Is your dog suffering from digestive problems and has lost weight? If after trying medications you have not noticed any improvement, it may be due to gluten intolerance. Although it may surprise you, just as it happens with people, there are dogs with celiac disease.
In this article that we have prepared from Las Almenas, we are going to explain how to detect the symptoms and diagnose gluten intolerance, as well as how to treat celiac dogs.
What is celiac disease?
It is not common to find dogs with celiac disease, but there is a small percentage that are. Celiac disease, or also called gluten intolerance, is a multi-systemic, immune-based disease that occurs in individuals who are genetically susceptible. It is caused by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in certain cereal grains such as wheat, oats, barley or rye.
In the case of celiac dogs, as in humans, gluten causes the body to produce specific antibodies. Over time, if gluten continues to be consumed continuously, this causes damage to the villi of the small intestine, which hinders the absorption of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, iodine and magnesium, among many others.
It is important to differentiate a food intolerance from an allergy. In the case of a food allergy, the body reacts to the ingestion of that food. However, when we speak of intolerance is that the body is not prepared to digest that food and if ingested repeatedly is when the body begins to deteriorate and can lead to major problems in the long term.
It is also necessary to differentiate gluten intolerance from other responses of the body to certain foods that we consider forbidden. If you want to know which are these foods that you should not give to your dog, you can read our article 10 forbidden foods for dogs that you should avoid
Which dog breeds are more prone to gluten intolerance? As we have mentioned, celiac disease occurs in individuals who are genetically susceptible to it. That is why certain breeds such as the Irish Setter, the Samoyed and the Border Terrier are more prone, but of course, they are not the only ones. Keep in mind that any dog can be gluten intolerant.
Since it appears that genetics is an important factor in the development of celiac disease, when purchasing a dog it is important to know the health of its parents, as many dogs with celiac disease inherit the disease from their parents or grandparents.
How to detect celiac dogs?
Celiac disease is not easy to diagnose, as the symptoms can vary greatly from one dog to another. Sometimes it takes a long time to diagnose celiac dogs because they are treated for other pathologies. In the absence of a correct diagnosis, the animal continues to eat food with gluten and its condition, instead of improving, continues to deteriorate and compromise its health.
In general, the symptoms that we can observe in celiac dogs are very diverse and can begin to be observed from three months of life:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
The first symptoms to appear in celiac dogs are generally digestive problems, vomiting and diarrhea. They arise as a consequence of a progressive deterioration of the dog’s digestive system. Both vomiting and diarrhea are the natural reflex of the dog’s sick organism to expel food containing gluten that is not being digested.
Usually these episodes of vomiting and diarrhea occur continuously in dogs with celiac disease within minutes of eating gluten-containing food, and are often repeated frequently if the dog continues to eat gluten-containing food.
Therefore, if one day your dog occasionally has diarrhea or vomits after eating, you should not think that it is a celiac dog. But if you see that it happens very often, it is possible that celiac disease is the problem.
- Redness and itching of the skin
Celiac dogs don’t just have digestive problems. Celiac disease also causes skin reactions. Redness and itchy skin, especially in the anus area, can be another indicator of celiac dogs. Therefore, if your dog licks, scratches, wipes himself more than usual and crawls around rubbing his anus on the floor more than usual, he could have a gluten intolerance.
- Respiratory problems
Celiac dogs can also manifest respiratory disorders. This is because the disease inflames and irritates the respiratory tract, causing the dog to be unable to breathe normally. In addition, it causes coughing and itching in the nose and throat.
In the most severe cases, when the symptoms have been ignored and the dog has continued to consume gluten, it may begin to convulse. When this happens it is because the disease is very advanced and it is imperative to go immediately to the veterinarian.
Consequences of celiac disease
As we have explained, celiac disease does not only affect the digestive system, but can affect any other system. If the intolerance is not treated in time, the animal’s health can be seriously compromised. In addition to the symptoms suffered by dogs with celiac disease, which we have already mentioned, prolonged malabsorption of nutrients can also affect important organs such as the heart, liver or nervous system. These are some of the most common health problems caused by celiac disease in dogs:
- Permeable bowel syndrome
The initial problem with celiac disease is that the villi of the intestine become damaged by gluten and cannot absorb nutrients. To compensate, the cells of the intestine release a hormone that helps to open the natural barriers of the intestine. This opening allows harmful substances that should not enter the bloodstream, such as bacteria, microbes, as well as certain chemicals and partially digested food particles. The immune system recognizes these substances and reacts to get rid of them causing gas, bloating and even diarrhea in the dog.
- Joint pain
Since the intestine does not absorb certain vitamins, those dogs with celiac disease that have bone problems, such as hip dysplasia, get worse. This also happens with liver function, as it depends on nutrients from the small intestine. Thus, vitamin C, for example, if the liver does not work, the joints are affected.
- Idiopathic epilepsy
Idiopathic epilepsy is a neurological pathology that may be due to celiac disease. When celiac dogs are unable to absorb the necessary amounts of magnesium and B vitamins they may suffer from this type of repeated seizures that are the result of excessive electrical impulses within the brain.
These seizures may last only a few seconds or may last for several minutes.
Diagnosis of celiac disease in dogs
Upon arrival at the veterinarian’s office with one or more of the above symptoms, the dog will most likely undergo a series of tests, such as blood and urine tests, stool examination, abdominal x-ray or some other test for pancreatic insufficiency. The purpose is to detect parasites and rule out other possible pathologies in order to find the cause of the discomfort.
If the veterinarian does not find anything in the analytical tests and rules out the possibility of other underlying diseases, then, in order to determine whether the dog has gluten intolerance, it will be enough to completely eliminate the intake of foods with gluten for a few weeks. If the symptoms begin to disappear and the dog is feeling better, then it is considered to be celiac disease.
Treatment for dogs with celiac disease
Celiac disease is a complex disease for which there is no cure. This is understandably frightening, but in reality, with good dietary management, dogs with celiac disease live completely normal, symptom-free lives. In most cases, dogs do not even need to take medication. However, it is necessary to be very careful with the food consumed by the animal, including treats, which must be made sure that they do not contain gluten.
Basically, any food containing wheat, rye or oat flours should be eliminated from the diet of celiac dogs. In these cases, rice, fruits, vegetables and meat become the basis of their diet.
Can celiac disease in dogs be avoided?
As we have explained, celiac disease has a genetic factor. Therefore, when acquiring a dog, it is advisable to avoid breeds that are more prone to suffer from this disease. It is also interesting to know the health of their parents and even grandparents. This is possible if the acquisition of the puppy is done in a professional and legal breeder, such as Las Almenas, where we can guarantee the good health of their parents.
If you have celiac dogs and you want to tell us your experience regarding the time of diagnosis or the food you procure for your pets, you know you can leave us your comments right at the end of this article or on our profiles on Facebook, Instagram or on our YouTube channel of Las Almenas. We hope this information will help you to improve the health of your furry friend, but if you have any doubts, the best thing to do is to consult your veterinarian.