Gluten intolerance in dogs frequently manifests itself with loose stools, mucus in the stool, diarrhoea, constipation or flatulence. But what is gluten and why is it such a problem for some dogs?
What is gluten?
Gluten is the generic term for a structural protein found in certain cereal grains. Specifically, if refers to wheat proteins, but gluten is also found in barley, rye, spelt and farro.
Gluten is the substance that gives bread its elasticity, its chewy texture and helps it to keep its shape. And it’s largely for that reason that it is used in dog treats and dry dog food. Because, apart from the fact that it’s cheap, it helps kibble keep its shape.
In human terms, gluten intolerance manifests itself as coeliac disease. This chronic, debilitating, inflammatory autoimmune disorder mainly affects the small intestine. But it is in fact a multiple-organ disorder, and because of this, frequently goes undiagnosed or labelled as a different health problem altogether.
Dogs however don’t suffer from coeliac disease per se. But that doesn’t mean that gluten intolerance in dogs doesn’t exist or that it isn’t a problem. It does exist, and can be a chronic problem for some dogs.
Symptoms of canine gluten intolerance
We’ve already established that gluten intolerance in dogs can manifest itself in a number of ways.
These primarily are:
- Digestive problems – loose stools, mucus in the stool, diarrhoea, constipation or flatulence and even vomiting in severe cases
- Skin infections – including all the classic signs of atopic dermatitis and food intolerance. Dry flaky skin, constant scratching, hair loss, hot spots and weight loss caused by malabsorption of nutrients.
- Chronic ear infections and or foot chewing as a result of yeast overgrowth.
Identifying gluten intolerance in dogs
The problem with identifying a gluten intolerance in your dog is that the symptoms can be reflective of so many other canine health problems. These can include seasonal allergies and intolerance to other proteins in its food.
For most people, the symptoms will result in a veterinary consultation and various invasive tests such as bloodwork, saliva, urine and stool sampling.
The DIY approach
Personally, I would prefer you take matters into your own hands. Before rushing to the vets, putting yourself and your pet through the stress and expense of a veterinary consultation, do a little simple detective work yourself.
Since most of these symptoms are indicative of a food problem, change your dog’s diet. Commercial dog food is overreliant on grains because they’re cheap. They’re also a major cause of dog health problems.
So either change your dog’s food to a grain-free food, or, better still, change your dog’s diet for the better. Start making homemade dog food.
When you make homemade food for your dog, you control exactly what ingredients go into it. Not only is it so much healthier than commercial dog food, you can chose by default to exclude that one potential source of so many canine health problems. Grains.
Feed your dog a grain-free homemade diet and in the blink of an eye you’ll know whether or not your dog really has a gluten intolerance or if he or she is suffering from a different problem.
With home cooked food you can replace potentially problematic cereal grains with the likes of amaranth, buckwheat, millet or quinoa. All of those are both dog-safe and beneficial to the health of your best friend.
If you think your dog might be gluten intolerant, please don’t rush to the vet. Do a simple elimination test and eliminate the problem yourself.
And if you need my help, why not book a consultation and we’ll work through it together. Your dog will thank you for it in the long run!