The Grain Debate


Honored Member
Staff member
I've heard many contradicting things on whether or not grains are necessary/good for your dog's diet. Many try to model their diet after that of wolves, claiming that wolves do not go out and eat wheat grass, vegetables, etc....but if you think about it, wolves consume most if not ALL of the carcass of their prey, typically omnivores/herbivores. What's in the stomach/intestines of that animal? Partially digested grains, grasses, veggies possibly. Obviously CORN is definitely something to avoid, but is there really a downside to wheat, barley, rice, etc? I do know that grains generally are fillers, but are they good or bad for your dog? There are so many contradicting things on this subject, and although I've always thought grain-free was the way to go, I'm beginning to wonder. Input anyone? (Snooks I know you'll be posting many links. ^^ )


Honored Member
My dog eats leaves and grass sometimes, on his own. (duh, of course on his own, who would give their dog grass...):msniwonder:

I always heard this means they have a stomach ache and want to that true? OFF TOPIC!! :msngiggle:

but he never vomits after this...:dognowink:

but he does occasionally, just eat some grass or plants..just a nibble here or he needs a lil dab of green in his diet....

Are wolf stomachs and dog stomachs really the same, after all these generations of domestication and probably odd, human supplied dog-diets, wonder if the dog stomach has evolved away from the wolf stomach and dietary needs that much...or not.


Honored Member
Staff member
That's a good question, I'll do some double-checking....TECHNICALLY, if you open up a wolf and open up a dog their entire insides are more or less identical. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything at all---a pig's insides are almost identical to a human's, and a lemur's are actually damn close too--taking into account size variance, of course. BUT, how they work, how they digest things, may or may not be exactly the same. No matter how identical they are or aren't built, you have to take into account how they LIVE.

For instance, a wolf leads a very active life. Hunting burns SOOOO many calories and so much energy. They travel lots, wander sometimes for no real reason, and really put a lot of miles on those big ol' paws. When they do take down their prey, they consume almost the whole carcass. Let's say a wolf pack takes down a whitetail doe. That doe probably ate loooots of grass, maybe some berries or other small fruits, maybe some apples if they were lucky enough to come across an apple tree, acorns.....a diet largely consisting of roughages and grains. So her digestive system contained a lot of partially digested grains, fruits, etc. So to say that anything of the canine species doesn't necessarily NEED grains doesn't make much sense. (To other readers: Please no attacks on this. This is merely an observation and I started this post to LEARN and get input, not attacks, from other members. So please be respectful.) Along with consuming these partially digested grains, etc, the wolf consumes quite a bit of meat and then may spend quite a bit of time gnawing on the bones of the animal. SOOO, what did that wolf just consume?

-A very high amount of protein
-Partially digested grains/fruits/veggies
~If the doe consumed WHEAT, wheat is known for regulating digestion. Very easy on the tummy.
-BASICALLY, all the nutrients it needs.

Now then, think of the average dog's life. He doesn't burn thousands of calories scarfing down his dinner in his cute little designer bowl. He didn't run 20 miles to Petsmart to get it and then drag it home and rip it open. Lol! You buy it, you tote it home, pour some in a bowl and he munches it down in 10+ minutes or so. No large amounts of calories burned there. If he's lucky enough to have an active owner(which in your case is true) he might get several walks a week, maybe some jogs. But on average, most dogs might be lucky to burn a few calories with a game of fetch. So would you feed your domesticated dog a diet with 40% OR HIGHER protein???? Absolutely not!! This could cause a wide variety of health problems.

But, it IS good, in many aspects to model a dog's diet after a wolves, in this sense: NATURAL diets. Artificial fats, flavors, colors, pfft. No need. Wolves do not INTENTIONALLY go out and eat corn, and even if they do digest some it is already partially digested by whatever ate it first. With "bad" dog foods, often corn may even be the first or second ingredient. Natural, high grade meats are something to shoot for in your dog's diet.

As for the grass....he could have some tummy upset, or he could just be munching grass. Some dogs who are allergic to something in their foods might eat grass--or eat their own poop. NOT that all grass or poop-eating dogs have allergies, that's not the point. Puppies eat grass a lot. If he eats a large amount of grass then you can guarantee something is going to be coming out of one or both ends, and he's either sick or got into something. But munching a little grass once in a while isn't necessarily a sign of illness, sometimes it's even just boredom.

Lol, think I got carried away... :dogwub:


Honored Member
I'm researching the whole dog eats grass thing....seems they aren't 100% sure, no dog will tell them for certain...hee hee! I DO, btw, make Buddy's homemade dog treats to be 1/3 green beans...(see recipes)

maybe i'll switch that up to be broccoli, in an attempt to make sure he IS getting some missing nutrient? (does broccolli give dogs gas? :msnrolleyes:eeough!) I notice lotsa homemade dog food cooks mention broccoli as an ingredient. Sure hope it doesn't give him gas...:dognowink:

Anyway...back to your original thread topic, this article i just read said, when wild dogs/wolves kill an animal, the first thing they go for, the first part eaten, is the stomach, full of berries and grasses, etc.....Hmmm. INteresting. (don't know if this is true, is just in this article. Me, i haven't tramped on after any wolves to observe this myself, hee hee)

Hey, just realized, when we first got our then-scrawny lil, extremely malnourished Buddy, he was a poop eater back then, not HIS poop, not dog poop, but only bunny and deer poop. We have got him to quit doing this, or, Buddy has decided on his own he doesn't need to eat poop anymore, :dogtongue:either way, whew!!


New Member
The general consensus lately seems to be that those grain-free, uber-high protein diets are NOT good for dogs. The extra protein is actually proving to be detrimental to kidney function in dogs.


Staff member

I saw this and wanted to add something because I pretty avid on dog nutrition and the likes. Dogs don't need grains. It is added as a filler so the dog feels full. But as this can digest quickly it often leads the dog to eat more, which allows the dog to go through dog food more allowing you to pay more. It's a vicious cycle. But it gets the pet food industry money therefore they do it.

And wolves do not eat the stomach content of their prey unless it is small such as a rabbit. Actually most carnivores don't and if they do it is in fact very little.
This is from the site: The Many Myths of Raw Feeding

This claim is repeated over and over as evidence that wolves and therefore dogs are omnivores. However, this assumption is just that--an assumption. It is not supported by the evidence available to us, and is therefore false!
Wolves do NOT eat the stomach contents of their prey. Only if the prey is small enough (like the size of a rabbit) will they eat the stomach contents, which just happen to get consumed along with the entire animal. Otherwise, wolves will shake out the stomach contents of their large herbivorous prey before sometimes eating the stomach wall. The following quotations are taken from L. David Mech's 2003 book Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Mech (and the others who contributed to this book) is considered the world's leading wolf biologist, and this book is a compilation of 350 collective years of research, experiments, and careful field observations. These quotes are taken from chapter 4, The Wolf as a Carnivore.
"Wolves usually tear into the body cavity of large prey and...consume the larger internal organs, such as lungs, heart, and liver. The large rumen [, which is one of the main stomach chambers in large ruminant herbivores,] usually punctured during removal and its contents spilled. The vegetation in the intestinal tract is of no interest to the wolves, but the stomach lining and intestinal wall are consumed, and their contents further strewn about the kill site." (pg.123, emphasis added)

"To grow and maintain their own bodies, wolves need to ingest all the major parts of their herbivorous prey, except the plants in the digestive system." (pg.124, emphasis added).


Experienced Member
Certainly, what charmedwolf has written above is pretty much in line with what I recall from the words of Shaun Ellis. He's a guy over here who lives with wolves on a full-time basis. Once in a while we get to see him doing just that on television documentaries and he says the same thing about the internal organs; they are the most valued food items when a carcass is ripped open. As I understand it, the higher-ranking wolves get access to the most prized organs first.


New Member

I was feeding my 23 lb miniature schnauzer 1/3 cup Iams in the morning and a can of Mighty Dog for dinner. He often couldn't seem to tolerate the dry food and vomited it up. I'm at a loss now as too just how much and what to feed him to maintain good nutrition.


Honored Member
Staff member
The Good:

Blue Buffalo
Nutro Ultra
Some other brands that really require reading labels...some brands have terrible food except for ONE formula, which is 10 steps ahead of all their other formulas.

Nature's Variety INSTINCT
And many, many others...

Not to offend you, but Iams and Mighty Dog are actually some of the WORST. They do contain corn and are generally just not well made at all. You want your first ingredient to be a MEAT: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Venison, whatever... BEWARE: Keep reading....if the corn is separated into whole ground corn, corn gluten meal, etc, your first ingredient may really be corn. You want to avoid corn altogether. Entirely. No corn. No corn gluten meal. No corn. Corn gluten meal is slightly easier digested, and is the protein part of the corn. But still something to avoid. That's a basic, VERY condensed version of finding a good dog food. Since this post is questioning the grain-free or not debate, I'm not going to add anything on that subject...there is a lot of controversy on that.

Jean Cote

Staff member
shadow;18249 said:
I was feeding my 23 lb miniature schnauzer 1/3 cup Iams in the morning and a can of Mighty Dog for dinner. He often couldn't seem to tolerate the dry food and vomited it up. I'm at a loss now as too just how much and what to feed him to maintain good nutrition.
This isn't quite the right thread, but have you thought of feeding raw food? I've been doing it for about a year and my dogs are thriving. On dry food, I always had problems. My husky would never eat it, or throw up after eating it. And my B.C. would have diarrhea all the time, and I was using the expensive dry kibble too! Check out other threads for more info on this subject. (I don't want to hijack this thread)


New Member
My biggest input here is a warning: beware of companies that are trying to avoid the "grain" issue through fancy wording. "Maize" is exactly the same as saying "corn" (I'm looking at YOU Science Diet!). it's a very sneaky and downright deceptive tactic to lead some people into thinking their dog is getting better food than is the reality.

The biggest thing to remember tho is that some dogs can live wonderfully happy and healthy lives on crap food, while other dogs can't handle it and need a higher quality food.

My sister's dog has a grain allergy and i think a chicken allergy too. I feed him Natural Balance L.I.D. (Limited ingredient diet) that contains absolutely no grains and no chicken. The two major ingredients are potatoes and a novelty protein (depending on which bag i happen to pick up that month) usually duck or venison.

My boys are all on Royal Canin, which has corn in it, but it still considered a super premium dog food and my boys do really, really well on it.


New Member
A few things. First, I agree that raw feeding is the way to go if you can. Keep in mind, raw food is of average protein levels (20-27%) and contains sufficient water for proper kidney function. Raw foods simply cannot be compared to even the highest quality of kibble. Kibble, especially the grain-free foods, are super concentrated forms of normal foods. Wild dogs (or even wolves as some of you want to use as an example; FYI, our domestic dogs are NOT wolves and I'm so sick of hearing that argument) eat a diet that is roughly the same level of protein as an average semi-decent kibble. Grain-free kibbles are TOO high in protein. Dogs' kidneys cannot process 40-50% protein effectively, especially given that it's DRY food and most dogs do not drink enough water of their own accord to help their kidneys process the elevated levels of protein. More power to the grain-free kibble feeders. Don't be surprised when your dogs are in kidney failure in a few years. These foods have not been around long enough to track the longterm health problems that they cause in dogs.

Next, it was mentioned above that you should look for a food which has a named meat as the first ingredient. I will argue that you should look for a food that has a named meat MEAL as the first ingredient. Whole meats are 80% water (hence the reason raw fed dogs are only getting average levels of protein) and when that water weight is taken into consideration the ingredient drops way down on the list. Meals are dehydrated (and yeah, processed) forms of the whole meats. They're far more valuable and nutritious than whole meats when you're talking kibble.

Corn isn't going to kill your dog. Is it rather useless and many times only used as a filler? Yes. But it's not the killer ingredient everyone makes it out to be. I choose not to feed my dogs a food that contains corn but my reasoning is that I don't want to have to feed 3x more kibble and pick up 3x more poop becase the corn serves no purpose.

I feed a food based on five requirements:

1) No corn.
2) No by-products.
3) No Menadione.
4) First ingredient is a named meat meal.
5) Must have more than 400kcals/cup. A food with less than 400kcals/cup just won't keep my high energy dogs at their current weights for long. Higher calorie foods = less food per feeding also.

Two great websites for information on dog food:

The Dog Food Project - How does your Dog Food Brand compare?

Dog Food Analysis - Reviews of kibble