Should Your Pet Go Gluten Free?

I want to start by saying that I am not trying to advocate an answer to this question. I am not an expert and there’s a lot of research one should do before making a decision about whether to put your pet on a gluten free diet. I just want to share my experience because if I had known some of these things beforehand, I would have gone about this process differently.

I’ve been celiac for ten years. For the first eight, I was in denial. Sure, I had cut out all wheat foods from my personal kitchen, but that didn’t stop me from eating gluten infested food from restaurants every week. After a health scare back in 2011, I finally got my act together and went 100% gluten free. Then I got to thinking: I know what consuming gluten does to the human body. Not everyone is severely allergic to it, but cases have skyrocketed in the past decade. Genetic manipulation of wheat in order to increase production has resulted in gluten toxicity; we weren’t meant to ingest the concentration we have been, compared to sixty years ago.

So, knowing what gluten does to me, why was I content to feed it to my cat? I decided to switch her food, and read the labels of several different “grain free” brands before settling on one. I thought I was taking care of my beloved cat. Two months after being on this gluten free dry food, my cat gained two whole pounds. She was already on the border of her recommended weight because of her build, and now she was overweight. More research revealed that most gluten free pet food brands substitute the gluten with potatoes, peas, and other starchy foods. Those high carb ingredients lead to pet obesity.

I was crushed. Here I thought I was doing the best for my cat, and I had put her health at even more risk. Was there no healthy course? Was I doomed to pick the lesser of two evils? (I read up on homecooking your pet’s food, but that’s a very complicated matter that I just didn’t have the time to learn.) Thankfully, after more research, I found a cat food brand that did not use gluten or the high starch ingredients. Right now I’m feeding my cat Nature’s Variety, Instinct. It has 78% protein (compare to 30% of most well-known brands). (Disclaimer, I’m not saying it’s the best; it’s the only one I could find in my local pet store, but it was ranked highly by experts.)

Buying grain-free pet foods is more expensive than the other brands. On the other hand, the better quality of food, the less quantity your pet needs to get sufficient nutrients. My cat eats much less than she used to and even though it’s taken two months, she’s lost one pound. I’m strongly hoping that in another two she will be back to a healthy weight.

I love my little girl and want her to live a long and healthy life. I’m not a fan of gluten, but I’m not preaching we should throw it all out. (Though if we did, restaurants might carry more options for me.) Not everyone gets sick from it, but we can’t predict who will and who won’t. The decision is yours. I only hope sharing my experience will give you something to think about, and help you avoid some of the mistakes I made should you choose to go this road with your pets.

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4 comments on “Should Your Pet Go Gluten Free?

  1. amyshojai says:

    Hi Angela, Are you feeding the canned formula? Canned foods are 70% water (usually) and most canned products are higher protein because the canning process turns carbs into hockey-puck consistencies, LOL! Glad you found a food your kitty likes and does well eating. I was curious about the dry product, too, the ingredients are interesting. *s*

    • Of the Nature’s Variety Instinct, I’m feeding her the dry food. I never used to feed my cat canned food, but I have been the past few months (only because with the new kitten’s voracious appetite, I can’t leave food out all night for the older one anymore, so she gets a bigger meal of canned food before bed). I read so many arguments about “Only feed canned, never dry!” and “Only feed dry, never canned!” I don’t know where I stand. At this point, my immediate goals are to get my cat’s weight down to a healthy number, and not let the new kitten bankrupt me, lol.

      • amyshojai says:

        I sure understand THAT sentiment! The truth is–every cat is different. Some do great on a given diet while others develop problems from that same diet. My Seren-kitty has always eaten dry food. *shrug* She vomits canned. But she also self regulates feeding very well, and has never gone above about 6 pounds in weight.

        • Yeah, just like people! It blows my mind every time I have some random, bizarre reaction to something that a month ago I was fine eating.

          Thanks so much for weighing in, Amy. 🙂

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