26 Feb Love Your Furbabies // Dogs & Gluten Intolerance
When I was 21, I received a phone call with some troubling news… I was diagnosed with the early onset of Celiac Disease. I am gluten intolerant. Fortunately, I had pretty much come to this conclusion on my own and the bloodwork my doctor did only confirmed my suspicions. You see, I was:
Bloated and Uncomfortable
Losing my hair
Experiencing terrible stomach pains
Having trouble focusing
Dealing with skin issues (dryness and psoriasis)
Noticing a decline in my eyesight
Experiencing seasonal allergies all year long
I was a mess. And fortunately for me, all of these issues were almost immediately reversed when I stopped eating gluten.
I was in college when I received my diagnosis and shortly after changing over to a gluten free lifestyle, I went home to visit my family, including the two English Bulldogs, Teacup Yorki, Maltipoo and two Rescue Kitties that lived in my childhood home. I noticed that Valentine, our older Bully was having some bad skin irritations around her tail and on her back and that Bogart, the younger one, started having the same… Valentine was also experiencing terrible ear problems, like an ear infection that wouldn’t go away. It was so sad! My mom (who I swear is the Mother Theresa of animals) had tried EVERYTHING. The vet had done steroid shots, they’d changed their food, bathed them more, bathed them less… you name it.
My mom and I were chatting over a Tito’s a soda and I brought up the question “Mom, you don’t think that dogs can be gluten intolerant, do you? Maybe that’s what’s wrong.”
To the computer we went. And here’s what we found…
What is gluten intolerance?
Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, rye and malt. Humans who are intolerant of gluten are diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but for animals it’s called “gluten-induced enteropathy” or just “gluten-intolerance,” but the intolerance manifests in dogs the same way as it does in humans. When the body breaks apart the food, the gluten protein is exposed to the intestinal track, which isn’t tolerant of it. So the immune system begins to attack the gluten, but at that point, the intestinal lining (or the Celia) receive the brunt of the attack, resulting in digestive problems and a lower immune system, which cause all sorts of other issues.
How does gluten intolerance affect dogs?
Gluten intolerance can cause a number of issues in dogs, namely digestive inflammation and other issues associated with it, like diarrhea and weight loss. It affects their overall health as well, specifically with their coat, skin and ears. It also increases their chances of experiencing seasonal allergies.
What causes gluten intolerance in dogs?
Just like humans, dogs can be born with an intolerance to gluten, in which case, you’d know there was something wrong after a few months. However, I think the most common gluten intolerance I’ve seen in both humans and in the case of my Bullies at home, is the development of an intolerance due to overexposure to wheat, barley, rye and malt in foods. Take a look at your dog’s food. Chances are the primary ingredient is wheat! Look at their treats, too!
How do I know if my dog is gluten intolerant?
Just like with humans, gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose with bloodwork. The best way to tell is to put them on a gluten free diet for a few weeks and see if the problems persist. Luckily, for those of us (two and four-legged) who are intolerant, you can see the results right away (within a few days or weeks), and the big kicker comes when you are reintroduced to gluten… it knocks you RIGHT back down immediately.
What can I do if my dog is gluten intolerant?
You can find foods that are specifically made without gluten, or even make your own. However, you should know that if your dog is gluten intolerant, that a pinch of gluten does the same as an entire field of wheat… you are not going to help your dog with the mindset of “it’s just a little.”
How can I keep my dog from developing an intolerance?
While I can’t guarantee that your dog wont develop one, I firmly believe in the saying “Everything in moderation, except for moderation, itself.” Give your dog a variety of foods, not just one type. Do this for yourself as well. If you had a sandwich for lunch, maybe stay away from the breads/pastas at dinner. Most intolerances come from overindulgence, so mix it up! After all, we really aren’t that different, we and our animals!
After reading about my, Mom decided to remove gluten from our Bullies’ foods and found that majority of their symptoms decreased drastically! Thank goodness! If your dog is lethargic, itchy or experiencing digestive issues or seasonal allergies, check and see if a gluten free diet is right for him/her. Also, this is just a friendly reminder that an all-natural diet is best for our animals (and ourselves) and to try your best to stay away from genetically-modified grains.
Just a reminder… I’m not a vet. I’m not a doctor. I’m just a pet parent with experience in gluten intolerance, both for myself and with my childhood pups. Both of my rescues have not dealt with a gluten intolerance, thank goodness!