Can Dogs Have a Gluten Allergy?

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As pet people who have an immense amount of love for our furry friends, it is safe to say we want the best for them, including feeding them the best food for their dietary needs. So if you are a dog owner with a gluten allergy, gluten sensitivity, or merely seen the words "gluten-free" in your local grocery aisle, you will be relieved to know that a gluten allergy in dogs is quite rare.

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Gluten allergy in dogs is fairly rare.
Image Credit: Davizro/iStock/GettyImages

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What is gluten?

Gluten is an overall name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten acts as a binding agent, helping foods to maintain their shape. Gluten is most often associated with the autoimmune condition celiac disease.

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When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their body launches an immune response that can damage the small intestine. People with celiac disease have to be extremely careful not to eat gluten in order to properly manage their condition. In addition to celiac disease, many humans can have non-celiac gluten sensitives which include symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion upon eating products containing gluten.

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Can dogs be gluten-sensitive?

You may notice that many pet food brands offer grain-free and gluten-free options and wonder, can dogs have gluten allergies? They can, although gluten allergies are extremely rare in dogs, which have only been clearly noted in Irish setter dogs and possibly in border terrier dogs. So, if your dog is having tummy troubles, you may consider other food allergens before you look to gluten as the primary culprit.

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Food allergy vs. food sensitivity in dogs

Food sensitivities and food allergies are not the same things, and it is not uncommon for them to be confused among dog owners and veterinarians alike. A true food allergy triggers a very quick immunological response such as vomiting, diarrhea, hives, or swelling. A food sensitivity is not an immunological response and usually follows within a day after ingestion.

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Common signs of food sensitivities include diarrhea, itchy skin or coat, and chronic ear infection. A dog can have a sensitivity to certain foods, but it's not necessarily the same thing as a food allergy.

Common food allergies in dogs

While gluten and grains are very uncommon causes of food allergies in dogs, believe it or not, many pets are allergic to animal proteins. The most common food allergens for dogs (and cats) are chicken, beef, dairy, and eggs.

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Can dogs be gluten-free?

Dogs should not be gluten free unless your vet instructs you to do so for a specific reason. It is not uncommon for dog owners to be concerned about what's in their dog's bowl, including genetically modified grains, pesticides, and ingredients that may or may not lead to certain reactions, leaky gut, and inflammation.

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Many of these concerns still lack evidence, but if they are of importance to you, it is up to you to look for a dog food that is healthy for your pet and suits your family's lifestyle. Additionally, if you suspect your dog might be showing signs of gluten allergy in dogs or having an allergic reaction to something else in his food, you can test him for food allergies. Just be sure to talk to your vet before making any major changes to your dog's diet.

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It is very rare for dogs to have a gluten allergy, but this does not mean that your pup cannot be subject to other food allergies or sensitivities. In the end, what you feed your dog is up to you, as long as it is safe for your pet, and you are checking in regularly with your veterinarian to keep your dog healthy and happy.

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