Can dogs eat wheat?
We hear both questions above quite frequently and enjoy the discussions that follow. The purpose of this short post is not to take sides on the wheat vs. non-wheat issue. You and your veterinarian are the best judges for what is right for your dog. For the record - 1) we make dog treats (biscuits) and not dog food, 2) our first two dog treats (Beef Turmeric & Apple Cinnamon) contain high quality whole wheat, and 3) we will introduce two more treats shortly that will not contain wheat (gluten-free). The reality is that, yes, most dogs can eat and digest wheat & whole grains. According to Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, "Whole grains, rather than being fillers, contribute valuable nutrients including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber to diets while helping to keep the fat and calories lower than if animal products were used in their place." Additionally, researchers have found that dogs have between 4 and 30 copies of a gene that codes for amylase, a digestive enzyme used in the first step in breaking down starch. Unlike humans who produce amylase in saliva, amylase in dogs occurs in the small intestine and pancreas. Between 4 and 30 is a wide range so this suggests that some dogs are more proficient in digesting wheat.
Now, we believe that not all wheat is the same. There is a big difference between a whole grain and a filler. We use the highest quality, human-grade stone ground whole wheat. Ours is just like what you would find in artisan bakeries. Lower quality wheat used in some animal feeds is a filler, is definitely not suitable for human (or canine) consumption, and is a prime culprit in wheat's bad reputation. This low quality wheat can be contaminated with insects, mold spores, and possibly mites that come from harvesting or inadequate storage, and exposure to these can mimic allergies.
Good quality wheat has nutrient value as it contains fiber and packs a burst of energy.