In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in gluten free dog food. This popularity has mirrored the rise in similar products for people as many dog owners choose to mimic their own food choices when choosing a food for their pet. These diets are particularly helpful for those that have celiac disease, intolerance to glutens in general, or allergies to wheat. The popularity of these diets has led to an increase in the number of gluten free diets available for pets. However, even with this increase in popularity, many pet owners are still questioning whether gluten free dog food is essential for their pet.
Gluten Free Dog Food: What Is Gluten and How It Affects Your Dog?
Gluten is a generic term used to describe the proteins found in wheat and other cereal grains. It constitutes a mixture of proteins classified into two groups, called prolamines and glutelins. In true grain intolerance, an immune response occurs when gluten is consumed; the villi, tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food, are damaged. Damaged villi do not effectively absorb basic nutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and, in some cases, water and bile salts. As a result, wheat, barley, rye and oats are excluded when following a “gluten-free diet.” Therefore, most evidence implicates wheat as the most problematic food.
While one school of thought is that genetically modified grains are especially risky for the gluten intolerant. Studies show that when butterflies and other species come in contact with pollen from genetically modified crops, they suffer a number of health problems and genetic mutations eventually occur. It is possible that a similar thing happens when other species consume GM grains. Especially species whose systems aren’t designed to cope with a grain overload in the first place
Gluten Free Dog Treats: What Are The Signs Of Gluten Intolerance In Dogs?
Consumption of glutenous grains in sensitive pets, can lead to:
- Chronic GI upset – intermittent or continuing diarrhea and / or constipation including mucusy stools. Vomiting may also occur in more severe cases.
- Dermatitis – chronic dry and flaky skin, hair loss, redness, bumps, rashes and constant scratching are classic signs of a food intolerance.
- Chronic ear infections – over-consumption of grain can lead to a buildup of excess sugars in the system. This in turn can contribute to yeast overgrowth, leading to dark, smelly waxy debris in the ears, head shaking and scratching.
Other health problems that may be related to food intolerance’s such as grain sensitivity include: arthritis, epilepsy, abnormal behavior, allergic and inflammatory reactions (including inhalant allergies due to a compromised immune system), pancreatitis, hepatitis, as well as an increased susceptibility to infection, Cushing’s, Addison’s, and thyroid problems. Of course not all these conditions are directly related to grain consumption. The overload of grain in most modern commercial pet diets is thought to deplete the animal’s natural state of good health over time, leaving him more susceptible to these problems occurring.
Gluten Free Dog Food: Do Dogs Need Gluten And Grains?
As with almost every aspect of holistic health, the answers vary depending upon the individual animal. Even litter-mates can vary from one another, in their requirements. One pup might get an ear infection every time she eats any sort of grain. Another might be able to tolerate just oats or rye but not wheat and a third might end up thin and uncomfortable when fed only meats and veggies.
Gluten Free Dog Food: Making The Switch
As a general rule, most dogs do not need many carbohydrates. A highly processed, grain-based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat-based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill-health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently deal with the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the true cause of their symptoms. As a result, the optimum diet for a dog should closely resemble their natural diet.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Since over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains.
Reduce grains in your dog’s diet now and save yourself the hassle that is prescription medication in the future. A word of caution: Diabetic animals or any other medical condition making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian. Many diabetic pets do require some complex carbohydrates, often in the form of whole grains.