I never paid much attention to the thought of gluten intolerance for dogs. Even my family acquired its first pup – and struggled with getting him to take his daily Benadryl – I dismissed the idea.

People who purchase gluten-free pet food, I assumed, do so because they worry about cross-contamination and about compromising their own systems (both valid concerns) – not because the gluten might make their dogs sick.

Finally, I decided to do a little more research. I’m coming to the party a little late, but what I found out surprised me.

There are really two schools of thought when it comes to whether or not housepets should be eating gluten. On the one hand is a sizable population which points out that dogs and cats don’t eat much (if any) grain at all in the wild or when left to their own devices. Given that information, they say, it’s illogical to feed them grains as domesticated animals. At best it’s a wasteful source of cheap calories, at worst it’s damaging to their health. There’s quite a bit of information on it at The Whole Dog.

The second school of thought says that some dogs really do have a gluten intolerance. It’s been proven in Irish Setters, but it stands to reason that if one species is susceptible, others are as well. The symptoms are fairly similar to those of humans: GI problems, rashes or other skin problems, lethargy, etc. Just as with humans, they disappear on a gluten-free diet.

Probably the most thorough explanation of both schools of thought – which are not mutually exclusive, mind you – comes from Doug Symes, aka “Dogter J”. You can read his article at Housepet Magazine, or a companion piece Jefferson Adams wrote over at Celiac.com.

Gluten-free pet food is, unsurprisingly, generally more expensive than the standard fare. And carbohydrate-free pet food is even moreso. That being said, the benefits seem hard to argue with.

I’m curious: if you have a house pet, what do you feed it? Are your dogs or cats on a gluten-free diet? If so, is it for them or for you?