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Gluten Allergies and Intolerance in Dogs

Justine is the owner of a free-spirited husky. She’s learned to manage his gluten allergies through research, trial, and error.

Mulder, our white Siberian Husky.

Mulder, our white Siberian Husky.

How to Recognize Gluten Intolerance in Dogs

It’s not a normal thing for a dog to be allergic to gluten, but it does occur. If you feel something is not right with your pup—specifically when it comes to digestive/intestinal issues—then he or she could possibly be allergic to gluten.

What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Dogs?

The following symptoms may present in dogs that have a grain allergy:

  • Skin conditions such as patchy fur, fur loss, and itchy/flaky skin
  • Ear infections
  • Stomach inflammation, stomach sensitivity, pain, bloating, and painful digestion
  • Issues gaining weight
  • Licking of the paws or other areas consistently
  • Mucous in the stool
  • Diarrhea

What Is a Gluten Allergy and Why Is It Harmful?

Gluten is a standard ingredient in most commercial dog foods. It is a protein found in many flours including wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is used as a binder in most foods and gives food its chewy consistency.

If your dog is allergic to gluten, their immune system is essentially attacking the gastrointestinal tract—causing pain and discomfort among other symptoms. Once damage to the intestinal tract has occurred, it can make it harder for your dog to absorb nutrients through its intestines and may lead to more health complications.

How Does a Veterinarian Diagnose a Food Allergy?

When you approach your veterinarian about this issue, they are going to want to run some tests which can get rather costly. They will take fecal samples, urine samples, and may even perform an x-ray or radiograph. The vet may take blood samples, too—anything to rule out other reasons for your visit.

Allergy tests can be performed either via bloodwork or a skin test. An intestinal biopsy may be needed to assess damage to the intestines. This all can add up to a big bill.

By the look on his face, you can tell how unexcited Mulder is to visit the vet.

By the look on his face, you can tell how unexcited Mulder is to visit the vet.

My Dog's Personal Journey

We received our white Siberian Husky, Mulder, from a friend of a friend. He was a year old and only about 53 pounds. The previous owners were in over their heads and at their wits' end with constant liquid diarrhea and accidents in the house. They had regular veterinary care for Mulder but could never get him to gain weight. Of course, they neglected to tell us about the massive amount of poop we were about to experience in the coming months.

Switching Food

We tried switching foods a few different times, giving him time to adjust and waiting a few weeks to see how it went. We tried many brands including Iams, Pedigree, and many other name brands. After several visits to a new veterinarian and checking for parasites and all sorts of other things, they still had no idea what was causing his intermittent runny poops. Some days he would poop normally, and others it was like he couldn’t even make it to the door.

A Second Opinion

I decided to take him to a different vet for a second opinion. This vet actually belittled me and laughed when I mentioned the possibility of a food allergy, claiming it was all just made up pet-food conspiracies by pretentious people. Checking him again for parasites, Mulder had an abdominal evaluation, and the vet basically told me he couldn’t find anything wrong. He said to come back in six weeks if he was still feeling ill.

The Research

Immediately, I went home and researched some gluten-free dog food and went with what I thought was the best. I looked for things that were "grain-free”, and also looked for the best value. With Gluten intolerance you may still have some things in your dogs diet such as rice, quinoa and oats. So rice formulas are a good choice, but with a Grain Allergy you would want to look for grain-free options. Gluten is the protein that is found in specific types of grain, namely wheat, barley, and rye. Another thing that is important is finding the best choice for your dogs breed. I researched and catered to what I thought would be the best choice for Mulder's breed. We chose to stay away from commercial dog foods that contained corn and lots of preservatives. We came across a brand called Diamond Naturals, which I ordered off of Amazon. We have also tried several other brands including Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo and the Rachel Ray brand Nutrish Zero Grain. All of which our Dog equally loved and we typically buy what’s on sale at our local Pet Food Store.

The New Food Worked

After just one week, it was clearly evident that the new food was working. Mulder's stools became more solid and consistent. He seemed to actually really like the food, and we switched over our other dog as well. Mulder no longer whined excessively because his tummy hurt. He no longer had stomach pain and became more energetic because of it.

Mulder Improved

My point to you is that gluten allergy or sensitivity may not always be diagnosed, so it is important to perform an elimination diet to rule out what could be causing digestive issues. The elimination diet consists of eating gluten-free or grain-free food for about six weeks and then slowly reintroducing regular dog food until symptoms occur. For us, one week was enough to know. Mulder was no longer allowed any table scraps, especially bread that contains flour, but he still gets the occasional chicken or steak because he’s spoiled. He has now gained weight going from 56 pounds to a 70 pound healthy dog.

Diamond Naturals

Did You Know?

Gluten-sensitive enteropathy in Irish Setters is a condition where the Irish Setter has a significant allergy to gluten. This disorder, if left untreated, leads to digestive distress and other symptoms.


Living Gluten-Free

Learning to live gluten-free can be a big adjustment, especially having young children who like to feed the dog table scraps. It is important to keep a close eye on what your dog is consuming. Some dogs may have a mild allergy, while others may be in extreme pain from ingesting just a small amount. Certain breeds are more sensitive to certain foods than others—like Irish Setters, a breed genetically prone to gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

For my dog, we pinpointed that corn and wheat were the most probable culprits. These are GMO crops that are commonly sprayed with Roundup which we are now learning is carcinogenic. It is important to educate yourself on your dog's breed and their recommended diet. Depending on the breed, it may be beneficial for your dog to have bison or venison as opposed to chicken or beef.

Does your dog have a gluten allergy? Please share your experience below. There are some links at the end of this article which may help you chose which option may be the best for your dog, and your budget. Best of luck to you and your pup!

The food has arrived!

The food has arrived!

List of the Best Grain Free Dog Foods

11 Most Affordable Grain Free Options

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Justine Nalbach


Justine Nalbach (author) from Ohio on November 22, 2019:

Thanks Kenard! No one knows your dog better than you ! Happy Holidays!

Kenard Mcdonald on November 22, 2019:

What a fantasic choice sometimes you have to go with what you know is best for you & your fury freind . Nobody is perfect not even a vet doctor dogs are our children and with our children we have a parents train of thought.