Celiac Disease - is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy on up. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue. Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to a gluten protein found in wheat (and similar proteins in barley and rye). Upon exposure to it, the immune system cross-reacts with the bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to flattening of the lining of the small intestine (called villous atrophy). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. (from Wikipedia)
Celiac Disease in pets? While most domestic pets are not strictly ‘celiac’ (only Irish Setters have so far been shown to suffer this condition), did you know that many pets are grain-sensitive on some level. And most of the time, their owners attribute their health problems to other causes, when all that’s needed is a simple change in daily menu!
A good place to start is to feed your pet a 100% grain-free diet. Many pets improve within just a couple of weeks, not because of anything magic, just through the relief of no longer consuming aggravating gluten!
What are the signs of gluten Intolerance in Pets? Consumption of glutenous grains in sensitive pets, can lead to:
Chronic GI upset – intermittent or continuing diarrhea and / or constipation including mucusy stools. Vomiting may also occur in more severe cases.
Dermatitis – chronic dry and flaky skin, hair loss, redness, bumps, rashes and constant scratching are classic signs of food intolerance.
Chronic ear infections – over-consumption of grain can lead to a buildup of excess sugars in the system. This in turn can contribute to yeast overgrowth, leading to dark, smelly waxy debris in the ears, head shaking and scratching.
Other health problems that may be related to food intolerances such as grain sensitivity include: arthritis, epilepsy, abnormal behavior, allergic and inflammatory reactions (including inhalant allergies due to a compromised immune system as well as conditions like pancreatitis and hepatitis, as well as an increased susceptibility to infection, Cushing’s, Addison’s, and thyroid problems.
Of course, not all these conditions are directly related to grain consumption, but the overload of grain in most modern commercial pet diets is thought to deplete the animal’s natural state of good health over time, leaving him more susceptible to these problems occurring. Some animal health experts have even speculated that long-term undetected dietary intolerance may be the underlying cause of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart conditions and kidney failure.
How can I tell if my pet is really grain-intolerant? When several of the above signs are present, a couple of options exist to definitively determine if grain-sensitivity is the culprit.
Diagnostic blood tests are available but they are not always completely accurate – and can be very costly indeed. An elimination diet is one of the surest ways to determine if your pet is sensitive to grains. It can be a time-consuming process for some pets, to pin down what foods cause their reactions, but for many pets, cutting out all gluten or feeding a completely grain-free pet food is the answer to problems that have been plaguing their companion for years.
Which grains are gluten-free?
Buckwheat (this is actually a seed and not related to wheat)
Do Dogs and Cats Need Grains? For the most part, dogs and cats are designed to primarily eat meat. In nature, the ancestors and present day cousins of our domestic dogs and cats, consume meat as the majority of their diet. Dogs are scavengers. A wild dog’s diet includes almost any food that provided calories - but very little, if any, grain. A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food that humans leftover. It is thought that the wolves, who were least afraid of humans, over a period of tens of thousands of years, became our close companions.
According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included, “Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and heads, some discarded human food and wastes.” However, cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy. Their ancestral diet consisted of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the rodents so plentiful around human habitats.
But some individual animals actually DO need grain in their diets, to maintain a healthy bodyweight or because they get dry skin and dull hair when they go ‘grain-free’. As with almost every aspect of holistic health, the answers vary depending upon the individual animal. Even littermates can vary from one another, in their requirements. One pup might get an ear infection every time she eats any sort of grain. Another might be able to tolerate just oats or rye but not wheat and a third might end up thin and uncomfortable when fed only meats and veggies.
Almost No Grains.
The natural diet of both species includes high levels of protein, fats and water, and very little carbohydrates. The “popular’ diet of dry foods, which is recommended by many conventional vets for most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite of this natural diet: High in carbohydrates, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains. Improve the balance of your dog’s diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous non-steroidal and steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for dogs. Readers who follow Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program concede that eating fewer grains means less inflammation! Toxic drugs certainly make animals more comfortable, but will shorten their lives too.
A word of caution: Diabetic animals or any other medical condition making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a professional. Many diabetic pets do require some complex carbohydrates, often in the form of whole grains. For diabetic dogs, freeze-dry foods like Verve (by Honest Kitchen, made in USA) is the most commonly recommended of all recipes by holistic vets. It contains organic whole grains.