Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Should your pet go gluten-free?

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Photo: Nici tastes one of Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s gluten-free dog treats

For those of you who have been following me for a bit, you know my four – yes, FOUR! – fur babies, Cooper, Emerson, Simon and Madeline hold an ultra-special place in my heart. They are the best cuddle buddies and there are some days where I will readily admit I simply prefer my cats over people. (Tee, hee.)

Therefore, you might imagine I was rather excited when a local store asked me to whip up some gluten-free dog treats for an event they were hosting for an adoptable pooch named Nici. I love to help animals find their forever homes!

So, you might be wondering, why would a pet go gluten-free? 

There have been several studies that show pets who suffer from specific digestive issues can benefit from a gluten-free diet. Like humans, cats and dogs who experience abnormal gastrointestinal function such as vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight-loss and/or chronic skin problems while eating a food that contains gluten may benefit from switching to a gluten-free diet.

And guess what?! All four of my cats eat a gluten-free diet – after years of struggles trying to diagnose one of our cat’s digestive issues. Oddly enough, we began the trial and error of a gluten-free diet right around the time I was diagnosed with celiac disease. (Like mother, like son?) We have finally found a food that works great for him and, since they all eat together, the whole fur family is officially gluten-free. 

Gluten-free pet food and treats

Throughout our experience of trial and error, we tried a lot of foods and eventually discovered the one that works best for our cats. Like humans, each animal is different and the food that might work well for one will not necessarily work well for another. Between picky palates and minimal results, it took us time to settle on one that made all of our cats happy, but we are now seeing the benefits, including better digestion and improved fur quality. Here is more information on the brands we use, as well as a few that were recommended by our veterinarian. 

Wellness Pet Food: The CORE line is the brand we finally settled upon for our cats. The 100 percent grain-free food comes in a variety of formulas, including ones for cats and dogs. The brand also offers several grain-free wet food options, as well as treats made from chicken, lamb, turkey and salmon.

Blue Buffalo: The brand’s Freedom and Wilderness lines are completely grain-free and made with real ingredients, like whole carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, beef and chicken.

Whole Life Pet: The brand makes freeze-dried treats for cats and dogs that are made from pure protein, like sliced chicken breast, wild Alaskan salmon filet, venison and beef strips.

California Natural: The company offers several grain-free options for dogs and cats, including varieties made from chicken, lentils, herring and sweet potatoes.

Cloud Star Grain-Free Baked Buddy Biscuits: These are a crowd pleaser among our cats. They love the Tender Chicken Flavor Cat Treats, but they also offer other varieties, as well as 100 percent gluten- and grain-free treats for dogs.

Canidae Grain-Free PURE Taste Treats: Our cats also love this company’s grain-free treats which our offered in fresh chicken and salmon flavors. Your dog might also like the PURE Heaven Biscuits, made from salmon and sweet potato or duck and chickpeas.

Natural Balance Pet Foods: Try the Limited Ingredient Treats for Dogs or Cats, which include whole ingredients like potatoes, duck, chicken and bison.

As always, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the treatment that will work best for your pet. While you may be noticing an issue that can be solved through a diet change, there may a deeper problem only your vet can spot. 

I’m curious: Have you tried a gluten- and/or grain-free diet for your pet? Has it helped? Send me an email!

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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