Gluten Free Dog Food
If you are thinking to yourself “my dog is not gluten free, so why should I use a gluten or grain free dog food?”
The answer is that no dog needs gluten or indeed grain in their diet. For many years it has been added to dog foods for the following reasons. Gluten is a protein which is mainly found in wheat, and as wheat is commercially very cheap it is used to bulk out dog foods. As it also contains protein, the manufacturers can claim a higher crude protein content to make their food appear to be of a good nutritional value. It also acts as a binding agent to help hold the stool together.
While all of this may appear ok, the truth is gluten protein has no nutritional value for your dog what so ever. The majority of dog foods available in the US and indeed around the world contain either wheat gluten or other forms of grain and plant proteins which for the most part have no nutritional value for your dog what so ever. You must understand that feeding your dog a food that contains gluten or indeed any other plant based protein may potentially lead to some form of ailment or intolerance in the future. They may already be suffering without your knowledge as the associated gluten and grain intolerance/allergic ailment list is an extremely long one and still growing.
If you care for your dog you should feed it the best food that you can afford, as in the long run you potentially will save greatly on vet bills and specialist diets as your dog gets older. For decades the pet food industry has been finding ways to produce dog food to maximize profit, especially where meat/fish/poultry is concerned. Given meat/fish/poultry is naturally the main element to a dogs food it is also having to compete with the human demand. This has resulted in most dog foods containing only small amounts of meat/fish/poultry and the rest being made up of cheap fillers such as wheat. More recently as wheat is falling out of favor due to gluten allergies and intolerances associated with it, manufacturers are turning to other cheap and nutritionally inferior fillers such as barley, sorghum, rice and oats.
Meat/fish/poultry in any form has risen in cost over the past half century considerably. As the human population has grown, manufacturers have had to cut corners by using bulking agents in dog food. This traditionally was corn and wheat as it was the most available and cost effective food stuff. More recently other bulking agents such as rice, oats and barley are being used as both the manufacturers and the general public are slowly realizing that wheat gluten is causing issues. However, all of these newer fillers are still allowing the manufacturers to produce low cost food with minimal nutritional value all while declaring the protein levels achieved by the fillers as just “crude protein”. Although this is true, it is very misleading and makes a cheap food look better to the consumer.
Dogs that have shown intolerances to wheat gluten may also show intolerances to other grain based ingredients. For all other dogs, it is only a matter of time before intolerances are identified to these newer fillers. Unfortunately, the major manufacturers are trying to combat these intolerances by chemically altering these cheap fillers so that they don’t cause as many issues. This alone is not ethical, and will only lead to even bigger issues in the future.
Dogs are naturally carnivores. To understand this, simply look at the teeth in your dogs mouth and you will find only tearing and cutting teeth. They do not have the ability to chew grains and seeds, so naturally dogs won’t and don’t eat wheat. They don’t eat barley, oats or rice either. During the past decade or so it has become apparent that some dogs can no longer tolerate eating food with wheat or indeed any other form of grain in it. This problem will only increase as time goes by given that intolerances can be hereditary. By the time a dog is 10 years old it could quite possibly be the oldest of 6 generations, which all could inherit an intolerance in one form or another.
So moving on, all grass based ingredients such as wheat, corn, barley, oats and rice all have the potential for allergies and intolerances. They are quite simply not a dogs natural food source and do not contain any real nutritional benefit for your dog. Just because your dog is showing no sign of intolerance/allergies does not mean it will continue to do so. An intolerance is not necessarily a visible ailment such as itchy skin or sores, nor is it limited to digestive upsets. Many people are realizing the effects of gluten and grains can cause behavioral issues. In some circumstances even aggression and it is only when the diet excludes gluten and grains that it becomes apparent.
Gluten intolerance can also be a double edged sword, especially when it causes hyper activity. In this instance not only is the dog over active, but the food it eats does not contain adequate complete proteins to maintain the muscle mass. The muscle mass will simply reduce as the body converts the muscle into energy and you end up with a very skinny dog that will never put healthy weight on.
Just because a dog food claims to be gluten free it does not mean it is healthy. For example, there are some manufacturers selling “gluten free dog food” that contains no meat/fish/poultry what so ever and others are simply replacing the wheat with Barley and Oats. These two can never be classed as gluten free as they are collected by combine harvesters which unfortunately cannot tell the difference as wheat, both natural and commercial, tend to grow amongst them.
Gluten is only the tip of the iceberg as far as bad dog food ingredients is concerned and over the coming years many other bad ingredients will become evident as the dog population becomes even more sensitive. Simply excluding Wheat/Gluten from the diet of a dog that is known to be intolerant may not be the end of it. It is very likely the dog will also show signs of intolerance to the rest of the grain family.
The Irish Setter is one breed that has been proven cannot tolerate gluten at all (Gluten Sensitivity Enteropathy). As this is a historical breed more research has been conducted than other breeds. Unfortunately, many other breeds may already be intolerant but have not collectively had conclusive research carried out.