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Coping with gluten sensitivity: alternatives to wheat

January 02, 2013

We have noticed that more attention has been paid to gluten lately, but do you know how gluten could impact on your dog's health?

Pets, like people, can often have gluten allergies, in fact, this is becoming a relatively common food allergy in dogs. For this reason, more and more dog owners are sourcing and choosing gluten-free foods, as well as treats for their pets! 

Signs of a gluten sensitivity or allergy may be itchy skin, head shaking, licking front paws, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, flatulence and sneezing, so if you think your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, perhaps you should take a closer look at the ingredients in your dog food.

Gluten is a protein that can be found in wheat and other related grains, such as barley and rye. Gluten is what gives wheat-based flour its characteristic elasticity, when making bread for example, and allowing it to rise. Wheat contains very high levels of gluten. 

Unfortunately, it is common for dog food manufacturers to use wheat as a main ingredient. Wheat and other grains are sources of carbohydrate which are found in dog foods and which may be used to increase protein levels in nutritional labeling. Wheat is a cheaper substitute for animal proteins like meat and fish and is also more economical than lower gluten flour alternatives, so as a result it is a popular ingredient used to bulk out food relatively inexpensively.

Although gluten comes from grains, not all grains contain gluten, or if they do, they are at significantly lower levels which are far easier to digest than wheat, such as buckwheat, oats and spelt.

These alternatives are an excellent choice for dogs with a gluten allergy or wheat intolerance and although more costly, are far better for your pets.  At The Little Pet Biscuit Company we ONLY use alternatives to common wheat, which include:


SpeltAn ancient relative to modern wheat, a distant cousin perhaps.  Spelt grain, or triticum speltum was cultivated by the Romans.  It has a lovely texture and a nutty flavour.  There is a small amount of gluten in Spelt, but this is fragile and easily digested so is well suited to dogs that are intolerant to wheat gluten.  We use Spelt in a lot of our biscuit recipes and have found it to be a perfect alternative to wheat.


BuckwheatDespite containing the word 'wheat' in its name, Buckwheat, or fagopyrum esculentum is actually a member of the rhubard family.  It is a traditional ingredient in Russia as well as Northern China, Tibet and Europe.  Buckwheat has a natural sweetness and contains essental amino acids.  It is also gluten free. 


RyeRye flour has a distinctive strong flavour and is naturally lower in gluten than wheat.  Closely related to barley, rye originated in Turkey and it was used during the Roman Empire to make rye bread.



OatsOats are high in fibre, very easily digestible and beneficial in maintaining a healthy bowel function.  Oats are also useful in supporting the nervous system.  Oats contain more protein than any other grain, so it has definitely earned its label as a 'healthful' or nutritious food. Many of our recipes contain oats because they are so healthy, but we have also sourced a completely gluten-free variety for dogs with a gluten allergy.

Rice Flour

Rice flour is created from ground unhulled (brown flour) or hulled (white flour) rice kernels. It is wheat and gluten free so again, this is another of our ingredients which is safe for dogs that are gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat. It is easy for dogs to digest and low in fat.


So you can see that it's easy to find alternatives to wheat and we have embraced this at The Little Pet Biscuit Company.  Of course, it's easy to opt for the 'cheaper' alternative and use common wheat flour, but we don't think this helps save any money in the long run and your pets' health and happiness must always come first.

The LIttle Pet Biscuit Company, February 2013

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