The latest human nutrition trend is eliminating gluten from diets, and for good reason. In people, gluten intolerance causes, at the very least, irritability and fatigue. At worst, like for sufferers of celiac disease, it triggers a detrimental immune response that causes the small intestine to stop absorbing vital nutrients the body needs. Now research has shown that dogs can be sensitive to gluten as well. An allergic reaction to gluten, a protein found in some cereal grains, can cause scratching, foot-chewing, flaky skin, diarrhea, ear infections, constipation or more serious conditions. Gluten has been linked to 55 diseases in people and may also promote negative health effects in dogs including: Behavioral Changes, Autoimmune Diseases, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cancer, Fatigue, Obesity, Neurological Disorders, Inflammation, and Thyroid problems. And, it is much more common than you may think.
Recently I had an incident with one of our teacups, Roxy, where I suspected she might be allergic to gluten. I'm addicted to Pam’s Pita Chips, and when the dogs hear me in the Pita bag, they gather at my feet and wait patiently hoping I will drop one. Falling victim to their pleading stares, I got in the habit of tossing out a few. When Roxy started sneezing and coughing the vet started her on an antibiotic, which initially helped. One day after tossing out a few of the chips, it came to me that she might be allergic to gluten. She was wheezing and coughing again, so I stopped the chips for three weeks, and she got better. Then I decided to test my theory, and I gave her a chip. That very afternoon, the coughing came back.
The trouble for dog owners is that gluten-free feeding can be tricky, since the protein seems to be in just about everything, including many commercial dog foods and treats. It’s in wheat, rye, and barley, and food and treat manufacturers may use it to stimulate meat in wet food and boost overall protein claims on labels. Interestingly, research has found that dogs simply don’t need gluten. Further evidence is the fact that they thrive in the wild on a largely carb-free, grain-free diet of meat, fat, and water. More telling is the fact that a whole host of health issues, like those mentioned earlier, can disappear when dogs go gluten-free. Researchers estimate that millions of people suffer from some form of gluten intolerance and don't even know it. That number could be as high in our dogs, who are not genetically adapted to eating wheat.
So what should you feed your pet? Commercial food that contains less cereal and more rice, might be the answer. Check your labels to find foods with healthy no gluten ingredients like buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and sunflower seeds, which will all deliver fiber and nutrients such as iron. The best protein is lamb, duck, liver, pork, bison, or fish. You always want those proteins to be first on the ingredient list. The nearer the top of the list the grains are, the larger the quantity of grain there will be in the food. Many of the better dog foods are grain free. Just make sure that the minimum fat content for schnauzers is in the 10-14% range.
If your dog suffers from a chronic malady, and no matter what you do , you just can't seem to cure it, try removing all gluten from his/her diet. You just might be surprised at the remarkable turn-around.