For many people, gluten is a ‘red flag’ ingredient. However, did you know that dogs can also suffer from gluten intolerances? Although less common in canines than humans, allergies relating to this group of proteins found in wheat can cause your dog a lot of discomfort, primarily in the form of itchy skin and digestive issues. In serious cases, canine health issues of this kind can also lead to serious nutritional deficiencies. For this reason, if you suspect your pet may be allergic to gluten, it is important to visit your vet for a check up. They will be able to recommend the best hypoallergenic dog foods your furry friend can safely eat.
However, how can you tell if your dog is gluten intolerant in the first place? In this blog we explore the telltale signs of gluten intolerances and provide tips for dealing with allergies.
Signs of gluten intolerance in dogs
As mentioned above, although it is not that common for dogs to be allergic to gluten, it does occur. For this reason, if you think there is something not quite right with how your furry friend is behaving - specifically when it comes to digestive issues - there is a chance they could be experiencing an allergic reaction to the gluten contained in the food that they eat. While significant changes in your dog’s behaviour warrant a visit to your vet to make sure nothing more sinister is going on, if you simply notice any (or a combination of) the below symptoms in your pet - particularly following a change of food - gluten intolerance is a possible cause. Signs to look out for include:
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting over a number of days
- Obsessive chewing/licking of paws
- Poor coat condition
- Irritated skin (possibly including a red rash)
- Red, swollen and inflamed paw pads
- Chronic ear infections that won’t seem to clear up
- Inflammation of the intestines (typically signalled by loud gurgling noises and/or excessive flatulence)
Of course, it’s vital to remember that all of the symptoms listed above could also point to another type of food allergy. This is why talking to a trained veterinarian before making any major changes to your dog’s core diet is crucially important.
How can I help my dog with allergies?
As we recently explored in our in-depth look at hypoallergenic dog food, allergies in dogs caused by food occur when your pet’s immune system overreacts to one or more ingredient included in their diet. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent a food allergy in your dog. These conditions are often hereditary, with some breeds more susceptible to them than others. That being said, spotting the signs as early as possible and talking to your vet about ongoing treatment plans can help your dog learn to live with their allergy, allowing them to enjoy a long and healthy life. But what do these treatments look like?
There are two main treatment areas to consider, each depending on how serious your dog’s reactions are. These are:
- Sticking to a special diet for life
- An exclusion diet to find the problem
This treatment plan also starts with finding a diet that does not trigger your dog’s allergies. Once you have done this, your vet may recommend adding certain potential allergens back into their diet one by one. This process of trial and error can help you find the specific item they are allergic to. This could include anything from gluten or dairy to eggs and even chicken.
Naturally, if your pet doesn’t show any symptoms following the addition of a potential allergen, this can be classed as a ‘safe’ food, and ruled out as the cause of your pet’s intolerances. On the other hand, if your furry friend starts to display symptoms again, it is likely they are allergic to this ingredient. Based on your findings, you may be able to identify your dog’s specific triggers and avoid them going forward.
It’s important to remember that an exclusion diet can be a tricky and time consuming process. We recommend that you speak to your vet before implementing a diet of this kind.
Can dogs eat gluten-free food?
The simple answer is yes - dogs can eat gluten-free food and, in fact, there are a number of specialist gluten-free dog foods on the market. While it’s fair to say that if your dog has a normal gastrointestinal system and displays no signs of allergies, this typically more expensive food may not be necessary, if your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, switching to a gluten-free dog food is well worth a try.
Percuro dry dog food, for example, is totally gluten free. Next to hypoallergenic insect protein, Percuro products contain naked oats as the only source of grain. High in essential B vitamins and minerals including manganese and phosphorus, these naked oats are not only gluten free and gentle on a dog’s tummy, they also represent a fully sustainable ingredient. Pound for pound, oat protein uses far less water to produce than meat protein. A win-win for the health of your dog and our planet.
Co-author: Dr. Scott Miller