Grain free diets have become increasingly popular as we all know at least a friend or someone in our family who cannot tolerate gluten so we assume this will the same in our pets who live so closely with us. However in humans, it is an immune reaction to gluten (from several grains, including wheat, barley, oats and rye) that causes coeliac disease but this condition does not occur in dogs (other than a colony of Irish Setters and certain Border Terriers).
Gluten in grains has not been found to be responsible for skin disease or causing itching in any animals.
With grain allergens, a study spanning 30 years suggests that wheat is only a problem in 13% of dogs and 4% of cats with adverse food reactions. This hopefully sheds some light on the fact that feeding “grain free” is not going to rule out a food allergy.
Our final words come from Dr Marge Chandler who has a Master of Science in Animal Nutrition
“There is a lot to ignore on pet food labels. Words such as ‘gourmet’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ mean very little, and are often used simply to sell food as there is no legal definition for these terms. In other words, they are meaningless.
Technically there is no hypoallergenic diet. If your pet is allergic to any of the ingredients then it’s not hypoallergenic for them!
Don’t fall for the marketing gimmicks. For example, the idea that something like grain-free is better – there’s no evidence at all that dogs and cats need a grain-free diet, and in fact grains are important in providing the extra nutrients needed in our pet’s diet to aid digestion.”
Could feeding ‘alternative’ diets such as raw feeding and grain-free diets, actually be harmful to our pets?
If all grains are cut from the diet and dogs (or cats) are fed on alternative diets such as raw food or a diet high in chickpeas for example instead of the normal grains used (oats, rye, barley); it may put your pet at increased risk of heart disease and in particular dilated cardiomyopathy.
From nutritionist Lisa M. Freeman DVM PhD –
“Heart disease is common in our companion animals, affecting 10-15% of all dogs and cats, with even higher rates in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxer dogs. Most nutritional recommendations focus on treating dogs and cats with heart disease and there is much less information on the role of diet in causing heart disease.
However, a recent increase in heart disease in dogs eating certain types of diets may shed light on the role of diet in causing heart disease. It appears that diet may be increasing dogs’ risk for heart disease because owners have fallen victim to the many myths and misperceptions about pet food.”
If you wish to make an appointment to discuss your pet’s itchy skin or dietary requirements, you can call us or visit us and our team will be happy to help.