Grain Free Diets for Dogs and Cats

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Lately there is a lot of interest in grain free diets for dogs and cats.  This follows the growing trend of gluten free diets for people.  Many people say that they feel healthier and more energized eating a gluten free diet and that some of their ongoing health issues clear up.  I can speak personally as someone who is intolerant to gluten, and interestingly enough, so is one of my dogs….. So could this work for your pet?  It could …. in fact both my dog and I both benefit from a gluten free diet.

What is gluten?  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  In people and pets that have an allergy or intolerance to gluten, the protein gradually damages the lining of the intestines causing gastrointestinal issues (vomiting, bloating, and diarrhea), fatigue and skin issues such as dermatitis.  Celiac disease is a known intolerance to gluten that occurs in people, but other people who are negative for this disease also seem to benefit from a gluten free diet.  It is estimated that 10 percent of the human population may have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, although celiac is only now diagnosed in 1 percent.  Celiac is genetic and does run in families.

What does this mean for your dog or cat?  Some dogs and cats do have an intolerance to gluten and grains.  In fact, German Shepherd Dogs as well as other breeds such as the Irish Setter and Belgian Sheepdog (including the Belgian Tervuren & Belgian Malinois), among others, have been known to be sensitive or intolerant to wheat gluten.  This does not mean that every dog of that breed is intolerant, but only that some individuals will benefit from a gluten free or grain free diet.  In fact, my dog, who is a Belgian Tervuren, is sensitive to wheat, but has brothers and sisters who have no problem eating it.

What does grain free mean?  Grain free is a little different than gluten free.  Grain free means that the food does not contain gluten laden wheat, barley and rye, but also does not include corn, rice, oats or any other grain.  People who are gluten intolerant can eat certain grains such as corn and rice which do not contain gluten.  Dog and cat foods that are grain free are usually made with potato, sweet potato and peas as there carbohydrate source.

What brand of grain free food should I choose?  There are many pet foods available that are now grain free.  Some of the ones I recommend and my dog has enjoyed include Nature’s Variety Instinct®, Canidae®, Innova®, Blue Buffalo® Wilderness, Wellness® Core and Natural Balance® L.I.T.   Just remember to check the ingredients to make sure you are buying the grain free variety, as some of these brands do make food containing grain as well.  There are also grain free treats available for your dog or cat in these brands, and don’t forget freeze dried liver treats or chicken strips (made in the U.S.A. only), which are healthy grain free treats.

So should I try a gluten free or grain free diet for my pet?  The answer to this question is yes …… and after doing so you may notice that certain issues your pet has had will clear up.  If they don’t however, your pet may need a trip to the vet to see what else could be causing these symptoms.

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