Gluten intolerance in dogs - A detailed guide

Gluten intolerance has become a hot topic in recent years. But did you know this condition affects dogs as well as humans?

Gluten intolerance – or gluten sensitivity as it is also know – can wreak havoc in a dog’s gut. It’s a reaction to the protein element present in grains such as wheat, rye and barley and can lead to a number of chronic signs and symptoms similar to those with Celiac disease. 

Although pretty rare, studies show that food allergies account for 10% of all allergies in canines, including gluten intolerance. While gluten is safe for the majority of dogs, if you do see any signs of gluten sensitivity in your pet, take action. Left untreated, gluten sensitivity can have a damaging impact on a pup’s gut and overall health. 

 

Can dogs have celiac disease?

 

What is the difference between celiac and gluten intolerance?

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are not the same things, although they do share very similar symptoms. Serious stomach aches, bloating and diarrhoea are some of the most common signs of both.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease. In humans, this is when the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. The body's immune system attacks substances found inside gluten as a threat to the body and destroys them, leaving behind damage to the small intestine. 

This inflammation can compromise the absorption of nutrients from food into the bloodstream, leading to anaemia and an increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. in which the protein element of a carbohydrate. 

 

Can dogs have celiac disease?

There is debate in the scientific community about whether dogs can suffer from celiac disease. However, reports do show that gluten intolerance exists in dogs. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is when autoimmune antibodies are not evident. 

Gluten intolerance usually presents itself when a dog is between six months and three years old, though it can occur at any time. This condition appears more often in breeds like Irish Setters. 

 

Symptoms of gluten intolerance

Wondering if your dog is allergic to gluten? Here are the key symptoms to look out:

1. Stomach Problems

Vomiting or stomach issues like diarrhoea, loose stools, gas, or excessive mucous in stools can be the first sign that your pup has an issue with gluten. 

2. Skin conditions

Watch out for signs of dry and flaky skin, bumps and rashes. These are all classic signs of a food intolerance, although these signs of sensitive skin can also be linked to things like seasonal allergies. 

3. Excessive scratching 

Before you spot any skin conditions, you may see your dog scratching and itching excessively. If you spot this behaviour, it’s worth investigating if gluten or something else (such as fleas) are to blame. 

3. Foot chewing 

Red and inflamed paw pads is another sign of a gluten allergy. As a result, dogs suffering with an allergy like this may repeatedly lick or chew their paws.

4. Coat condition

A dull, lacklustre coat can be the sign of gluten intolerance due to lack of nutrient absorption. You may also spot fur loss due to excessive scratching. 

5. Weight loss

Dogs with gluten allergies struggle to absorb nutrients from their foods. If you’re feeding your dog the same amount of food as normal but they’re losing weight at a rapid rate, gluten may be the culprit.  

6. Chronic ear infection

 Over-consumption of gluten can lead to a yeast build up, which can cause ear infections in your pooch. Look for dark, smelly waxy debris in their ears and head shaking.

 

Gluten intolerance vs grain free for dogs

 

Grain free vs gluten free: are they the same thing?

Grain-free and gluten-free are two words that are often used interchangeably, but they don’t actually mean the same thing. To add to the confusion, people often use the term “grain intolerance” – when they do this, they usually mean gluten intolerance.

Grain-free diets contain no grains at all - that means no rice, barley or wheat. This should mean all “grain-free” products are automatically gluten-free, however, it’s no guarantee. When buying food for a dog with a gluten intolerance, it’s worth checking the ingredients closely.

Gluten-free foods do not have gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, but they may still contain other grains, such as rice. 

Depending on whether you’re dealing with an allergy or simply looking to optimise your dog’s diet, either a grain-free or gluten-free diet can be a good choice for your pup. Just remember, neither label guarantees good quality. As with Beco’s pet food (which is both gluten-free and grain-free), look for products made from free range protein and healthy sources of starch, such as vegetables.

Wheat allergy in dogs: is this the same as a gluten intolerance?

Although many believe them to be the same thing, gluten intolerance and a wheat intolerance or allergy are actually subtly different: gluten is the protein present in wheat and other grains. 


Wheat can also be known as:

  • Bran
  • Bulgar
  • Couscous
  • Flour (plain, self raising, wholemeal, malted)
  • Semolina
  • Wheat germ
  • Cereal binder/filler
  • Modified starch
  • Durum wheat
  • Farro
  • Kamut/spelt

Gluten intolerance means an intolerance to all the above, plus other sources of gluten such as rye and barley. 

However, despite their differences in humans, at present both are treated the same in canines. So, if you are busy scouring the web for information on what to do about wheat allergy in dogs, stop there. Keeping your furry friend on a gluten-free diet is the safest and simplest way to cover all bases. 

 

Treatment of gluten intolerance in dogs?

While there is no treatment for gluten intolerance in dogs, the good news is you can manage the condition effectively by keeping gluten out of their diets. While this isn’t always easy with permanently-hungry pups around, it is important!

If a gluten intolerance is the cause of your dog’s symptoms, once you’ve removed the allergen from your dog’s treats and foods they should return to full health. Over the coming days and weeks, you’ll notice their stools return to normal, any lost weight should be regained, and they should develop smooth skin and a shiny coat. 

Before you start any sort of exclusion diet, however, it is best to first visit a vet to get their advice and support. They can perform a physical examination on your dog and do any blood work necessary to rule out other underlying illnesses. 

As well as excluding gluten from your pup’s diet, your vet may make other dietary suggestions. They might suggest a certain diet, or ask you to supplement your dog’s food with extra nutrients and vitamins.

 

What should I feed my dog with gluten intolerance?

Once you know your dog has a gluten intolerance, it’s time to stock up on the right sort of foods. 

Gluten is a common ingredient in dog foods – the glutenous proteins often being used to glue kibble together. So, going forward, make sure you check the ingredients of all pet food and treats your dog consumes. 

Thanks to the growing awareness around this condition, there are now many more choices in terms of allergy-appropriate pet foods out there. Look out for high-quality products that use potatoes and other starchy vegetables in place of grains. 

Nutritious gluten and grain-free dog food, such as our kibble, is a great choice for pets with allergies. In fact, switching to a product like ours can benefit all dogs, regardless of if they have allergies. 

Grain-free diets shouldn’t cause any adverse reactions (such as loose stools) in pups without allergies. In fact, without cheap grains in their diet, and thanks to the added vegetables they’ll be consuming, their gut health should flourish.