The Low Down on Gluten Free Dog Food

Today, gluten free dominates our shopping aisles with an estimated 8.5 million people going "gluten-free". Just as clean eating has trickled into how we feed our dogs, gluten free dog food is a thing and it seems its here to stay. But what's all the fuss about and are these restrictions beneficial to our dogs? Keep on reading to understand the benefits of gluten free dog food, the disadvantages and common misconceptions.

The difference between gluten free, wheat free, cereal free and grain free dog food?

It's easy to get confused and we often hear these terms used interchangeably but they are not the same. If your dog has a gluten intolerance, it's worth understanding the difference as chances are you've unnecessarily restricted your options. For a definitive guide on what is and isn't gluten free, click here. Essentially only a few specific grains include gluten, so if a recipe is grain free, it's also gluten free. Whilst if it's gluten free, it can still include grains.

  • Gluten is a protein commonly found in cereals, barley, wheat and rye.
  • Wheat is a type of grain containing wheat gluten which is the most common associated with food intolerances.
  • Cereals and grains are umbrella terms that relate to any product of cereals including oats, barley, maize, rice and wheat

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Do dogs need carbohydrates?

There's a lot of misleading information on the internet suggesting that you should avoid all grains and that they have no nutritional value. Another common myth is that feeding a grain free diet means you're feeding a low carbohydrate diet. This simply is not true. Dog foods include a carbohydrate source for both nutritional and technical reasons. Technically for example with dry food, a binding carbohydrate source is needed to form the kibble or biscuit. Nutritionally, carbohydrates provide a source of energy and dietary fibre that's essential in maintaining a healthy digestive system. We previously wrote a blog tackling common misconceptions about grain free dog food and highlighting the benefits of whole grains in keeping your dogs gut happy and healthy.

Not all dog foods are created equally. Some manufacturers use lower quality cheaper ingredients or vary the ratios to have a carb heavy more cost effective food. Always check the composition! You can then compare the nutrient density of the food. A nutrient dense food like our dry dog food recipes, requires less to deliver your dogs daily requirement. Most manufacturers should have this information on their packaging - if it doesn't, ask them. If they're unwilling to share, I'd recommend avoiding that particular product so that you know exactly what you're feeding your dog.

Is gluten bad for dogs?

The majority of humans and dogs tolerate gluten just fine. Gluten intolerance or coeliac disease affects just 1% of the UK human population. And with the exception of the Irish setter, the only reported dog breed to suffer from "Gluten-sensitive enteropathy", it's incredibly rare for dogs to have any issues with gluten.

It's far more common for your dog to suffer with an environmental allergy including reactions to parasites like fleas. Smudge has a terrible problem with grass seeds and during the summer it's something we take measures to minimise the impact on her. Food allergies (or intolerances), are less common and it's more typical for your dog to have an intolerance to an animal protein like beef, chicken or pork than to gluten.

Why go gluten free?

If you have an Irish Setter, then you must feed a gluten free dog food. But for other breeds, it's not necessary to avoid gluten nor grains. The majority of dogs have no issue with gluten (or indeed any grain). Where gluten is problematic for dogs, it can wreak havoc on dog's digestive health causing reactions such as itching and infections.

So why do we make gluten free dog food and how can it help your dog?

Even if your dog doesn't suffer with a gluten intolerance, you may want to consider a gluten free dog food recipe for digestive health benefits. As we say good health starts in the gut and along with other gut friendly ingredients, we choose to use rice and oats as our carbohydrate source which are nutritious, tasty and kind to sensitive tummies.

Many dog owners opt for gluten or grain free dog food because they're looking for a quality dog food, seeking better palatability or looking to limit carbohydrates. Most premium dog foods avoid gluten or grains and do meet these criteria but it doesn't always hold true. For example grain free doesn't necessarily mean carb free. As always, it's important to check the ingredient breakdown to truly determine if the food is good quality and right for your dog.

There is no one size fits all approach for dogs. We've met dogs that can't tolerate potato, dogs that can't handle too much animal protein, dogs that require a low purine diet...the list goes on. Dogs are individuals and the most important thing to do is to feed them a quality dog food that meets their specific needs.

Looking for gluten free dog food?

If you're looking for gluten free dog food, we can help. At Scrumbles, Our range of dog food (and cat food) is designed to be good for the gut, including ingredients like Slippery Elm and probiotics and are all gluten free. We also offer single source protein and grain free dog food options. If you'd like to know more and understand if we're suitable for your dog or have any other questions, drop us a line at

grain free dog food

Whilst you're here, why not read: 

  1. The Truth About Grain Free Dog Food
  2. How to Keep Dogs Cool
  3. The Truth about Hypoallergenic Dog Food

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