You have been looking at the product labels of different brands of cat food. One ingredient that you consistently find in these is guar gum. What is the purpose of guar gum in cat food? Is it safe for your pet? Are there negative effects that you should be aware of?
Guar gum is an ingredient that is commonly found in wet cat food and is used for a variety of purposes. Although there are advantages to using guar gum as an ingredient in making wet cat food, there are also a few disadvantages that fur parents need to know.
Why is there guar gum in wet cat food?
Guar gum is derived from the plant known as Guar tree (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) which is cultivated in Pakistan and India.
Guar gum goes about a few names including:
- Jaguar gum
- Farine de Guar
- Goma Guar
- Indian Guar plant
Guar gum is derived from the seeds of the plant. During processing, the seeds are converted into powder with a similar appearance to flour.
The ingredient has long been used, not only in the production of wet cat food but as well as human food. These include cereals, drinks, dairy products, and vegan alternatives for a diverse array of common products like salad dressings and soups. Guar gum is also heavily used in gluten-free products, functioning as a thickening agent.
In human foods, guar gum performs multiple functions, including the prevention of crystallization of food, increasing the thickness of syrups and other fluids, and increasing the viscosity of liquids.
There have been multiple studies on the use of guar gum for both human and animal consumption. According to these studies, the ingredient can lower the levels of bad cholesterol while helping increase glucose tolerance. Currently, experts are studying whether guar gum can be used safely for treating diabetes in humans.
Guar gum is added to cat food for multiple reasons. For one, the ingredient helps bind wet cat food. If you happen to visit a factory making cat food, you will see that they make their products in large batches. Without guar gum, various ingredients, from the meat to veggies and fruits, will settle to the bottom. In short, the lack of guar gum can make one batch made purely of meat while the other batch may be made out of other ingredients.
The same thing can happen when you open a can of wet food. You will need to stir up the content of the can because the ingredients have settled to the bottom.
Additionally, guar gum is used in cat food as a source of fiber.
What are the side effects of guar gum in cats?
Although guar gum can be beneficial to humans, those benefits do not mean that they can apply to cats. In fact, the use of guar gum in cat foods has been a controversial topic among feline health experts and cat owners.
According to some studies, the guar gum in cat food can slow down the movement of the gastrointestinal tract of some cats. Additionally, guar gum has been linked to ulcers and pancreatitis because it stimulates the production and secretion of excess bile.
Studies also point out that when guar gum is added to cat food, it binds with the proteins, making it harder for cats to break down and digest. This is of particular importance if you have a senior cat that is suffering from gastrointestinal disorders.
Usually, guar gum is used in conjunction with soy. Now, soy is a known cat allergen. In cats, soy can elicit reactions like skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Finally, some researchers are suggesting that prolonged consumption of guar gum increases the risk of a cat contracting colorectal cancer.
What is guar gum allergy in cats?
Although there are cats that can consume canned food without experiencing side effects, there are others that are allergic to the ingredient.
Guar gum allergy in cats can manifest in various symptoms, including constipation, bloating, flatulence, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
A food allergy occurs when a cat is hypersensitive to a certain protein source or an ingredient. When a cat eats an allergen, his immune system thinks of that allergen as a threat and tries to eliminate it. Along the way, the affected cat will exhibit the aforementioned symptoms.
Diagnosing guar gum allergy can be a difficult task to perform due to the number of possible allergens. During your consultation with the veterinarian, he will try to eliminate all possible causes of allergies before arriving at a single cause.
Like other types of food allergy, the best way to confirm if your cat is allergic to guar gum is to perform an elimination diet trial. This entails feeding your cat with food devoid of all known cat allergens. This initial process is done for at least 12 weeks.
After this period, you should see the signs of an allergy vanish. Afterward, you will need to feed your cat with different types of proteins as well as guar gum in order to pinpoint the actual cause of the allergy.
If the vet confirms that your cat is indeed allergic to guar gum, you should replace his regular cat food with one without the ingredient. If you continue feeding your pet with cat food containing guar gum, he will continue to suffer from allergy symptoms. Worse, you will be compromising your pet’s health and quality of life.
What can you do about guar gum in your cat’s food?
If your cat is allergic to guar gum or if you do not want to risk your pet experiencing the adverse side effects of the ingredients, your options are limited.
Between wet and dry cat food, experts recommend the former because of its advantages over the latter. But if there is one drawback to feeding your pet with wet food, it would be the presence of additives like guar gum.
There are some wet foods that do not contain guar gum. However, you have to invest ample time and effort searching for these. Alternatively, if you have the time and you do not mind the effort involved, you can prepare your cat’s meals using fresh ingredients.
The importance of reading the label on cat food
Feeding your cat is not just about stopping your cat’s hunger. When you feed your cat correctly, his diet can be a solid building block for good health. This is why it is critical to scrutinize the ingredients of the food that you serve for your pet. While ingredients like guar gum offer a few benefits, you should also be aware of potential drawbacks.
Image: istockphoto.com / Mohammed Sohail Khan