Most dogs do not actually require a grain free or a gluten free diet. But how do you know if your dog does require one of these diets? To answer that question, let’s take a look at some of the common reasons pet owners choose to feed their dog a grain free or a gluten free diet.
Proponents of grain free diets claim that grains are an unnatural source of nutrition for our dogs. They argue that ancestors of our current-day dogs did not eat grains. While their ancestors may not have eaten grains, dogs have evolved to be able to digest grains and glutens pretty easily. Dogs possess several genes that have been modified through the course of their evolution to allow them to easily digest carbohydrates.1 That includes grains. So, while most dogs do very well eating a grain free diet, these diets are not required in terms of metabolization.
Another reason that many dog owners choose to feed grain free or gluten free dog foods is a mistaken belief that these diets are the best choice for dogs that have food allergies. While food allergies do occur in pets, corn and other grains are not among the most common allergens found in foods. In fact, according to some of the available research, corn is actually one of the least likely sources of food allergy. In one literature review, 278 dogs with food allergy were evaluated and the problem ingredient was clearly identified for each dog. Beef was the most common allergen, being responsible for 95 of the cases reported. Dairy was responsible for 55 cases, making it the second most frequent cause. Corn was identified as the offender in only 7 cases.2
For dogs that truly do have allergies to grains, a grain free diet would be an appropriate choice. The following are symptoms that would be expected in dogs that have food allergies (or other types of allergies):
A food trial with a grain free food would be necessary to determine whether the food is beneficial for your dog.