Can dogs eat farro? Farro is a grain. I know plenty of people who believe their dogs should never eat it, just because of this! But the truth is, just like there is no cookie cutter diet approach for people, there is no one size fits all diet recommendation for feeding grains to dogs. So, to make things a bit easier, I am going to address the question of whether dogs can have this grain from the perspective of your individual dog’s health. What do you personally need to know to make sure your pup is eating a safe and healthy diet – with or without adding farro?
- What is this grain?
- Can dogs eat farro?
- Is it good for dogs?
- Is it an inflammatory grain?
- What grains should dogs avoid?
- Serving guidance
What is Farro Grain?
If you have never heard of farro until now, this is where we need to start. This food is classified as an ancient grain in the wheat category. What does this mean, exactly? It means farro is a grain that has remained basically intact in its genetic structure over at least the last several hundred growing years. Contrast this with the status of so many grains being cultivated today, including recent wheat cultivars and the rise of genetically modified (GMO) grains.
Interestingly, the term farro actually refers to three different cultivars:
- Einkorn (piccolo)
- Emmer (medio)
- And the best known of the trio, spelt (grande).
There are also three types of processing that farro can go through before arriving in your dog’s bowl (or on your plate). Whole grain is unaltered (un-hulled) and packs the greatest nutritional punch in exchange for the longest, slowest cooking time. Semi-pearled is partially hulled. Pearled farro is fully hulled. Most importantly, cooked farro boasts a nutty flavor that many dogs and people seem to love.
Can Dogs Eat Farro?
As I mentioned at the start of this guide, the most accurate answer is that it depends on the particular dog. Farro is essentially an ancient grain form of wheat. Wheat contains gluten, a water-insoluble, plant-based protein that can be hard for some dogs to consume and digest. Dogs with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease equivalent may experience bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or weight loss after consuming farro or any other gluten-containing grain.
Overall, the incidence of true celiac disease in dogs is thought to be low. However, certain dog breeds such as Irish Setters seem to be genetically predisposed to gluten intolerance and a condition called “chronic enteropathies,” or CEs, that is equivalent to human celiac disease. Dogs that exhibit any symptoms of CEs should not consume farro in any of its whole or processed forms.
You might be wondering if there is a test to help determine if your dog might be gluten-intolerant or celiac-predisposed. As of time of publication, there are various tests a qualified veterinarian can do, but a single streamlined testing protocol is not yet available.
Is Farro Grain Good for Dogs?
Looking at the nutritional composition of a new food is a great place to start when answering this question. One-half cup of uncooked farro grain will deliver anywhere from 62 to 78 grams of carbohydrates, approximately six to 10 grams of dietary fiber and around 12 to 14 grams of plant-based protein. Cooking whole or processed farro reduces its overall nutrient content.
Whole grain (un-hulled) farro delivers the richest complement of trace minerals. However, all forms of farro will provide a daily dose of magnesium and iron. Spelt alone also provides calcium. Einkorn and Emmer also provide zinc. Emmer alone may provide antioxidants.
Farro also scores very low on the glycemic index (GI). Low GI foods help stabilize blood sugar levels and blood pressure, ultimately extending the feeling of fullness after a meal. Dogs that struggle with weight management, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular health issues may benefit from consuming farro.
Is Farro an Inflammatory Grain?
Many dogs are able to consume farro safely with no adverse symptoms or reactions. However, it can be an inflammatory dietary grain for dogs that have exhibited gluten intolerance symptoms. There is also another reason why it can cause an inflammatory response in some dogs. In addition to gluten, farro also contains lectins. Like gluten, lectins are naturally occurring proteins that bind to carbohydrates.
In farro, lectins do this to create a protective barrier, or hull, around the grain kernel. Not surprisingly, the nature of lectins can make these proteins particularly difficult for many dogs to digest. Some dogs, especially those with a history of epilepsy, gut permeability (“leaky gut”) or autoimmune issues, should avoid consuming both gluten and lectins altogether.
However, at least in the case of lectins, there is an easy workaround. If you cook the farro, this neutralizes the impact of the lectins on your dog’s digestive system. Cooking pearled farro, which has had the full outer hull removed during processing, is the safest choice here.
What Grains Should Dogs Avoid?
With the rising trend for grain-free canine diets, many people have asked me if there are any grains dogs should avoid eating altogether. Here again, the correct answer to this question really depends on each individual dog’s nutritional needs, genetics and immune health. Some dogs can eat all grains without any problem at all. Other dogs can eat some grains but not others.
And there is one type of grain all dogs should absolutely avoid eating, and that is uncooked or raw grains, including uncooked farro. Raw grains are very difficult to break down and digest and the presence of intact lectins in the canine gut just exacerbates this issue. If you do want to feed your dog farro or any other grain, be sure to cook it thoroughly before serving.
Serving Farro to Your Dog
If you are not aware of any known health issues and your dog has never tried this grain before, you can offer a small portion of cooked farro as a test. Wait several hours and watch closely for any signs of digestive upset or intolerance. If you don’t see any, farro should be safe to feed.
You might find this grain listed as an ingredient in commercial dog foods. In these instances, you shouldn’t need to add any more to your dog’s meals. In fact, doing so in the long term can cause nutritional imbalances and subsequent health issues.
Alternatively, you might be considering farro as an ingredient in a homemade dog diet. In these cases, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian to determine the best amount of farro for your dog. Nutritional imbalances in homemade dog foods are common and can be very dangerous for your dog. You must always make sure to properly cook the farro, to avoid the problems associated with raw grains that I mentioned in the previous section.
Can Dogs Eat Farro Grain? The Bottom Line
Now you know that some dogs can safely eat farro and other dogs should avoid it. The best thing for your dog will depend on their health. When in doubt, always seek the guidance of your canine veterinarian. Have you fed your dog farro? I’d love to hear your experiences – please share your stories in the comments section!