When you went gluten-free, did you ever suspect your pets as a culprit to getting glutened? Have you wondered if gluten free pet food is necessary?
These are excellent and important questions. In my experience, anyone sensitive to gluten needs to know this because they often forget about the animals in their home. Pets can be one of the most commonly overlooked and problematic “areas” in the home aside from your own kitchen that is surprisingly gluten-filled.
Gluten Free Pet Food Can Keep You From Getting Glutened
I realize you aren’t eating the bags of cat or dog food, but have you ever looked at the ingredients? Do you make sure to wash your hands after handling the bags or even the food itself?
Have you checked your cat litter? Some are made entirely from wheat that your cat can easily track everywhere in your home.
How about your dog’s treats? Or your fish food?
Now before you think I’ve gone overboard, hear me out.
When you’ve got an elevated immune system and damage still happening to your body from gluten exposure, the consequences aren’t good. If you ask just about any expert I’ve had the pleasure to interview on my podcast, small amounts of gluten do impact your health. The cumulation of exposures is what takes it’s toll leading to declining health, more autoimmune issues and even hormone problems.
So when I realized that my animals were glutening me, I decided to make specific changes to protect my health (and simultaneously their health). Look, I love my pets (2 goofball cats, to be exact) very much and I feel like they are an integral part of my family. But I can’t risk having my immune system constantly on overdrive and landing myself in Adrenal Fatigue all over again.
From my own experience, here’s two really good reasons you should suspect your pets of harboring hidden gluten and what you can do about it:
Pet food and Pet Care Products can be Gluten Bombs!
The typical pet food (think dog, cat and even fish) is typically made with glutenous ingredients like wheat. To figure out just how often gluten showed up in this arena, I spent 2 hours in a local Petco wandering around reading labels of whatever I could find. The cheaper brands seemed to use wheat and other gluten-bearing grains more often than the expensive brands.
I found that:
- Wet and dry cat and dog foods had gluten.
- Dog chews and even some cat treats were made with gluten.
- Some fish foods are made of gluten.
- Some cat and dog shampoos were also made with gluten.
- And let’s not forget the cat litter that’s completely made of wheat from Swheat Scoop. (Please don’t ever use this product, my gluten-free friends.)
How You Can Get Glutened By Your Pets…
If you forget to wash your hands after handling the bags or containers of glutenous food, your pet’s bowl or even the food itself, your hands are contaminated making everything you touch… contaminated.
For the cat lovers — they eat and then they spend lots of time cleaning themselves directly after eating. I’m really not in love with the idea of handling an animal that’s covered in saliva mixed with glutenous food, let alone having the cat roam all over… including trying to lay on my pillow when I’m not looking.
Dogs eat and then try to lick you… again with the saliva issue.
And don’t forget how much cats will inevitably track their litter through your home. The idea of my cats digging around in wheat and crawling all over our furniture and our bed with gluteny paws just doesn’t sit well with me especially since there is a real chance that you can get sick from inhaling gluten.
That’s why no matter whether you think I’m overblowing this issue or not, I will stick to the gluten-free alternatives out there. (And yes, they do exist!)
[If you’re new to the gluten-free lifestyle, check out my Resources to learn the ropes HERE.]
Animals don’t eat grains. Period.
Have you ever witnessed a cat climb a corn stalk and start munching on an ear of corn? I haven’t.
This visual might seen silly to you, but if you look at one of the most common ingredients in dry food, it’s corn. GMO corn, to be exact. Animals digestive systems aren’t built to break down corn and other grains. I don’t care how much your vet charges you for that very expensive corn-based food that’s suppose to do all sorts of fancy things. Bottom line? Animals don’t naturally eat corn.
I recognize that budgetary issues may be a concern (as grain-free food is more expensive), so pick and choose your battles according to what you can do. But at the end of the day, do your best to minimize your potential exposure to gluten. From there, the sky’s the limit as to what else you can do to provide a healthy environment for your pets.
How to De-Gluten Your Pets
1. Read labels on any and all pet products you bring into your home. Use my easy-to-remember BROWS acronym to initially scan through to spot obvious gluten. If you’re not sure, contact the company directly.
2. Look for a “Gluten-Free” or “Grain-Free” label on the products you buy. My cats actually got healthier after we switched their diets to accommodate me, so it turned out to be a win-win for everyone.
3. Beware of natural cat litters. Again, read your labels and call the company if you aren’t sure. Though I try to keep things as natural as possible, I also know that wheat and glutenous grains make for cheap, “natural” products. We stick with pine-based litters so that I’m not exposed to gluten while the cats aren’t exposed to chemicals.
As I said, do what you can and what makes the most sense for you. If you’re still having problems with your health and you’ve not considered the gluten from pet products, I believe it’s worth exploring. It’s helped me and clients whom I’ve worked with.
Well I am seriously a celiac. But my understanding of the disease which I have had all my life is that the gluten must get to my intestine. I use swheat scoop all the time for my cats as they love it. Never once have I sat down and ate cat litter. NOr have I ever been glutened by my cats. If one takes the time to train the cats that they are not allowed to sit on kitchen counters and tables or even if they do the odd time as long as you clean your counters daily and don’t start licking them yourself or poring yourself a bowl of swheat scoop with your cocounut milk you should have no problem using swheat scoop which is an excellent product. You should afterall be cutting your vegy’s on dedicated cutting boards not your counter. There are tons of excellent gluten free cat and dog food products available today and Costco has some of the very best brands available at very affordable prices. So I do think you are really over-reacting here to this. Trust me if I get one grain of gluten in my gut I will pay for the next 5 days.
Thanks for leaving a comment, Aeriol, however I think you’re approaching this from too literal a direction. As I mentioned, the dust from these cat litters is tracked everywhere. My cats don’t walk on my countertop and I use dedicated cutting boards, but I do find tiny pieces of their pine litter all over my home. Those dust and smaller particles that might seem negligible to you (or even something you’d consider harmless) still have gluten and can be inhaled. It has been stated quite clearly even at the 2013 International Symposium for Celiac Disease on a panel about gluten-free myth busting with Dr. Guandalini, Melinda Dennis, John Zone, Donald Kasarda, and Markku Maki that you can get glutened from inhaling particles. You have zero protection from gluten in the mucus membranes of your nose.
Sure, it could be a small amount and you may not feel awful, however you are exposed to it which can elevate your immune system.
I get that these topics are controversial which perhaps explains the snarky comments, however it is possible for a super sensitive celiac to feel ok, but still have elevated immune response levels because they were constantly being exposed to minute levels.
I had no issues until I got two cats some 4 years back. I thought it was coincidence but I know have skin issues which are supposed to be gluten related….. could this happen? Could I have got this from my cats? Dermatitis herpetiformis
Mae, I obviously can’t say whether it’s directly related, but Dermatitis herpetiformis does require a gluten-free diet as it is an autoimmune condition associated with celiac disease. Perhaps the additional exposure to gluten aided in it manifesting… I can’t say for sure. However as I stated before, I’m not comfortable exposing myself to airborne gluten particles and possible contamination via my hands to risk using products with gluten.
Never thought about “being glutened” by my pets before. However, when we found out my husband and daughter were gluten intolerant I did realize we had put our dogs on gluten free food before we did us, because one of our dogs apparently had allergies to her food. Will have them be more careful around others’ pets though because of the licking thing and most people don’t put their pets on gluten free food. Thanks for the info.
Hi, could you give some recommend brands of gluten free pet food? I use taste of the wild because it is marked grain-free but never fully investigated it. This article sparked my curiosity to do some internet searching and someone tested TOTW as having a high level of gluten (due to cross-contamination). Thanks!
This is a great question, Hannah! I’m not sure about Taste of the Wild cat food (I don’t use that brand). I’ll take a look at the cat food I purchase and post some options up here tomorrow 🙂
Hannah, I don’t know what’s available in your area, but we use Diamond Brand and buy it at Tractor Supply company. I know they have several choices that are gluten free. I also know Blue Buffalo has gf choices and my friends buy that at Costco.
We use Diamond naturals indoor cat formula for our two cats. We have not been able to switch our dog over to gluten free food yet due to finances, but i switched the cats because they were throwing up from their current food of purina indoor formula, so this has been much better for them! I need to check the cat litter, i never thought of that!! Thanks!
I’m new to GF. I just looked at Diamond Naturals cat foods online. The indoor cat formula seemed to list pearl barley in the ingredients. On about.com for Celiac it states that pearl barley is included in the gluten containing grains.
Right, Cheryl. That cat food isn’t gluten free. There are plenty of cat foods on the market which are gluten and even grain free!
I made everyone, including the dogs, in my house gluten free and it has helped a great deal. I’m a firm believer that gluten is everywhere and very dangerous. 🙂 Perhaps some people don’t get reactions so easily, but I’m terrible. I was getting sick just from cooking gluten noodles for the rest of my family. I don’t have to eat gluten for it to make me sick. Smelling it and touching it can be very bad for me. My dogs eat blue buffalo dog food and so far it’s been working well for them and for me! Contamination is very real and there is no over reacting when it comes to keeping us safe.
One can never be too cautious – or observant. We never feed our dogs “doggie food”, we cooked and baked for them instead, and one thing we noticed was that they could not handle bread. Liquid from the back end, to try and put it politely. You are absolutely right about animals not eating grains, when and where would they have had a chance to develop the taste for them!? Industry does it because it is cheap, not realizing that agriculture is suffering this way, as well as harming the environment.
We want to thank everyone who has tried Swheat Scoop; you are not only being a great friend to your cat but also to the environment! This natural wheat product has been a wonderful addition to many homes with cats but it does contain gluten and is therefore not a good fit for every cat home. We stand behind our 100% satisfaction guarantee promise and we want to certainly offer that to anyone who has discovered a reaction to our product. Please feel free to contact us at 1-800-SWHEAT if there is anything we can do to help!
Thanks so much Tom for posting here! I appreciate you taking the time to put this up… I really LOVE natural pet companies, but as I started to transition my own cats, the wheat thing became a problem. It was my intention to let people know that this could cause a health issue not because the product in and of itself is toxic, but because of something that’s in it to which my audience is sensitive. Thanks again!
Once I got in the habit of reading labels is when I realized it was in my cat’s food. Not only can you get glutened by touching the cat’s food, but if your cat is like mine, he loves to lick me after getting a petting. Also, don’t forget the treats. Most are gluten filled. If you decide to stick to gluten-filled treats because your cat just can’t stand the gluten-free alternative, be sure to wash your hands immediately to remove any gluten residue.
I love the variety of posts and excellent food for thought. My cat is much more energetic on gluten free food and I am safer too :-). I had never thought to look at the kitty litter , until this article. I am purchasing Arm and Hammer kitty litter; ingredient label says 100% ground corn stalk.
Thanks so much for this gorgeous oasis of information.
I think it’s a legit concern. Most people scoop wet cat food with a spoon or fork. The spoon or fork gets rinsed in the sink and/or put in the dishwasher. I don’t want gluten in my sink or near my dishes or on my spoons and forks (even tho we have special ones for pet food only). Needless to say, our animal food and litter is gf.
There are plenty of cat and dog food out there which is gluten free. You can even find grain free too! I only give ours the best.
I started feeding our dogs gluten free and I noticed the difference after just a few days! Even since then I have kept them on it and never looked back. Definitely give it a go and you will see the results for yourself.