“When people hear ‘grain’ they often think ‘gluten,’ but these two are not interchangeable,” Lippman says. “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.” Gluten also plays an important role in many pet foods, she says. In pet food, gluten helps foods keep their shape and essentially glues them together, she explains.
Grains aren’t a problem for the vast majority of pets.
“Grains provide carbohydrates, which give your pet energy and supply fiber to promote digestion,” Lippman says. “Grains also include essential nutrients like protein and essential fatty acids.”
It’s actually “extremely rare” for dogs to have a grain sensitivity, Lippman says, noting that grain allergies impact less than one percent of dogs. However, if you suspect that your pet has a food allergy or sensitivity, talk to your vet to try to figure out the source and come up with a treatment plan from there. Otherwise, there’s really no need for grain-free dog food.
“Unless your pet has been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires a gluten- or grain-free diet, the choice to give them either is based solely on your preferences,” Lippman says.