Gluten free pets?

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Dear Paws:  Seems like everyone is hopping on the gluten free bandwagon these days, including my friend, who has put her entire family on a gluten-free diet–including her two dogs! Is such a strict diet healthy for pets? – Clara in San Diego

Dear Clara:  For dogs, as long as their nutritional needs are being met—getting enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, along with enough protein and vital nutrients—a gluten-free diet should not be harmful.

Some premium dog foods (dry and wet) are being marketed as gluten-free. As to whether all of them are truly gluten-free, I can’t say—there is little or no regulation in how pet foods are labeled.

Is gluten-free truly helpful for dogs and cats? Again, no one can say for certain. But I’ve heard plenty of anecdotes from fellow pet owners—their pets have increased energy, or their fur coats are shinier, and many even say that certain behavior problems have gone away on this type of diet.

I’ve also heard the same from proponents of the raw food diet, the all-organic diet, and brewer’s yeast supplements.

Regardless of the type of diet, it’s always beneficial to pets when their owners take a deep interest in what they eat and where their food comes from. They monitor their pets more closely, and that attention can help reveal other causes of behavior or health issues beyond a dietary cause. They tend to be in closer contact with their pets’ veterinarians, meaning their pets get routine care, vaccinations, and other health checks on schedule. That’s great for pets’ health overall.

So, don’t worry about your neighbors’ dogs. If they look healthy and happy and well-cared for, the type of food they eat is not a problem.

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