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Back in the day, it would be nearly impossible to find a dog treat that didn’t list a grain (such as wheat or corn) as its first ingredient. But we’ve come a long way in the dog food industry—and today, there are plenty of grain-free treats on the market for you to incorporate into your dog’s diet.
But what’s the deal with this kind of dog treat? Is it a healthy option for dogs—and, more importantly, is it a healthy option for your dog? And how do you know which treats are the best pick for your pet?
Let’s take a deep dive into the subject, and take a peek at our picks for the best grain-free treats for 2020.
Why Are Grain-Free Treats a Healthy Option for Dogs?
Before we jump into the best treats for your pet, let’s talk about why grain-free treats are a healthy option in the first place.
“Grain-free treats are typically limited in ingredients and contain few to no preservatives, which may cause unwanted side effects such as digestive upset and skin inflammation,” says Dr. Jim D. Carlson, a holistic veterinarian and owner of Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center.
That’s a far cry from their grain-filled counterparts, which are typically created using “filler” grains as the main ingredient, which offer very little (or no) nutritional value and, as Carlson points out, can lead to digestive issues for your dog.
What Dogs Will Benefit Most From Grain-Free Treats?
While most dogs will get a benefit from high-quality, grain-free treats, they are especially beneficial for “dogs that are inactive or overweight, because the treats do not contain grains which metabolize too quickly and cause fat storage,” says Carlson.
Are There Any Dogs Who Should Avoid Grain-Free Treats?
Grain-free treats are a healthy option for most dogs—but there are definitely certain pets that should avoid the grain-free route.
“Dogs who have heart disease should avoid 100% grain-free treats because of the potential for taurine deficiency which can make heart conditions worsen,” says Carlson.
“Kidney patients usually require a protein-restricted diet,” Carlson continues. “One of the by-products of protein breakdown is urea, a chemical produced when ammonia is converted by the liver to urea, and the kidneys are responsible for excretion.”
What Should Pet Owners Look for When Shopping for Grain-Free Treats?
There are a lot of grain-free treats out there that are made from high-quality ingredients, but there are others that pump their treats with chemicals, fillers, and other hard-to-digest ingredients. So when you’re shopping for this specific kind of dog treat, you want to make sure the ingredient list contains a minimal amount of ingredients and that they are real, and nutrient-dense.
“Limited ingredients are important to eliminate excess preservatives and to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction,” says Carlson.
The Best Grain-Free Treats For 2020
Grain-free treats can be a great addition to your dog’s diet, but with so many options on the market, which are the best choice for your pet?
Here are our picks for the best grain-free treats for 2020.
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats are not only free from grains (including corn and wheat), they’re also free of soy, poultry by-products, and artificial flavors and preservatives.
These high-protein treats also made with high-quality, natural ingredients (think salmon, duck, turkey, potatoes, and flaxseed), which ups their nutritional value.Shop Now
In addition to being grain-free, the main draw of these treats is that meat is its first ingredient. Depending on the flavor you choose, these dog snacks are full of real turkey, beef, chicken and other high-quality food ingredients such as sweet potatoes, peas, and apples.
These treats pack a nutritional (and tasty!) punch your pet is sure to love.Shop Now
If your dog goes crazy for jerky (and let’s be real—whose dog wouldn’t?), these treats from Bones & Chews are made from real meat (including beef, chicken, and turkey). They’re high-protein, they’re grain-free, and—at least to dogs—they’re delicious.Shop Now
Zuke’s Lil’ Links #1 ingredient is real meat. And not only are these popular treats grain-free, they’re also free of by-product meal, “mystery” meat, added animal fat, and artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.
Combine that with an ingredient list chock full of fruits and veggies and you’ve got yourself a grain-free winner.Shop Now
Got a petite pup? These small, high-protein treats (made with quality, real-food ingredients such as turkey, pomegranate, and ginger) are the perfect grain-free solution.Shop Now
These well-reviewed crunchy biscuit dog treats are a clear favorite with dog owners.
And for good reason! With an ingredient list of only six ingredients (including chickpeas, real peanut butter, and peas) and no artificial preservatives or animal by-products, pet owners can feel confident they know exactly what they’re feeding their pet.Shop Now
Made from a variety of “sweet” whole foods (including sweet potato, banana, and peanut butter), these treats—which are also free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives—are a great alternative for dogs who don’t enjoy meat-flavored snacks.Shop Now
Remember: Before You Choose any Treats for Your Pup, Consult With Your Veterinarian
We’ve covered a lot of ground with grain-free treats. But it’s important to remember that before you add anything to your dog’s diet—including the treats recommended on this list—it’s important to consult your vet.
A veterinary professional can give you deeper insights on the best diet for your specific dog—and which treats are going to be the best fit for your pet.
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