, weight management, and more. 

Buckwheat is also high in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce hypertension. The fiber also aids in digestion and relieves constipation which, long-term, can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Buckwheat groats score a 45 on the glycemic index (55 and lower is considered “low”) due to their high protein and fiber content, meaning they help keep you feeling full longer and won’t cause blood sugars to spike. Plus, a bioactive compound, D-chiro inositol, has insulin-like activity that may help lower blood sugars. Buckwheat is also a source of plant-based protein (6 grams in a ¼ cup dry), but it’s a standout because it contains all the essential amino acids. It’s also a good source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and folate.

According to Chinese Medicine, buckwheat is neutral in energy and sweet. It descends qi, strengthens the stomach, stops dysentery, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the blood vessels. It is best used with the following conditions: chronic diarrhea, dysentery, spontaneous sweating, hypertension, and skin lesions.

Here's an Easy Way to Add Grains!

Grains cannot be fed without being minimally processed to get the most out of them. You want to source grains that are human-edible, non-GMO, and aflatoxin, mold, and fungus-free. What is the easiest way to add grains to the diet, know all the macro and micro nutritional data so you can balance the meal, and have them conveniently ready in just moments? Use the Volhard AM Porridge foundation mix! It has all that you need in one easy dehydrated base mix: ready to go with just a little water to rehydrate, and BOOM, grains added. What is also nice is that when you leave the grains out of the diet, you can reseal the bag and stick it right back in the freezer.

Grains are Not All Bad. Use Them to Your Advantage!

Carbohydrates help dogs produce energy, making them an essential part of any healthy, well-balanced dog diet. Although dog food containing healthy, starchy vegetables are a great way for dogs to meet their carbohydrate quota, whole grains, like oats, are also an excellent option. Oats contribute vital nutrients, minerals, and fiber. Despite their many benefits, however, it is important to feed these calorie-dense grains in moderation to dogs. Giving too many of them to your dog can contribute to obesity and the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in their gut, which can play havoc with their health. Ultimately, we all want our pets to be the healthiest possible and live the longest life possible, and we want to help everyone’s pet stay healthy and happy! The more we study and learn of better avenues, the better their diet, health, and their overall life will become. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!

Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!