Dogs have evolved in parallel to humans, and over the thousands of years we’ve owned man’s best friend, their body has changed to live alongside us.
But not only have our dogs changed with us, but how we look after ourselves influences our furry friends too.
Recently the rise of keto, paleo, and gluten-free diets has gone from little-known food regimes to big business. In tandem with this, grain-free and gluten-free diets have become popular for our pets because how we view human health and nutrition influences what we think is healthy for our furry friends too.
But is a gluten-free diet necessary for dogs or even beneficial for our furry friends? Here’s the low-down of what gluten-free dog food is and guidance on whether or not it’s good for your dog.
Gluten-free dog food: What you need to know
What is gluten-free dog food?
Gluten is a sticky protein found in some grains and cereals, including wheat and barley.
Gluten-free dog food is one that’s made using a recipe that avoids these gluten-containing grains.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that gluten-free food is free from all grains because many grains, including rice, are actually gluten-free.
Grain-free dog food vs gluten-free dog food
Grains is an umbrella term for all the different cereals we humans grow including wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, corn, spelt, quinoa, and a few others.
Although some people use grain-free and gluten-free interchangeably, it’s not correct because many grains don’t contain gluten. So, some grains like wheat, barley and rye include gluten, but grains such as brown rice don’t.
That means grain-free food should also be gluten-free, but gluten-free dog food is not necessarily grain-free.
Meanwhile, “cereal-free” is basically interchangeable with “grain-free”.
Grain-free dog food was launched in the mid to late 1990s because many dogs were suffering from allergies.
Most dog allergies are caused by proteins, and the most common tend to be chicken, beef, lamb, and wheat. Since gluten is a kind of protein, it’s possible that your dog could develop an allergy to it, the same as any other ingredient.
Gluten-free is a much more recent phenomenon, partly because of the prevalence of grain-free diets and the rise of gluten-free diets in humans. Anytime humans follow a food trend, it often reflects on how we feed our pets.
Grain-free and gluten-free doesn’t mean low carbohydrate
Many owners opt for grain-free and gluten-free dog food to try and lower the number of cereals and carbohydrates their dog is eating.
Traditional kibble is high in carbohydrates because the dough needs a high starch content to bind together. Some recipes of dog food might use “fillers” and create food with a high amount of carbohydrates and lower amounts of protein because this is typically the cheapest way to make dog food.
However, this imbalance of high carbs to low protein is true of many poor-quality dog foods, not just those with grain and gluten in.
For example, a grain or gluten-free dog food could bulk their protein levels with pea protein and bulk out the food with high amounts of carbohydrates from potatoes or legumes. That’s why the quality of ingredients is the most important factor in finding the best dog food.
Grain-free and gluten-free food can still be high in carbohydrates, it will just be provided by alternative ingredients like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and legumes.
Additionally, many grain-free and gluten-free dog food recipes are still kibble, which means they’re probably high in carbs still and they might not be the best quality diet for your dog.
Although it’s recommended that dogs eat less carbs than what’s in many kibble recipes, they still need some carbohydrates in their diet to be healthy and active.
Do dogs need carbohydrates?
Dogs are omnivores, just like humans, and they are at their happiest and healthiest when they eat a balanced diet which includes plenty of protein, some carbs, and lots of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables.
Not all carbohydrates are made equal though. Complex carbs like brown rice are slow-releasing, long-lasting, and more nutritious than simple ones, like sugar. Meanwhile, simple carbs can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, hyperactivity, and lethargy when energy levels dip.
Complex carbohydrates have a host of benefits including:
· They help your dog to feel full.
· They provide many important nutrients.
· They provide long-lasting energy so your dog’s active all day.
· They provide slow-releasing energy, so there are fewer blood sugar spikes or hyperactive episodes.
· They aid digestion and keep bowel movements regular.
Although simple carbohydrates aren’t bad, they’re the ones we usually associate with “fillers” and junk food because they provide little nutrition other than glucose and short-lived energy.
The sugars in some simple carbs can lead to tooth decay and hyperactivity, and if a dog eats too many for an extended period of time, it could put them at risk of diabetes.
Is gluten bad for dogs: Do dogs need gluten-free food?
Although millions of humans have celiac disease and require a gluten-free diet, dogs aren’t affected by celiac disease.
In fact, only two breeds of dog are known to have inherited gluten sensitivities (although this is still very rare even within those breeds).
Some Irish Setters can inherit a condition called ‘gluten-sensitive enteropathy’, which is similar to celiac disease in humans.
A small number of Border Terrier can suffer from canine epileptoid cramping syndrome, which studies have found is affected by gluten. These terriers can see improvements in their condition if fed a gluten-free diet.
As well as the small group of these breeds with inherited gluten sensitivities, individual dogs could develop gluten sensitivity. However, gluten sensitivity in dogs is extremely rare, and your dog is far more likely to be allergic to chicken or beef.
Do dogs need to be gluten-free?
In general, there’s no necessity to avoid gluten for dogs. It’s actually far more important to make sure your dog is eating a balanced diet with high-quality ingredients.
That being said, following a gluten-free diet would mean no wheat in your dog’s food, which is one of the cheaper grains and it isn’t as nutritious as complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs like brown rice are nutritious, provide dietary fibre, are very easy for dogs to digest, and they’re fantastic for keeping a dog’s digestive tract healthy and bowel movements regular.
If your dog does have a sensitivity or an allergy, knowing exactly what goes into their food or a tailored diet will help to manage their condition and avoid flare-ups.
Signs and symptoms of a gluten sensitivity
The signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity in dogs are similar to the symptoms of any dietary allergy or intolerance. These include:
● Vomiting after meals
● Loss of appetite
● Weight loss
● Poor coat condition
● Itchy, sensitive skin
● Chronic or repeated ear infections
As stated, these symptoms are generic and true to almost any allergy or intolerance, not just a gluten sensitivity.
If you notice your dog is suffering from these symptoms, you must talk to your vet. They can help you figure out if there’s anything in the environment causing your dog’s symptoms and guide you through an elimination diet to see if any foods are triggering your dog’s upset. Don’t just assume that their symptoms are caused by gluten or grains.
What’s best for your dog?
The most important thing to look for in dog food is that it provides complete nutrition and uses high-quality natural ingredients.
Many vets and nutritionists will advise that high-quality ingredients matter more than whether or not a food is grain-free or gluten-free. But it happens that all Pure Pet Food recipes are gluten-free anyway, using high-quality, natural ingredients, like meat, fruit and plenty of vibrant vegetables. Some Pure recipes include a little helping of brown rice to provide a complex carbohydrate, fibre and to keep the dinners balanced.
Although brown rice is gluten-free anyway, Pure also make grain-free recipes too if your pup is a little sensitive to grains. After all, each tasty recipe is tailored to your dog’s individual needs to make sure they’re getting the best nutrition possible.
So, if your dog is sensitive to grains, not just gluten, your recipes will be grain-free and include plenty of complex carbohydrates from fruit and veggies instead to ensure everything is balanced.
And if your pooch has any other allergies or sensitivities, the recipes can be tailored further to suit their needs and avoid any triggering ingredients.
Recap: Do dogs need gluten-free dog food?
Grains and gluten aren’t bad for dogs, and they can provide a lot of nutritional value. But just like any ingredient in your dog’s dinner, the quality of the grains and gluten in their food can vary, and they could be imbalanced in low-quality or budget dog foods.
Complex carbohydrates are great for your dog, providing long-lasting energy, fibre, and nutrients. However, simple carbs (and too many carbs in general) can contribute to weight gain and obesity, having a negative impact on your dog’s overall health.
It’s always a good idea to know exactly what goes into your dog’s food, and to pick food that includes only the best, natural, tasty ingredients so your dog gets complete, delicious nutrition every single day. Pure Pet Food is packed with real, natural ingredients, no hidden nasties or weird surprises. It’s just wholesome, honest food.
Your dog’s Pure dinners will also be tailored to their individual needs and only use a few ingredients, like chicken, brown rice, and carrots. That means you’ll always know exactly what your pooch is eating and you can easily avoid any allergens while providing a healthy, balanced diet for your dog that’s as nutritious as it is delicious.