Do dogs and cats need Gluten removed from their diets? That question has been recently asked of several veterinary nutritionists. Their answer was that gluten is the protein portion of carbohydrates. Unless a dog or cat has a specific allergy to the protein in corn, rice, or wheat, the owner does not need to worry about the presence of gluten in their pet’s food. A gluten enteropathy [intestinal reaction to gluten protein] is extremely rare in dogs. The overall quality of the food is more important. Gluten free/grain free diets use primarily simple carbohydrates like potato or tapioca which may drop the fiber level too much. Where as, brown rice, oats, and barley have adequate fiber. Why is fiber so important? Healthy dogs on a grain/gluten free diet stools are of poorer quality (more diarrhea) and the dogs are more gassy. Dogs over time have adapted to a diet more similar to humans. Cats are carnivores, which makes their diet requirements different. They can live on a higher protein and fat and lower carbohydrate diet. Cats are not at the same adaptation level as dogs. Cats are not as compatible to human diets.
It is interesting that veterinary nutritionists do not know of scientific papers or scientific evidence that glutens are bad for animals. The nutritionists see many excellent diets that contain rice, wheat, and soy. They suspect that small food companies that are looking for a way to promote their diets as different and competitive with large companies are creating myths about gluten. People see these labels that say grain free. Then they go home and see grain in their food and assume it is bad. People are always looking for the next conspiracy. Currently, it is the bad practice of large companies putting harmful grain in their diets as filler. Again, it is a myth with no science behind it. Less that 10% of dogs have a true food allergy to a protein from past exposure. The amount of protein in corn is 8% and in rice 10%. Both being too low to cause a typical allergic reaction.
In summary, there are AAFCO formulated standards that high quality companies adhere to yearly and do further research. The small boutique companies do not adhere to these standards and claim “to be formulated to meet AAFCO standards”. They have not applied for or passed these standards. They will make untrue claims in their marketing sheets and on their websites. When you look at the label the claims are gone because it is illegal to make those claims. They can say grain free on the bag but do not say it is better because it is not. Also read everything on the entire label. Often in very small letter it will be stated for intermittent and supplemental feeding. That means the food does not meet requirements for a daily diet and should only be used as a treat and not as a diet.