Gluten is a generic term used to describe the proteins found in wheat and other cereal grains. It constitutes a mixture of proteins classified into two groups, called prolamines and glutelins.
Effects of Grain Intolerance in Dogs
In true grain intolerance, an immune response occurs when gluten is consumed. The villi, tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food, are damaged. Damaged villi do not effectively absorb basic nutrients including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and in some cases, water and bile salts.
Diagnosing Grain Intolerance in Dogs
Diagnostic blood tests are available but they are not always completely accurate and can be very costly. An elimination diet is one of the surest ways to determine if your pet is sensitive to grains. It can be a time-consuming process for some pets, to pin down what foods cause their reactions, but for many pets, cutting out all gluten or feeding a completely grain-free pet food is the answer to problems that have been plaguing their companion for years.
Foods to Look Out For
Wheat, barley, rye, and oats are excluded when following a "gluten-free diet". Most evidence implicates wheat as the most problematic food. One school of thought is that genetically modified grains are especially risky for the gluten intolerant. Studies show that when butterflies and other species come in contact with pollen from genetically modified crops, they suffer a number of health problems and genetic mutations eventually occur. It is possible that a similar thing happens when other species consume genetically modified grains – especially species whose systems aren't designed to cope with a grain overload in the first place.
Which grains are gluten-free?
Rice, Amaranth, Buckwheat (this is actually a seed and not related to wheat), Millet, and Quinoa are all free of gluten. Other gluten-free starches include garbanzo beans, lentils, nuts (remember dogs must not eat macadamia nuts), maize/corn, fava beans and cassava.