Knowing More About Grain-Free Treats

Cats and dogs are naturally meat-eaters, and grain-free treats are all the rage to offer your pets. But how appropriate are grains, really, in your pet's diet? What types of treats are suitable and how can you find the best options to meet your pet's nutritional needs?

Grain and Your Pets

Naturally carnivorous pets such as cats and dogs require diets high in protein and made of mostly meat for strong, healthy muscles and overall nutritional balance. While it is true that carnivores cannot easily digest grains, modern domesticated dogs and cats can usually eat small amounts of grain without difficulty. Too much grain, however, can lead to a variety of health problems, such as…

  • Poor digestion and an irritated digestive tract
  • Obesity and weight gain from
  • Food sensitivities or food allergies
  • Excessive flatulence and gas in the digestive tract
  • Dull fur and drier, itchy skin or rashes

Different grains are often used in less expensive pet foods and treats as filler to add bulk for a low price. Check ingredient lists for grains such as…

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats

If any of these grains are listed as the first ingredient – therefore the largest proportion of the food – it may be best to avoid the product, especially for pets with grain sensitivities. Ultimately, however, the goal for your pet's diet should not be to avoid grains entirely, but to provide balanced, healthy nutrition that will meet your pet's needs. Those needs will change throughout your pet's life, and it is best to consult with a veterinarian about the proper place grains can take in your pet's balanced diet.

Types of Grain-Free Treats

Even if you feed your pet a regular diet that includes small amounts of grains, choosing grain-free treats can be a way to be sure you aren't giving your pet too many grains that can upset their health. Many manufacturers offer grain-free treat options that may include one more popular types of protein, such as…

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Duck
  • Lamb
  • Turkey

In addition to meat as the first ingredient in a grain-free treat, other ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and cheese may be part of the treats for extra nutrition and flavoring. Your pet may prefer one specific type of treat or flavor, or you may want to switch around the flavors of treats you offer to keep your pet interested and to offer a more varied diet.

Treats are available in different forms, including nuggets or bite-size kibble chunks, jerky, chews and biscuits. Choose the type of treat your pet can easily eat without difficulty chewing, and be sure it is the best size for your pet's teeth, mouth and jaws.

You can also easily offer your pet less processed grain-free treats by preparing bits of chicken, beef, pork or other proteins, either raw or cooked, as treats. Handle the food safely, however, and avoid seasoned meats or too much fat that can be unhealthy for your pet.

The more you know about how grain impacts your pet's nutrition and what your pet's dietary needs are, the more you can consider grain-free treats as a delicious and nutritious snack for your pet