Is Gluten Bad for Dogs?

October 6, 2021

Gluten is a controversial ingredient but is it actually safe for dogs to eat? The answer is yes! (unless of course your dog has a gluten sensitivity)

Gluten has become the new bad guy in the world of nutrition in recent years. Gluten is just a protein so why is it creating such a fuss? With all the buzz, some pet owners are concerned that gluten may be bad for their dogs. With this article, we aim to shed some light on gluten and provide some clarity for pet owners on its presence in dog food.

What is gluten?

Gluten is neither a toxin or a chemical, like some may claim. Instead, gluten is actually nothing more than a group of proteins. It is found in cereal grains, primarily wheat. It can be found in pet food as wheat flour, wheat grain, wheat meal or can also be extracted for use as a protein supplement called wheat gluten meal. 

Wheat gluten is composed of two types of proteins called glutenins and the gliadins. They are seed storage proteins, act as a storage reservoir for nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. Similar, homologous proteins can be found in rye, triticale, farrow, oats and barley.

Miniature Dachshund Stare A Miniature Smooth Haired Dachshund with it's head above the wheat crop watching / looking. dog wheat stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What is it used for in dog food?

It is important to note that not all dog food contains gluten. Gluten can be found in dog food for a number of reasons. The most common is for use as a carbohydrate energy source. This is usually done by adding cereal grains like wheat to the diet. Dogs then utilize the starches in wheat for energy.

Wheat gluten meal is sometimes also added as a protein source. However, gluten is not as digestible to dogs as animal tissue. Therefore, in terms of quality, it is a poor source of protein and is sometimes viewed as a filler.

Lastly, gluten is used as a functional ingredient. It helps certain dog foods like kibble and canned food maintain their shape and structure. 

Dinner Time A purebred border collie is indoors eating food from his dog bowl. In this frame he is looking down at his meal while eating his dinner pieces of dog food spill over the edge onto the floor. dog eating stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Is gluten bad for my dog?

Usually the answer is no, gluten is generally safe for dogs to eat. There are however a few dogs that are allergic or intolerant to gluten. This often manifests as itching (usually seen as red patches, dogs chewing their skin or scratching), chronic GI upset, chronic ear infections and weight loss. For dogs who are gluten intolerant, veterinarians will often recommend that owners simply remove grains from their dog’s diet.

Black puppy eating on deck Great dane puppy hungry dog eating stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Even though gluten itself is generally safe for dogs to eat, its source, wheat, may not be the healthiest option. Wheat and grains are very high in available starch and sugars. The extra starch in a dog’s diet may actually contribute to weight gain and puts dogs at a greater risk for developing diabetes.


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