What Is Guar Gum?
Guar Gum is a processed ingredient derived from Guar Beans, which are also known as the Indian Cluster Bean.
Guar Beans look very similar to Green Beans and are the seeds of the Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba tree that is most commonly found in countries like Pakistan and India.
These Guar Beans are processed at an industrial scale into a powder-like substance which is very similar in appearance to flour.
However, this flour is not at all like flour from grains and is instead a thickener, emulsifier, or firming agent.
This Guar Gum powder is then used in a vast range of manufactured food products for humans, such as baked goods, cereals, dairy products, jams, and sauces.
You can see a fantastic example of Guar Gum’s use that proves that most of this article’s readers have eaten Guar Gum before in the ingredient list of the extremely popular Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor – Half Baked.
However, while Guar Gum’s use in human foods is widespread and fascinating, Guar Gum’s most notable use for this discussion is in pet food recipes.
Guar Gum has an earthy smell and taste when in this powder form but becomes relatively neutral in taste and smell once mixed with other ingredients.
This is why Guar Gum is so commonly found in processed foods, as most consumers or pets would never even notice its presence.
While slightly off-topic to this discussion on Guar Gum’s use in pet food, Guar Gum or derivatives of the plant are used in several industrial processes as well as in food products, including as a fracking agent in the extraction of oil and shale gas as well as the paper and textile industries.
Why Is Guar Gum Used In Pet Food?
Guar Gum is a common sight in wet or canned pet food recipes as a minor ingredient. Its purpose in these recipes is to act as a binding or thickening agent.
Thickening agents such as Guar Gum are a crucial component of wet/canned pet food recipes as they help the food form a consistent texture and appearance.
They ensure that the individual ingredients do not separate from one another, and the food maintains a fresh appearance.
Without the presence of binding agents like Guar Gum, wet pet food can be less desirable to eat or taste for many pets.
This can be especially true of wet pet foods produced at a large scale as it could cause different cans of food to contain different portions of ingredients, such as some with lots of vegetables and others with lots of meat ingredients.
Guar Gum isn’t the only ingredient used for this purpose, and there are several other binding agents used in pet food recipes outside of Guar Gum, including Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, and starches such as Tapioca Starch and Potato Starch.
While all of these ingredients see widespread use in wet pet food recipes, some brands may choose to use Guar Gum as it is seen less negatively than others or because it is easier or cheaper to source.
Is Guar Gum Bad For Pets?
While there is mixed information available online regarding Guar Gum, it is likely that most pet food that contains Guar Gum is unlikely to have any noticeable adverse effects on dogs or cats.
Because Guar Gum is so common in food for human consumption, it has been studied in-depth and has been shown to actually provide some very minor health benefits, such as lower cholesterol and increased glucose tolerance.
Sadly, some of these potential benefits may not apply to pets, and some believe that consistent consumption of Guar Gum could cause some adverse health effects in cats, such as increased hairball formation and bile secretions.
However, similar to other thickening agents like Carrageenan, there are some well-documented mild side effects that are seen in higher or sustained use, such as Gastric Pain, Diarrhea, and Loose Stools.
This is compounded by the fact that Guar Gum is usually found in higher quantities in wet/canned pet food recipes than other binding agents.
However, when we say higher quantities, we mean something along the lines of 1% compared to 0.2%, which means it is still a relatively small portion compared to a recipe’s core ingredients.
Lastly, there is also some evidence that the presence of Guar Gum in pet food recipes can actually decrease protein digestibility which is a concerning trait given the importance of protein for both dogs and cats.
However, this is contested, and many brands would dispute these claims or argue they are negligible.
Pet Food Brands That Use Guar Gum
Guar Gum is a very common ingredient to find in wet dog and cat food recipes and is hugely popular among pet food manufacturers.
While researching the use of ingredients in dog food recipes, we found that of the 100 most popular wet dog food recipes on Chewy.com, 73 of them contained Guar Gum as an ingredient which is a considerable majority.
Many of the brands that utilize Guar Gum in their recipes are well-known and would be recognized on the shelves of your local pet food or grocery store.
Examples of these pet food brands include Pedigree, Fancy Feast, Hill’s Science Diet, Blue Buffalo, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Purina One, Purina Pro Plan, Purina Beyond, Weruva, American Journey, Royal Canin, Wellness, Merrick, Rachael Ray Nutrish, and Nutro.
The inclusion of Purina, Royal Canin, and Hill’s Science Diet is notable as these three brands are considered the giants of the industry that perform the most research on pet food formulation.
You can see an example of the use of Guar Gum in a pet food recipe below in the ingredient list of Purina Beyond’s Beef, Potato & Green Bean recipe.
While Guar Gum is relatively early in the ingredient list of this recipe, it is only because there are very few notable ingredients, and it’s likely its quantity is still reasonably small.
However, other pet food recipes use a more extensive selection of thickening agents as ingredients rather than just Guar Gum.
You can see an example of this below in the ingredient list of Purina Pro Plan’s Adult Classic Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Entree recipe.
As you can see in this ingredient list, the recipe contains Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum, and Xanthan Gum, and Guar Gum is present in the smallest quantity of the four.
While still a common sight, some of the other thickening agents, such as Carrageenan, have seen a decrease in use in the past few years, but it does not appear from our research that Guar Gum has decreased in popularity and if anything, it may have become more popular.
The fact that some of the largest pet food brands in the world, such as Purina, and Hill’s Science Diet, are continuing or expanding their use of Guar Gum shows it is likely here to stay.
If you are looking to avoid Guar Gum, we would recommend closely inspecting the ingredient list of any pet food recipes you are considering.
If you aren’t able to find any wet foods without Guar Gum, consider the use of a dry dog food recipe, as these would not contain Guar Gum or other thickening agents.