Of late, grain-free kibble is an attractive choice for most health-conscious pet owners who want nothing but the best for their four-legged best friend. But can dogs eat wheat? Or, like humans, has wheat gluten earned a bad rap in the canine community? Well, the answer is not a cut dry yes or no, because dogs of various breeds have diverse needs.
Keep reading to discover the surprising facts about feeding your dog wheat.
Is Wheat Safe for Dogs?
If you check the ingredient list of most low-grade dog foods, you’ll realize one ingredient stands out like a sore thumb: wheat. It is inexpensive and ideal for producing kibble and biscuits, plus wheat is safe for dogs except for those with wheat allergy or gluten intolerance.
Your Retriever may not show any adverse reactions to wheat at the onset but may develop wheat allergy following prolonged consumption. Canines most commonly develop allergies to these foods:
But unless your dog has a wheat allergy, they’ll be fine after eating wheat and show no adverse effects. Dog breeds that are more likely to develop food allergies include German shepherds, cocker spaniels, retrievers, dachshunds, and rec cats.
Remember that grain allergies are rare in canines, and most pet owners prefer feeding their dogs grain-free diets based on a personal decision.
Is Wheat Good for Dogs?
Yes. Wheat gluten is 99% digestible and contains 80% protein with an amino acid profile similar to that of meat proteins. Wheat is also a high-quality carbohydrate that readily provides energy for metabolic and muscular activities when digested.
Apart from providing a cheap protein source and a filler for dry pet foods, wheat offers zero nutritional value for our pups.
Can My Dog Eat Whole Wheat?
Yes. The whole wheat grain comprises the germ, bran, and endosperm, with each part functioning uniquely. Whole wheat is high in essential nutrients and vitamins such as B vitamins, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium which promote digestion, healthy skin and coat, and heart health, among other benefits.
Whole wheat is also more nutrient-dense than processed wheat, so it will keep your dog feeling fuller for longer.
The GMO Issue
Some pet owners avoid feeding their dogs grains because they are concerned about genetically modified grains and their health consequences on pups.
GMO grains have been linked to “leaky gut syndrome,” – a condition where the gut lining develops multiple tiny fissures that allow bacteria, toxins, undigested proteins, and fats to leak into the bloodstream. These toxins trigger an autoimmune response that leads to fatigue, bloating gas, skin rash, and food sensitivities.
Can Wheat Make My Dog Sick?
Wheat flour contains gluten which is a cause for concern in humans and pets.
Like humans, some dogs suffer from celiac disease and cannot eat wheat without falling sick. Why dogs develop sensitivity to wheat gluten is unclear, but studies point to genetics and environmental factors.
Symptoms of wheat gluten allergy in dogs include:
- Ear infections
- Skin irritation
- Foggy mind
- Excessive thirst
- Red, sore paws
- Obsessive chewing/licking of feet
- Hair loss
The severity of the symptoms will depend on your furry companion’s level of gluten sensitivity.
How Much Wheat Can Dogs Eat?
This depends on your pup’s weight and if it has been neutered or spayed. For instance, a Great Dane can safely consume about ten times more wheat flour than a Chihuahua.
Moderate amounts of wheat flour are an excellent addition to your pup’s diet; it’s a good protein source, helps their coat become healthier and shinier, and gives your pup’s teeth a good scrubbing.
Diagnosis of Wheat Allergy in Dogs
Your vet will first start with a physical examination of your dog’s symptoms. If your canine has skin irritation, your vet will take a skin swab or scrap to check for bacterial overgrowth or external parasites.
The vet will also examine the ears with an otoscope to determine whether there is any excess discharge. Blood work will provide a deeper analysis of how the internal organs function. Diagnostic tests like dietary trials to localize the exact allergen also come in handy.
Treatment of Wheat Allergy in Dogs
Your vet will offer medication to relieve your dog of the intense itching and skin irritation and recommend all grains be removed from his diet to prevent chronic infections.
Skin irritation will take a while to heal, ideally several weeks. A strict elimination diet is the best solution for wheat allergies for a happier and healthier dog. The prognosis for a full recovery is good in dogs with wheat allergies as long as you stick to a strict wheat-free diet.
Wheat Flour Alternatives
If your pup is allergic to wheat flour, there are other healthy carbohydrate-rich foods they can have, including:
These foods are high in fiber, among other nutrients, and maintain a low glycemic index. They are beneficial for pups with weight issues and food allergies.
Wheat flour is a common ingredient in pet food as it’s a good filler and provides a cheap protein and energy source. But, it is not good if your pup has celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Wheat is not an essential part of your pup’s diet, so they won’t be missing out on any nutrients if you don’t serve it. Although an occasional bite of your bacon sandwich won’t harm Fido, it is best to seek your vet’s guidance and monitor your pup’s health for wheat allergy symptoms.