Contamination, Dogs

Caring for a Gluten-Free Dog

3 Comments 10 March 2011

Caring for a Gluten-Free Dog

I receive e-mails all the time from readers who suspect that their beloved dog is allergic to gluten. This is a subject that is so close to our heart, because the second we met Waylon “The Wonder Dog” we knew that he was going to be a very important part of our family–we call him the “Smile-maker.” But Waylon’s heath was in a very poor state when we met.

At just 14 months old he was quite bald from pulling out his hair, he had terrible arthritis and our vet treated him again and again for giardia which would not go away. Finally one day in tears I was able to get Waylon an appointment with one of San Francisco’s most respected vets, Dr. Lee Morris, and needing to take matters into my own hands as well, I started a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet listed each food (and its ingredients) that Waylon had been on, along with descriptions of his energy and stool condition in response to each.

The spreadsheet helped me to not only remember which foods we had tried, but also to pinpoint that he was reacting to beef. But even after taking beef out of his diet, most of his symptoms were still there. A bit of luck and an ELISA Tek EZ Gluten Test Kit then told me everything I needed to know–all of the foods he had been on contained an ingredient that was not listed–gluten.

I am so grateful to Dr. Morris for being so patient with us, as we were in just such a state of worry over Waylon’s health. But with this new gluten discovery, he thought it best not to hit Waylon with another dose of meds for the resistent giardia, but instead to see if his body could conquer the parasite once he was off gluten, and guess what, it did!!

The hard part though was finding a gluten-free dog food for Waylon. This is what lead us to Primal Pet Foods’ frozen dog foods. Raw dog foods are still some of the only dog foods available that have proven gluten-free with a handy EZ Gluten Test Kit. Until Sojos. Sojos makes a Complete dehydrated dog food to which you add water, let sit for an hour and then feed. This certainly makes traveling much easier, and involves a lower risk from handling raw dog foods.

So our Waylon, “The Wonder Dog” is very healthy and FULL of energy these days, but for those of you who suspect that your dog is suffering from a gluten allergy, I wanted to share with you a letter that I just wrote back to a Gluten Free Fox reader in case it might help you on your journey:

The problem is that putting your dog on a gluten-free diet is not as cheap or easy as you may think.

The only thing that I think is tougher with a bigger dog like a lab, or our Waylon who is 55 lbs. is that the foods I am going to recommend are probably not going to be cheap.

Here is a post that I recently wrote about Way’s current food, Sojos Complete: http://www.glutenfreefox.com/articles/glutenfree-dog-food.html
The only other foods that we’ve had success with are a) raw prepared foods from highly trusted brands like Primal Pet Foods–again, not cheap, but REALLY high quality. We’ve also tried a raw food brand local to the Asheville area, but because Waylon is sensitive to both beef and gluten, we felt like he was getting some beef contamination based on his body’s reaction.

I have also tried making his food myself. When we initially realized that every time he was off of his dog food and we were making chicken, brown rice and cottage cheese–which tends to be the vet. prescription for upset tummies, he did better and his stool was improving, that is when we found a food to start with to compare others to. But, I don’t think that chicken, brown rice and cottage cheese has all of the calcium, vitamins and minerals a dog needs (and did you know that dogs tend to need more calcium than people, and while protein rich diets are very good for them, the more protein they are fed, the more calcium they need).

So the first food that Waylon did REALLY well with was Primal Pet Foods raw dog food, and this did test negative for gluten with ELISA Tek’s EZ Gluten Test Kit.

When we moved and could no longer buy Primal locally, we began making his food on our own with a raw mixture that had things like ground turkey, turkey necks, raw eggs, dried and finely ground raw egg shells, low sodium sardines, coconut oil, and vegetables. But I found that achieving the best balance to ensure that his health was optimal was very difficult, and there are dangers with raw food. Plus you really have to do your research on this to know which foods are okay raw, for instance, raw or cooked chicken bones are VERY dangerous b/c they splinter in a dog’s body. And because many dogs show up at the vet each year suffering injuries from inappropriate bones, many vets warn against raw food diets.

But Sojos Complete for us has been the WONDER food! It’s a dehydrated mixture with freeze dried turkey in it, so all we do is mix one cup of food with two cups of water in his food bowl twice a day and let it sit for an hour (or overnight in the fridge if we make a few meals worth at a time).

We’ve found that with this food Way’s health is pretty amazing, but we still have to be VERY careful with treats for him. Most dog treats, like dog foods are contaminated with gluten. Biscuits by Lambchop tested negative for gluten with ELISA’s EZ Gluten Test Kit and I know Annette, the owner who is awesome, but because we already spend a lot on Waylon’s food, he never gets quite as many Biscuits by Lambchop as he wants! So another idea is that we keep a cookie jar filled with Rice Chex (original/plain) and give him those as treats.

I have to warn you, I’m not a vet, I’m just speaking from my experiences with Waylon.

But hopefully maybe something will help.

And I would really recommend keeping an Excel Spreadsheet that lists the foods you try out with him, the food ingredients, and how his stool/gas/energy seem to do on that food. And remember that changing a dog’s food can really upset their system, so always start off with a little overlap by mixing the old food with the new food for a day or two and expect a little tummy upset during that time.

It can be a difficult process to find out what is upsetting your dog’s system, and unfortunately, if gluten is the culprit, gluten free dog food is not cheap. The least expensive food that tested negative for gluten was Science Diet’s Z/D Ultra Low Allergen (available only at the vet) but after a month on it, Waylon’s health rapidly declined, do I’m not sure if it was just the very poor ingredient quality or if some bags that we bought were contaminated, but after one week back on the Sojos the changes were remarkable.

I’d expect to see digestive changes in your dog within a week on the right food, but other changes like any joint pain, chewing on the limbs or skin irritations can take up to six weeks to clear up.

Thanks so much!
Kristen

- who has written 106 posts on Gluten Free Fox.

Kristen Campbell and her "wonder dog" Waylon are both severely intolerant to gluten. Celiac? Perhaps. But they've never had the endoscopy to tell (human or dog--does that exist?). Fortunately, they found each other! When Kristen isn't busy at work, she loves mixing up natural, gluten-free beauty products under her self titled line, spending time with her favorite "wonder dog" and catching up with friends.

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3 Comments so far

  1. Mechelle says:

    Thanks so much for the post Kristen! I live near Charlotte w/ my Chelsea (lab chow mix) & we are both living GF! Something your love dog Way may enjoy is some GF peanut butter for a treat & my Chelsea LOVES Coconut Milk! $3.59 for a half gallon from So Delicous which states they are GF. Regular Coconut Milk has 50% more calcium than regular milk& Ill give her that w/ GF oats in a bowl mixed w/ the peanut butter for a lil treat/snack sometimes. The milk has actually helped her belly on a few ocassions as well when she had an upset for some reason :0) Good thing about this little treat is that its also inexpensive! Much Love in Christ!

  2. Donna says:

    I’ve heard white dogs are prone to sensitivity and my white lab, Lilly, is constantly inflamed. Her skin gets red and her arthritis is terrible. I’ve tried several foods, but I’m leaning toward homemade food now. So glad to hear about the coconut milk. Also, I’m just starting to cook bone stock for all of us. Pour a little apple cider vinegar and water on bones to draw out the minerals and cook at least a whole day if not 2. The bones become soft and the stock can be mixed with other safe food. The cooked connective tissue is supposed to contain glucosamine. We’ll see if it helps. I’m saving every bone I can get my hands on including leftovers at family get togethers.

  3. I have seven dogs and myself all gluten free


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