What should individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consider when sharing homes with pets? Do the pets need to go gluten-free as well?

While not everyone with these conditions needs to worry about buying gluten-free pet food, those who continue to experience symptoms despite following a careful gluten-free diet may want to look to their pets’ food bowls as one possible source for their symptoms. Gluten is a common ingredient in many pet foods, which brings its own set of challenges, especially if you are in close contact with your pet. 

Households with a young child who has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may consider feeding their pets gluten-free food as toddlers might sample dog food from the bowl or be more likely to kiss a pup on the mouth.

Some people react to airborne gluten, such as dust from dry gluten-containing pet food.

Should your pets go gluten-free too?
Should your pets go gluten-free too?

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Nancy Patin Falini said one of her patients wasn’t responding well to a gluten-free diet because of her fish food.

“She was feeding her goldfish with food containing wheat without washing her hands,” Falini said. “She would then run out the door, drinking her coffee while driving to work to play piano. This resulted in continued symptoms and elevated antibodies.”

Falini also points out that cat litter and other animal supplies can be sources of gluten.

And, it’s important to be aware that the FDA’s rules on gluten-free food labeling don’t apply to pet foods.

Celiac disease as described in humans has not been directly documented in dogs, according to Dr. Carey Hemmelgarn, DVM. However, some Irish setters have been diagnosed with a gluten-sensitive enteropathy that is similar to it. Gluten-sensitive dogs can develop symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dermatitis, chronic ear infections, and poor coat condition.

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