Gluten free or grain free: here’s what you need to know

Written by Zoe Russell, BSc (Hons),

Nutrition Officer

west highland white terrier in grass

What is gluten?

Gluten usually refers to the proteins inside wheat grain, although it can also be associated with other ingredients such as barley, rye and oats. The gluten inside grains is really important for cooking and baking processes, to help hold the shape of the food.

What are grains?

Grains tend to describe wheat and any other cereal used as food. This includes barley, maize, oats and sometimes rice. For dogs with grain intolerances, you may choose a grain-free recipe, which typically uses ingredients such as white potato or sweet potato. 

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Dispelling the myths

  • “My dog is allergic to wheat-gluten, does this mean they can’t eat grains?”

Wheat is only one type of grain, so if they can’t eat wheat gluten, they may be fine with other grains such as rice.

  • “My dog has allergies, is it likely to be towards grains?”

Dietary intolerances can be caused by a number of possible ingredients. For some dogs, they cannot tolerate grains while others will thrive on a grain-based diet. The best thing to do is an elimination diet, where you cut out an ingredient (for example wheat) and monitor your dog’s response. It is worth noting that dietary intolerances are actually quite rare and other potential causes, such as environmental triggers, are investigated too.

  • “Is a grain-free diet also gluten-free?”

Grain-free recipes are usually made without gluten-associated ingredients like wheat, barley, rye and oats. Therefore grain-free recipes are usually gluten-free recipes, but it’s always worth checking with your manufacturer.

  • Does rice count as a grain?”

Although rice is less-commonly associated with grains, it is still grouped under the term of grains.

Contact us

If you need any more nutritional advice or information, please don’t hesitate to give our nutrition team a call on 01362 822 320 or email us at