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Food containing cereals is often associated with food intolerances or allergies. We explain how to know if your dog needs a grain free diet

Are grain-free and gluten-free foods suitable for all kinds of dog, or just those with food allergies or intolerance? This article will explain how to recognise if your dog needs a grain-free diet.

Grain-free food and dogs with a gluten intolerance

A grain-free or cereal-free pet food contains no grain and is therefore also gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in grains of cereal such as wheat, oats, barley and rye. Gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, is common in humans, but much less so in dogs.

Although there is still no definitive scientific evidence, it’s possible that gluten intolerance may be linked to the food offered to a dog in their early years, as well as genetics. If a dog is gradually introduced to gluten during weaning (continually, in small doses), that might help to prevent this kind of intolerance developing.

In any case, if you suspect a food allergy or gluten intolerance, the best thing that you can do is to choose a cereal-free food; a grain-free food that minimises any risk to your dog’s health. Although this longer article already discussed the symptoms of a food allergy or food intolerance in dogs, we’ll summarise the main points here.

Symptoms of a possible gluten intolerance

  • Generally, food allergies will cause skin reactions, although they can also lead to digestive problems:
  • Redness or hot spots on the skin
  • Frequent itching
  • Localised hair loss
  • Diarrhoea, vomiting and other digestive changes

Intolerance to protein such as gluten can cause gastrointestinal problems including diarrhoea, stomach disorders or flatulence. It’s always best to consult a vet if you notice any of the symptoms described above, to let a professional determine the diagnosis and any action required.

Dogs that need grain-free or cereal-free pet food

Some dog owners think that dogs need a cereal-free diet because they are descended from wolves, who eat a meat-based diet. A recent study in the prestigious scientific journal Nature found that dogs have more capacity, genetically, than wolves to break down carbohydrates from grains in their digestive system. This is one of the changes that occurred during the process of domestication. However, offering them a cereal-free diet is still the closest thing to their natural preference.

A dog’s diet cannot and should not be exactly the same as a wolf’s, as it has different energy requirements (domestic dogs may have a limited or moderate daily exercise regime) and a different ability to digest certain ingredients. Nevertheless, there are proven advantages to offering dogs diets inspired by their ancestors, where animal-based ingredients are ALWAYS the main ingredient.

That’s why grain-free foods are a good option for all kinds of dogs, irrespective of their breed, size or age. If the food offers a complete, balanced diet, it can be beneficial, particularly for animals showing signs of food intolerance or allergies.

If you notice that your dog suffers from any of the symptoms described above, consult your vet for advice on the most appropriate diet. They may prescribe a grain-free or cereal-free pet food to check if the symptoms can be put down to an intolerance to gluten or certain types of cereals.

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