The truth about grain free dog food

by: Patricia

date: Jun 6

category: Articles

When Drake was first diagnosed with his cancer, we were told his type of cancer had a direct correlation to the food we had fed him. We fed him the same brand as we did with Max, who lived to be 13. For a Labrador that was consider a long-life span. The news on Drake left us shocked and dismayed.

After the news about Drake’s food, and as we were in the process of adopting Hank, we did a lot of research. Overwhelmingly we found all of the “experts” recommend a “grain-free” dog food. Supposedly, it was the best possible thing we could feed him. One of the families that fostered him suggested Merrick, and that’s what we went with.

Hank did great on Merrick for the first three years we had him. Then things changed drastically. I was out of town for a few days and when Darrell picked me up at the airport, I asked, “How’s my boy?” he responded, “I don’t know, something is wrong, he was up walking around all last night and doesn’t want to lay down.” That night the same thing happened.

Long before they were open the next morning, I called our vet, Dr. Rudd Nelson of Bayview Animal Hospital, and luckily, he answered the telephone. After giving him all of Hank’s symptoms, he wanted to see him immediately. First, he felt Hank’s abdomen, then took x-rays. When he came back with Hank, he said, “He’s full of gas, I mean there are hundreds of gas bubbles in his stomach. It has to be extremely painful for him to lay down.”

“What’s causing that?” I asked.

“What are you feeding him?”

“Merrick, grain-free as we were told it was the best.”

“Grain-free is not good for dogs. They need grains, and he especially needs the grains to absorb the acid in his system.”

“Great he’s done so well for three years, why all of a sudden is he having a problem?”

“His system finally couldn’t handle it anymore.”

“Let’s put him on a prescription food for dogs with intestinal problems and see how he does.”

There’s Hank’s story with grain-free dog food, unfortunately for other dogs who were on a grain-free diet, the outcome has been much worse. On June 27, 2019, the Federal Drug Administration (“FDA”) post their findings in their report “FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.”

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (“DCM”) is a decreased ability of the heart to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system. There are breeds that are predisposed to DCM, and they include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel. Once a dog is diagnosed with DCM, they are treated with cardiac medication.

Before Hank’s problems arose with the grain-free food, one of the techs at Bayview was begging me to get him off it. I thought it was just her personal opinion and tuned her out.

Off the grain-free food, Hank is now a healthy and happy seven-and-a-half-year-old Labrador puppy.


  1. My veterinarian has strongly discouraged a grain free diet for our chocolate, Bucky. He is on a balanced commercial brand. He is thriving and is now 1 year old. I have too much concern about the heart issues. I have a friend with two golden retrievers that were on a grain free diet and they both have been diagnosed with cardiac problems .

    • My 3 1/2 month old child lab puppy has been suffering from diarrhea since we got him at 8 weeks old. He was on blue Buffalo grain free.

      We’ve changed him to Purina pro plan focus (has probiotics), almost instantly….no more diarrhea or gas.


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