More and more people are switching to gluten free diets in response to headlines that claim the dangerous effects of the wheat derived protein on our digestive systems. Whether or not you suffer from a condition that prevents you from properly digesting wheat gluten, you may have begun to avoid it out of an abundance of caution.
Naturally, we begin to wonder if our animals are safe from gluten. We know our pets’ digestive systems differ from ours, but if gluten is so unhealthy for humans, what about canines? Even if you are feeding your dog a high-quality dog food, can you be sure it’s easily digested and safe if it contains gluten?
While research is still ongoing, we find that any canine diet that excludes gluten does not negatively affect your dog. As such, we also find no great nutritional value in including gluten in your dog’s diet. We prefer to opt for dog foods that do not contain it.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Dogs
Most canines will not have true gluten intolerance. If your dog exhibits any of the following symptoms, it may be time to call your vet and discuss whether or not a diet change is needed.
· Diarrhea and/or constipation that appears to be chronic. Stool can also appear mucous-like and may be accompanied by a lot of flatulence.
· Licking of paws and chewing paw pads.
· Repetitive ear infections
· Dermatitis (if your dog has a particularly thick coat it may be difficult to determine if they are suffering from dermatitis, but you will likely see them scratching and chewing at themselves a lot).
If you suspect your dog may have gluten intolerance, you’ll want to meet with your veterinarian immediately to discuss her symptoms and get tested.
Doesn’t My Dog Need Grains?
Yes, we think so. In fact, new research has shown a link between dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and grain free diets. DCM is a particular form of heart failure that is very serious for your dog. This is not to say that all grain free food will put your dog at risk, but the ingredients typically included in a grain free dog food (legumes and potatoes) seem to increase the risk your dog has of developing DCM.
Instead, opt for healthy, gluten free grains, like quinoa. Quinoa is a superfood packed with vital nutrients your dog actually needs, without any compounds it doesn’t. Quinoa is also packed with fiber to ensure your pup’s digestive system stays healthy.
What Other Ingredients are Best for My Dog?
Your dog’s diet doesn’t need to contain much grain. In fact, the main ingredients in your dog’s food should be high quality, USDA meats. We prefer beef and beef organs to deliver protein packed, dog-approved flavor to our dog food.
Vegetables like leafy green kale, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini are other great sources of vitamins and minerals that you should look for on your dog food’s ingredient label. These veggies help them maintain proper organ function and deliver cancer fighting antioxidants to their systems.
A high quality dog food will also contain several fruit ingredients. Berries, apples, and oranges are great sources of vitamins A and C which are essential in your dog’s diet.
Whether or not you decide to allow gluten in your dog’s diet is a choice you should make with your pet’s veterinarian. Keep in mind, however, that even if gluten is determined to be safe for your dog’s consumption, many dog foods that contain gluten products are not high quality dog foods. They often contain ample amounts of cheap, feed grade filler which provide little to no nutritional value to your dog. The best bet is to read the nutrition label and look for clean, whole food ingredients.