Your dachshund is fearless, but their sensitive stomachs are often not as bold as their temperaments. Dachshunds can suffer from food sensitivities to diets containing grain. However, with all the confusing information out there regarding proper canine nutrition, is the grain free food option a healthy one?
Grain-free dog food is not necessarily good for Dachshunds, as they may lead to Dilated Cardiomyopathy and nutritional deficiencies. Merely eliminating grain or changing to commercial grain-free food may do your Dachshund more harm than good.
If you suspect your Dachshund companion has grain sensitivities, you should not assume that a straight switch to grain-free is the best alternative. Here are some reasons why grain free might be the wrong choice.
Should a Dachshund Eat Grain Free Dog Food?
Dachshunds are similar to other domestic dog species and share most of their same basic nutritional requirements. Both the Miniature and standard Dachshunds have high metabolisms and high-calorie requirements.
Generally, their protein needs are high to support lean muscle mass and prevent them from becoming overweight. However, plant sources may safely be used to supplement their protein and fat needs.
That being said, they don’t have a specific carbohydrate requirement, and their delicate digestive systems may be more prone to food allergies than other breeds. So it makes sense to limit allergy-triggering ingredients such as wheat and grains and use other vegetables such as legumes, beans, and starchy vegetables.
However, simply changing to a grain-free food source is not always a solution and may be fraught with its own health hazards.
What Are the Risks of a Grain-Free Diet?
Simply opting for grain-free dog foods is not always the best solution. In 2018 the FDA announced a warning about the link between legume-rich grain-free dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy of DCM, a life-threatening heart disease in dogs.
First, you should determine what exactly is causing your Dachshunds food allergies to find the best allergen-free diet. Humans with a shellfish allergy exhibit immediate symptoms such as their throat closing or breathing difficulties, but dogs react to allergies most by their skin condition.
Allergies and hypersensitivities are typically an immunologic reaction to food allergens that requires previous exposure to the food source. At the same time, intolerance does not involve an immune system reaction and may occur on first exposure to an allergen. However, they exhibit the same symptoms, which make a veterinary diagnosis crucial.
Novel protein and hydrolyzed diets are great alternatives that can be found by your veterinarian and eliminate the potential ‘trace’ elements of allergen that are unspecified in over the counter dog food.
Ideally, you should seek advice from a veterinary nutritionist to ensure a healthy supplement to grains in your Dachshund’s diet.
What Should I Feed My Dachshund?
Each Dachshund is unique, and owners should factor in certain variables when deciding what diet suits their pet. The most important of these factors are age, activity level, and eating habits. If your Doxie is highly active, you would need to increase their calorie uptake just like a human that conducts rigorous exercise.
Obviously, your standard couch potato won’t need the same nutritional energy as an active pup, so diets should be regulated accordingly. Your Dachshund’s age also factors in their dietary requirements as older dachshunds have slower metabolisms and are less active than their younger counterparts.
Your Doxies feeding habits are also crucial as overeating is common in the Dachshund breed, and one should preferably feed an overeater more frequently in smaller amounts.
It is essential to measure your feed for Dachshunds with a tendency to overeat as you may adequately regulate their calorie intake to prevent them from becoming overweight.
Your Doxie puppy should be fed three times a day, and they have higher nutritional needs than adult Dachshunds. Feeding your pup too little can cause health complications such as hypoglycemia (low glucose) and inhibit proper growth.
Your Dachshund puppy will need a high-calorie diet for their growing bodies with at least 22.5% high-quality protein and 8% fat. They will also need vitamins and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. They will need at least four meals a day to stay healthy and develop properly.
Your puppy has a sensitive digestive system, so refined grains should be avoided and entirely eliminated from their diet if they exhibit allergy symptoms. However, barley sorghum and oats can be a safe and nutritious addition to your puppy’s meals.
Your Adult Dachshund needs at least 10% of its calories in the form of protein and a minimum of 5.5% from fats. Depending on your pet’s activity levels, their diet may contain up to 50% carbohydrates and 2.4%-4.5% fiber.
Your dog’s activity level should dictate how much carbohydrates and fats are included in their diets.
Experts suggest that senior dogs require 20% fewer calories to maintain their weight than adult dogs, so a reduced-fat diet is recommended. They also indicate that L carnitine ( a vitamin-like compound based on amino acids found in fish, meat, and dairy) may help seniors use fat for energy.
Why Might Grains Be Bad for My Dachshund?
Although there has been a lot of debate about ‘natural diets’ for dogs and the rise of BARF style raw feeding like I wrote about here, grains are not necessarily bad for your dog. Unlike your Doxie’s wolf cousins, domestic dogs’ digestion has evolved during their human cohabitation to absorb starches and grains better.
In fact, high amylase activity in domestic dogs created a dramatic increase in copy numbers of the gene coding for pancreatic amylase AMY2B. Amylases are secreted proteins that hydrolyze glucoside bonds and initialize the digestion of starch and glycogen.
This adaptation allowed the domestic dog to thrive on a starch-rich diet during their early domestication. The MMY2B is said to be 28 times more active in domestic dogs than in wolves, making our domestic pets far more capable of processing a grain and starch-based diet.
Like humans, some dogs can be sensitive to wheat, which is one of the top five allergy sources for dogs:
There is also the misconception that grain-free dog foods are not plant-based, but the manufacturers often use a host of plant ingredients such as pumpkin, peas, potato, and sweet potato. These highly digestible food sources may lead to obesity and heart problems.
What Can I Feed My Dachshund With Grain Allergies?
Once you have ascertained that your Dachshund specifically reacts to grains in their diet, you may follow several courses of action:
- Buy veterinarian prescribed food. Once your vet has determined the allergen, they will prescribe you the best food to suit your Dog’s nutritional needs.
- Make your own dog food at home. This process may be time-consuming, but it is the best way to ensure that your pet gets the quality ingredients so often compromised by pet food sellers maximizing their profits. A qualified pet nutritionist would be able to provide you with breed-specific requirements to make at home.
- Buy hypoallergenic commercial dog food. It is essential to research your brands carefully to ensure the quality of their dog food before buying as not all dog brands are high quality and may contain trace elements of allergens.
Each Dachshund is unique, and so are their dietary requirements. If you suspect your Doxie has a grain allergy, it is crucial to seek professional veterinary guidance. Simply eliminating grains or changing to grain-free foods may cause nutritional deficiencies or, worse, harm your companion’s health.
Your Dachshund has a delicate digestive system and may be prone to sensitivities, and owners should be vigilant about the quality of commercial feed. It may be a process of trial and error, but with care, you will find the grain-free option that makes your companion happy and healthy!