The Facts About Gluten in Pet Food

The Facts About Gluten

Although only 1% to 2% of people have celiac disease (an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) and require a gluten-free diet, many more people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon in hopes it will help them lose weight or feel better. And many of them assume that a gluten-free diet is what’s best for their pets, too.

The fact is that gastrointestinal problems associated with gluten are rare in dogs.

  • Gluten-induced enteropathy (a dog’s version of being intolerant to gluten) is very rare in dogs and has been reported primarily in Irish Setters (due to a genetic predisposition).1
  • Pets with gluten-induced enteropathy react to the gluten proteins in wheat, rye and barley.
  • The protein in corn gluten are different from those found in wheat, barley and rye, and therefore, do not cause gastrointestinal problems, even in dogs with gluten enteropathy. Gluten from grains provides proteins to pet food.
  • Gluten from various grains is the concentrated protein after all the starch has been removed.
  • For example, corn gluten meal contains 60% to 70% protein.
  • These ingredients provide essential amino acids that form the building blocks for protein.
  • Gluten is highly digestible.2

Gluten provides structure to pet food.

Just as wheat gluten is added to breads to enhance the texture, a small amount in pet food helps canned formulas, kibbles and treats hold their shape.


1. Case LP, et al., eds. Canine and Feline Nutrition. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2011:152.
2. Lawrence KR, et al. Comparison of wheat gluten and spray-dried animal plasma in diets for nursery pigs. J Anim Sci. 2004;82(12):3635—3645.
3. Feed Commodity Bulletin. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.
4. Hand MS, et al., eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 4th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute; 2000:141.