Are Grain Free, Gluten Free Diets Better for Dogs?

Almost two million Americans suffer intestinal pain, bloating and diarrhea caused by an allergic reaction to the gluten in grains like wheat, barley and some oats. This condition is called celiac disease.

Many owners of dogs that suffer from similar symptoms wrongly assume their dogs may also have celiac and blame the grain or corn in the dog’s diet for the problem. This has led to huge demand for grain free and gluten free dog food. This trend is not necessary for most dog owners.

Are grain or gluten free diets better for dogs?

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, some oats and other grains. Gluten provides the quality that allows dough to rise, helps breads and pasta maintain their shapes and give these foods that “chewy” quality. Gluten extracted from grains is used to make imitation meat cuts found in vegetarian dishes and canned dog food.

People with celiac disease have an abnormal allergic response to gluten protein that causes damage to the intestinal lining that results in the uncomfortable symptoms.

Celiac Disease in Dogs

With one exception, celiac disease does not occur in dogs. The microscopic examination of the intestinal tissue in one genetic line of Irish Setters suffering intestinal symptoms shows the same cell changes seen in human patients with celiac disease. Other breeds of dogs with the same symptoms do not have these characteristic intestinal changes seen with celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity is not to blame.

Corn Does Not Contain Gluten

Corn is a grain but it does not contain gluten. It has unfortunately been lumped with wheat as a “bad” grain. Corn contains a starch similar to that in potatoes, rice and tapioca. In fact, corn is used in gluten free diets for those suffering from celiac disease.

Allergies to Corn Are Not Common in Pets

It is popularly believed that many dogs have allergic sensitivity to corn. The research does not support this belief. Dogs and cats are not commonly allergic to corn.

No Reason to Switch

The evidence does not support that grains are bad for all dogs and grain free is better. By limiting carbohydrate choices, diet selection becomes unnecessarily restrictive. Commercial grain free diets are generally much more expensive than those containing grain so switching unnecessarily increases dog food costs. Why switch your dog’s diet without any evidence that it is necessary? Why limit the carbohydrate choices in homemade dog food?

Why not just feed your dog some wheat bread or pasta for few days and judge the stool quality. Do the same with corn meal or corn bread. If there is no change in stool quality, your dog is not sensitive to gluten or corn. It does not need a grain free diet.

~Dr Ken Tudor

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

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