Can Grain Free Dog Food Cause Loose Stool?

Can Grain Free Dog Food Cause Loose Stool?

Imagine your dog ate his or her dinner last night and everything seems fine. The next day during a walk or playtime your dog ‘has to go’ and you notice their stool is very loose. Seeing your four-legged friend not doing so well can be heartbreaking and cause you stress.  Considering our furry friends often consume almost anything that comes near them. A loose stool can be cause for concern for a pet parent and the diet your dog is on could be agitating his/her stomach. 
In this article, we will be looking into the possibility of your dog’s diet causing diarrhoea and specifically answer if a grain-free diet causes loose stool. 

What is a grain-free diet?

A grain-free diet means your dog is on a diet where they are not consuming grains such as rice, wheat or oats. The carbohydrate sources used instead are potatoes, carrots or pumpkin with the rest being a protein source such as chicken or beef. 
A grain-free diet is meant to emulate what dogs ate when they were the ancestral wolf and what their digestive system was originally meant to digest. Our guide on Grain-free Dog Food is a valuable resource just in case you want to find about more about this diet. 

So can grain-free dog food cause diarrhoea? 

Short answer. No. However, there are many more factors to consider, therefore, annoyingly “it depends”. 
Our furry friends were not born equal which means their systems are not exactly the same. As a result, different diets affect dogs differently based on breed, the food they are accustomed to, allergies and intolerances. 
If your dog experiences diarrhoea after being introduced to a grain-free diet, try not to immediately conclude that the reaction was a result of the diet itself. For one, switching diets means that our dog’s digestive systems need to adjust to the new diet. 
A loose stool is a normal reaction and your dog should be back to normal within two or three days, at the very most a week. This is why you should not go cold turkey and swap diets too soon. 
Speaking of turkey though, have you come across our Free Range Turkey meal with spinach and pumpkin? Progressively introducing your furry pet to this grain-free meal could be the key to reducing sharp reactions such as diarrhoea.
If symptoms however persist or continue to get worse over a period of time, this is where your vet will come in handy for a proper assessment. 
Another reason why your dog could experience a loose stool while on a grain-free diet could be the protein sources in the food. Grain-free dog food is one of the most nutritious diets you could give your dog but some manufacturers might not consider the protein sources. As such, your dog could be consuming protein that is difficult to digest resulting in diarrhoea or constipation. 

The importance of switching diets progressively

We have established that grain-free dog food does not necessarily cause loose stools but rather it is quick changes from one diet to another, which is the most common cause.
So how can you as a dog parent transition your pet to a grain-free diet without sending your dog’s stomach into disarray? 
While you have heard or read of the benefits of grain-free dog food, it is important to introduce it slowly in your dog’s regular diet allowing the digestive system to adjust bit by bit. Mixing regular kibble with grain free kibble at the early stages would be a great start. Pay attention to your dog’s stool, coat and if the dog generally looks forward to diner time. If all goes well, your dog should be completely grain-free in a few days or weeks. If during the transition you notice your dog developing a loose stool, discontinue the process and assess the protein source or even better, swap the grain-free bag for a more bioavailable option. 
Our nutritious grain free dog food is designed to be easy to digest and to assimilate effectively. This means that your dog will have a smooth transition from regular food and enjoy the benefits of grain-free dog food. 
If however nothing seems to work, then its best to feed your dog a balanced diet that works for them without any issues. After all, there is no one size fits all diet for humans and this applies to our furry friends as well. 

What causes loose stools?

If your dog has been alright for quite sometime, consuming the same diet with no problems, consult your vet ASAP as there might be something going on.
We cannot fully rule out food because, as we mentioned earlier, dog’s can put whatever they come across in their mouths. If you have ever had a fruit tree in your garden, you might have experience in this area. It became obvious very quickly what the source of all the missing plumbs at the end of our garden was down to… 
Allergies and parasites such as hookworms, roundworms or bacterial infections such as Salmonella could be another reason why your dog is experiencing diarrhoea. This is again, why we say a vet would be the best option in this case to prevent further complications and ease away the distress on your furry friend. 

Does grain-free dog food regulate allergies or intolerances?

This highly depends on the dog breed, the diet it has been on and also what allergies or intolerances the dog has.
It is important to highlight that allergies and intolerances are not the same thing. Allergies are innate and your dog has had them since it was a puppy. Intolerances are however developed overtime. Your dog could be eating chicken all its life until one day the digestive system decides enough is enough!
If your dog has allergies, consult a medic before trying out a new diet to avoid aggravating the condition. 
If your dog has developed an intolerance and perhaps starts to experience loose stools, then putting the dog on an elimination diet would be ideal. An elimination diet helps you figure out what food or ingredient could be upsetting your dog so you can get rid of it. It’s something we speak about in detail in our hypoallergenic blog.

A myth that is often found, is grain-free dog food causes or spikes intolerances in dogs. This could not be further from the truth because there are great grain-free options that have good protein sources. Novel protein such as wild boar or haddock is unlikely to spike any intolerance. In fact, your dog could do very well on novel protein sources since its system has no reason to fight against them.
Hopefully this has helped you understand a bit more as to what could be causing your pooch to have a loose stool. You should work closely with your vet to resolve the issue. If the problem is stemming from a transition to a new diet, you should monitor your dog for a few days and maybe slow down the process if your dog is having a difficult time adjusting. If your dog just has a sensitive stomach, then we recommend checking out our guide on why dogs have sensitive stomachs and what to feed them.