Grain Free Diets & Food for French Bulldogs and Bulldogs

By: Dr. Roy Kraemer |
DVM, Bulldog Specialist Veterinarian

Grain-free food and diets for French Bulldogs & Bulldogs are very popular among owners. In our day and age, due to overwhelming, accessible. instant, unfiltered, online content,  looking at a food bag label is a challenge for pet owners.

Grain-Free Food Bulldogs and French Bulldogs MYTH or FACTS  

  1. COST $: Are bulldog grain-free diets worth the extra money?
  2. BETTER: Are bulldog grain-free diets superior to other diets?
  3. HYPOALLERGENIC: Are bulldog grain-free diets hypoallergenic (do they prevent food allergies)?
  4. CARBO-FREE: Are bulldogs on grain-free diets free from carbohydrates?
  5. SAFER: Are bulldog grain-free diets safer and healthier than other diets?

1. BULLDOGS CAN NOT DIGEST GRAIN MYTH 

FACT: 

Yes, they can! During domestication, dogs genetically evolved alongside humans, transitioning from predominantly meat-eating carnivores to present-day mixed-diet omnivores.

Over thousands of years of domestication, bulldogs and French bulldogs have developed the digestive tools to handle a variety of grains. Both humans and dogs have become better suited to digesting grains, fruits, vegetables, and other starches.

2. CARBOHYDRATE-FREE PET FOOD MYTH

Some bulldog and French bulldog owners choose to feed their pets a grain-free diet due to the mistaken belief that dogs’ diets should be limited to meat and free of carbohydrates.

Grains are dry seeds harvested from flowering plants, Examples include:

  • RICE
  • CORN
  • OATS
  • QUINOA
  • WHEAT
  • BARLEY

FACT:

In reality, the “grain-free” diet  replaces them with other carbohydrate sources like:

  • POTATOES
  • LEGUMES
  • GREEN PEAS
  • CHICKPEAS
  • LENTILS

3. GRAINS ARE BAD FOR MY BULLDOG MYTH

In contrast to this erroneous popular belief, there are many nutritional benefits to grain portions in your dog food.

FACT:

  1. Grains stimulate the growth of beneficial, “good” gastrointestinal bacteria (i.e., probiotics).
  2. Many grains provide your bulldog puppy with essential vitamins & minerals.
  3. The latest research has shown compelling evidence that grains are important to the general health of your bulldog puppy.

4. GRAIN LEADS TO FRENCH BULLDOG ALLERGIES

FACT:

Contrary to common belief, food allergies are not caused by carbohydrates but rather by the meat or protein portion of your bulldog’s meal (e.g., animal sources like chicken, beef, fish, lamb, etc.)

The Best Diet for You Senior Bulldog and French Bulldog

FACT

Grains are mostly carbohydrates. It is proteins, not grains, that are usually the cause of bulldog food allergies.

If your bulldog is allergic to grains, the treatment should be managed by your veterinarian, who will conduct a proper dietary elimination trial.

5. GRAIN-FREE DIESTS AND FOOD ARE SUPERIOR MYTH

FACT:

There is no scientific evidence that bulldog grain-free diets are superior to other common diets.

Grain Free Diets Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

Bulldog Grain-Free Diet Associated Cardiomyopathy

Recently (July 2019), an FDA news alert was published stating that there is a likely link between Grain diets and canine cardiomyopathy (heart disease that can lead to congestive heart failure).

In the cases where the dogs ate only a single primary diet and did not eat multiple foods, excluding treats, 90 percent reported feeding a GRAIN-FREE food, the release states there appears to be an association with GRAIN-FREE diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).”

Upon investigation of all of the diets associated with both the taurine deficient and non-taurine deficient forms of DCM, a few key associations were apparent. Many dogs were being fed some variety of boutique (small manufacturer), exotic ingredients (non-traditional protein sources), or grain-free diets. These findings make up the basis of recommendations that have come from each study group and now the FDA.”

English Bulldog Grain Free Diet and heart disease

Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Grain-Free Food TIPS & WARNINGS

Below are selected grain-free diet tips and warnings courtesy of Dr. Kraemer

V4B bulldog multivitamin plus Handout - French Bulldog

1. GRAIN-FREE FOOD PROTEIN TIP :

Protein is the most important ingredient in your bulldog puppy’s diet.

Proteins from animal sources, rather than grain sources, are the most complete, easily digested, and deliver the best biological value.

2. GRAIN-FREE DIET MANUFACTURING TIP:

Whether a diet contains grains or not, you must buy your bulldog’s food from a reputable company with experienced pet food formulators.

Ignore the enticing grain-free diet packaging and hyped language. Your focus should be on the manufacturer.

3. WHOLE FOOD BULLDOG DIETS:

Whole-food meals are better than processed ones. Just as your physician does not advocate regularly eating highly processed foods, the same principle should apply when choosing the best food for your bulldog.

4. WHOLE GRAIN PET FOOD:

Whole, fresh, organic, unprocessed ground grains such as rice, oats, barley, and millet and alternatives like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas retain more nutrients. They are better than processed and engineered diets.

5. HUMAN-GRADED PET DIETS TIP:

Human-grade pet diets are likely to be better regulated than animal-grade pet diets.

6. PET FOOD LABEL TIP:

Reading pet food labels and brochures is not easy, even for a professional, so assessing the quality of the ingredients based on the label is usually inadequate.

7. BULLDOG FOOD PEER REVIEW TIP:

I typically recommend using one of the well-known and trusted dog food manufacturers, especially those who publish scientific studies in veterinary journals and make presentations at veterinary medical meetings.

8. BULLDOG FOOD MORE Vs. LESS TIP:

Not all bulldogs are the same. Some might do better with more grain in their diet, while others might benefit from a reduced-grain diet.

9. FOOD ALLERGY TRIAL DURATION TIP:

If you suspect that your bulldog puppy’s allergies are due to grains, then your grain-free dietary trial should last at least ten weeks. Afterward, you can challenge with a non-grain diet, ideally from the same brand, with grains being the only difference.
trial with hypoallergenic diet for bulldog food allergy

Grain-Free and Bulldog Food Allergy Trials

  • ATOPIC ITCH DERMATITIS: 8-10 weeks trial on a prescription elimination hypoallergenic diet is the gold standard, rather than grain-free diets.
  • GASTROENTERITIS: A 3-4 weeks trial on a prescription elimination hypoallergenic diet is the gold standard, rather than grain-free diets.

To find out more about food allergies and hypoallergenic diets, CLICK HERE

10. BULLDOG DIETARY GRAIN BENEFITS TIP:

Some grain is often better than no grain.

1. BULLDOG POISONOUS FOODS WARNING:

Offering fresh, organic, unprocessed fruits and vegetables to your bulldog is great; however, remember to avoid onions, grapes, and raisins. If you are unsure whether a certain food is safe for your bulldog to eat, always speak to your veterinarian

2. BULLDOG FOOD AND DIETS HYPE WARNING:

I advise against selecting your bulldog and French bulldog puppy’s diet based on advertised and often hyped-up add-on supplements. These are typically more of a marketing tactic than rooted in real science and facts.

The most commonly advertised supplements on food bag labels include

  • fish oil (omega 3 and 6)
  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin
  • MSM
  • probiotics

As a general rule, the amount of active ingredients in these diets’ daily feeding recommendations is often insufficient to therapeutically impact a medical condition.

When supplements are medically indicated, I recommend administering them separately as standalone treatments.

Senior Bulldog Bundles - Ultimate

3. DIATERY GRAIN Vs. PROTEIN WARNING:

Grains should constitute less than one-third of your bulldog’s total diet; the remaining two-thirds should consist of meat, animal protein, fruits, and vegetables.

4. LOW-GRADE Vs. HIGH-GRADE PET FOOD WARNING:

Most commercial diets offer lower quality feed than human well-regulated (USDA)-grade pet diets.

5.  PET FOOD AND IMMUNE-MEDIATED DISEASE WARNING:

Lower-grade diets carry a higher risk of unwanted adverse effects such as allergies and immune-mediated diseases like IBD, primarily due to the increased likelihood of unwholesome elements and contaminants.

bulldog sick with IBD and stomach upset

6. GLUTEN-FREE PET DIET WARNING:

Some bulldogs and French bulldog puppies should avoid high-gluten grains such as
  • rye
  • oats
  • barley
  • wheat

and instead, opt for low-gluten grains like

  • quinoa
  • milo
  • rice
  • millet

7. BULLDOG FOOD CONTAMINATES WARNING:

Keep in mind that food allergies related to grains and meat may not be directly caused by the source itself, but rather by an undetected contaminant or tainted portion within that grain or meat.

8. PET FOOD COLOR WARNING:

Bulldogs and French bulldog puppies are indifferent to the color of their food. Often, dyes in various diets are designed as marketing gimmicks to attract buyers. Worse, they might conceal evidence that could indicate poor food quality.

9. PROTEIN SOURCE FOR BULLDOG DIETS WARNING

I don’t recommend diets with a large portion of their protein derived from a grain source, because its bioavailability which is your bulldog’s ability to utilize that protein is marginal.

10. PET FOOD OBESITY WARNING:

Too much grain will increase the chance of your bulldog becoming overweight.

Obesity is a major contributor to your bulldog and French Bulldog’s poor health and marginal quality of life.

obese overweight bulldog

11. QUALITY Vs. QUANTITY BULLDOG DIETS WARNING:

Poor quality protein is a bigger problem than “too much protein,”  even for bulldogs with kidney disease.

Your bulldog diatery emphasis should be on good, high quality, proteins.

Grain-Free Pet Food DCM 

If your bulldog suffers from a medical condition that requires a nonstandard or prescription diet, consult your veterinarian.

1. GRAIN FREE DIETS & BULLDOG HEART DISEASE (DCM):

Dilatative Cardiomyopathy (DCM) related to your bulldog’s diet may be reversible if detected early. If your bulldog has been diagnosed with DCM and is currently on a diet with nonstandard ingredients, consider switching to a pet diet containing standard ingredients.

2. PET DCM-ASSOCIATED GRAIN-FREE FOOD DCM PRESENTATION:

Heart disease in bulldogs often presents with symptoms such as exercise intolerance, coughing, fainting, and difficulty breathing. During an examination, bulldogs with Dilatative Cardiomyopathy (DCM) typically exhibit a heart murmur and/or abnormal heart rate and rhythm.

3. BULLDOG GRAIN-FREE FOOD DCM TESTING:

In those cases, in addition to the medical exam, testing such as x-rays, blood tests, EKG, and an echocardiogram are required.

TAURINE SERUM TEST: If your bulldog or French bulldog is diagnosed with DCM, it’s important to request a Taurine level test and, if necessary, consider supplementation.

Bulldog Grain-Free Food FACT CHECKING SUMMARY: 

“No grain,” “limited grain,” and “grain-free” diets are often considered the Holy Grail by many owners in the Bulldog community.

It is not my intention to discourage you from using these diets, but rather to provide better information.

The internet is filled with speculation, urban myths, and misinformation. Do your due diligence, seek credible sources, and make educated, fact-based decisions.

Bulldog Grain Free Food OVERCHARG WARNING:

If your bulldog or French bulldog puppy enjoys the current grain-free diet you are feeding and performs as well or better on it compared to previous diets, then sticking with that no-grain diet might be beneficial.

However, it’s important to recognize that some owners may be investing significant amounts based on false assumptions perpetuated by diet manufacturers, biased marketing campaigns, and profit-driven internet buzz.

MANUFACTURE & STANDARD INGREDIENTS:

Choose a diet made by a well-established manufacturer. Feed a diet that contains standard ingredients.

Grain-Free Food DIETEY CHANGE:

If your bulldog diet is

  • BOUTIQUE BULLDOG DIET
  • EXOTIC INGREDIENTS BULLDOG DIET
  • GRAIN-FREE BULLDOG DIET

You may want to talk to your veterinarian about the FDA DCM announcement.

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The information provided on this platform is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian regarding any medical condition. It's important to always consider professional medical advice promptly and not to delay seeking it based on information you've read on this platform. Any reliance on the information provided here is entirely at your discretion.

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