Quinoa is an ancient grain used in pet food

Ancient Grains For Dogs: Are They Actually Good For Them?

As consumers increasingly avoid processed foods and seek out healthier, whole foods to eat, what’s old is new again. Ancient grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and chia seeds are finding their way onto plates across the world. But are ancient grains good for dogs too? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Are Ancient Grains and Why Are They Called “Ancient?”

Ancient grains are also known as heirloom grains, heritage grains, and super grains. These grains, cereals, and seeds are called “ancient” because they’ve remained largely unchanged over the centuries. They’re generally untouched by modern plant science, hybridization, or monoculture farming. Ancient grains are also less processed and more nutritious than refined grains like white flour, white rice, and corn, making them a go-to choice for health conscious and eco-conscious eaters. Here are a few examples of ancient grains:
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Chia seeds
  • Millet
  • Farro (einkorn, emmer, or spelt)
  • Amaranth
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
Many of these ancient grains contain little to no gluten and possess powerful vitamins and minerals to promote health in you and your pooch — more on that below.

Why Are Ancient Grains For Dogs Growing in Popularity? The Grains vs. Grain-Free Debate

Buckwheat Ancient grains have been enjoying a boom in popularity in human health foods recently, and the same goes for dog food. While many grains like wheat and rice aren’t ideal for dogs, some animals benefit from consuming healthy, whole grains (especially if they’re free of gluten) and need these foods to help maintain healthy skin, coat and body weight.

Another reason pet owners have considered switching to dog foods with ancient grains is a concern that grain-free diets may increase the risk of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart disease in dogs.

In 2018, the FDA investigated to see whether there was a link between DCM and dogs eating a high number of legumes like peas and lentils. This ignited another grain vs. grain-free debate because many dog-food companies replace grains with legumes to add fiber and protein. However, the FDA study didn’t find any concrete connection between DCM and grain-free diets. Another reason for the popularity jump is that ancient grains more closely resemble the types of seeds and grasses that our dogs’ ancestors may have grazed on in the wild. For similar reasons, super grains are also star ingredients in trendy human diets like the Paleolithic or “paleo” diet. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt that most ancient grains have a wholesome, slightly nutty, earthy flavor that’s hearty and satisfying. You can find ancient grains in some of our dog food recipes, like the Limited Ingredient Chicken Recipe with quinoa.

5 Nutritional Benefits of Ancient Grains For Dogs

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, most ancient grains are safe, nutritious additions to your dog’s diet. Here’s a snapshot of the benefits:

1. High in Fiber and Protein

Ancient grains are naturally high in fiber and rich proteins — keeping your canine satisfied for longer — and full of life-sustaining amino acids.

2. Contain Natural Antioxidants

Some ancient grains contain phenolic acids which act as natural antioxidants, so your dog gets essential doses of omega-3 and -6 essential acids.

3. Help Maintain Blood Sugar Levels

If your dog is diabetic, consider adding ancient grains to their diet. They’re a good choice because they help humans and animals maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day.

4. Offer a Broad Spectrum of Vitamins

Ancient grains offer a smorgasbord of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and copper, to keep your canine’s body in tip-top shape.

5. Soothe Your Dog’s Digestive System

One of the top recommendations for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food intolerances is fresh, whole ingredients like ancient grains. Some of these grains act as prebiotics, filling your dog’s stomach with gut-friendly fiber and nutrients.

Think Your Dog Might Enjoy Ancient Grains in Their Diet?

From food and toppers to training treats and supplements, The Honest Kitchen gives cat and dog owners healthy, natural options to provide their pet the longest, happiest life possible. Check out some of our customers’ favorite dog-friendly products with non-GMO ancient grains: They have naturally high fiber and a rich protein content, which means they’re packed with life-sustaining amino acids.
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.
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