Gluten free dog food is widely available and people are feeding it to their dogs for a number of reasons. Not just because they eat a gluten free diet themselves.
Dog food without gluten is considered to be hypoallergenic and is often prescribed for dogs with allergies.
Perhaps the most important feature of any dog food is that it must be nutritionally balanced so your dog gets all the nutrients that she needs.
Gluten Free for Special Needs
So who are the dogs that need gluten free dog food? I see a number of articles online talking about dogs with celiac disease and their need for a gluten free diet. But there is a problem with this.
Celiac disease is extremely rare in dogs, if it even occurs.
In fact, the Merck Manual for Pet Health, an authority for animal health, doesn’t even mention celiac disease in animals.
This version is for laymen. Celiac disease is a human issue, not a canine issue.
On the other hand, there are dogs who benefit from a gluten free diet. Some dogs do develop sensitivity to certain dog foods. When a dog is sensitive to gluten, he is usually sensitive to wheat or corn.
But not all dogs. Some are actually allergic to one or more of the other ingredients. Usually a dog who is allergic to food, is allergic to the protein source in the food. This can be either meat or grain.
Dog allergies to food develop over time. It usually takes about two years to develop an allergy to a certain food. This explains why a dog who has been healthy, develops symptoms all of a sudden.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms of food allergy can present in different ways. It may take both you and your vet working together to determine if your dog has allergies. In fact, Bichons are dogs who often end up with allergies and sensitive digestive systems.
If your dog is constantly itching, scratching and biting himself, check to make sure that he doesn’t have fleas. If there is no obvious reason for his behavior, consider food allergies.
Another seemingly unrelated issue could be vomiting or diarrhea with no other known reason for them.
You may have to experiment a little with your dog’s diet, as there are no easy medical tests or blood tests to determine if your dog is allergic.
Choosing a Gluten Free Dog Food
How do you know which gluten free dog food is best for your dog? If your dog has been diagnosed with dog food allergies, you will need to find another food for him.
When you do so, pay attention to the ingredients.
Some ingredients are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others.
The most common offenders are chicken or poultry by-products, corn, wheat, artificial flavors or preservatives and soy.
But, don’t despair! There are many good, natural dog foods on the market.
The best way to determine which food is best for your allergic dog is to try a new food. When you do this, you need to give each gluten free dog food a few weeks, so that you will know how your dog is doing.
If she does really well with it–stay with that hypoallergenic dog food!
Some gluten free dog foods with good track records:
- Blue Life Protection Formula for Adult Dogs
- Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6
- Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Dog Food
- Tuffy’s Nutrisource Grain Free Dog Food
A word of caution. Do not change your dog’s food just to avoid allergies! Veterinarians believe that the more protein sources that you expose your dog to, the greater the chances that she will be exposed to an allergen. Then she will have an allergy!
If your dog is feeling good and acting healthy, let well enough alone.
How to Test Your Dog’s Food
Before you completely change your dog’s diet, you might want to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet may have some suggestions to help you with the process.
Of course you may prefer to make your own homemade dog food because you can control the ingredients and know for sure what is in your dog’s food. Testing the food would be the same as for commercial dog food.
Basically, testing your dog’s food works like this: Gradually switch your dog over to the new gluten-free dog food. You might start with 1/4 new food to 3/4 old food. Then keep increasing the new food and decreasing the old food.
Give your Bichon the new gluten free diet for 12 weeks. Make sure you give him plenty of water, as well. In addition, make sure you don’t give him treats that contain gluten, or you will be defeating your efforts!
If the symptoms are reduced after 12 weeks, then switch back to the original dog food. If the symptoms re-occur, than you have successfully diagnosed a food allergy or intolerance.
This gives you clinical evidence that your dog has food allergies. It takes a little time but, if successful, is definitely worth the effort.
A gluten free diet for your dog just may be the solution to your dog’s health problems!