Gluten Free For Good


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What do the following signs and symptoms suggest to you?

• IBS and severe diarrhea
• Weight loss and failure to thrive
• Skin rashes and hair loss
• Allergies
• Joint pain and arthritis
• Low energy and brain fog
• Autoimmune thyroid disease
• Autoimmune adrenal disorder
• Eating grass

Maybe those of you (us) with celiac disease don’t munch on grass (the lawn-mowing kind, not the marijuana kind), but I bet many of you with gluten intolerance can relate to some of what’s mentioned above.

This is my guy Fairbanks. Handsome fellow, don’t you agree? Big, strong, healthy, independent, full of energy (excuse me while I gush and overdo the photos).

Seriously, is that a good looking dog, or what?

He almost died a few years ago. He was so close to that big dog park in the sky that he couldn’t even lift his head off the ground. He went from 130 pounds to well under 100 and had a wide variety of serious health problems. The vet couldn’t figure it out and I wondered if he was silently suggesting that it might be time to let Fairbanks go. But, being the “care-taker” that I am (not to mention, nutritionist), I wasn’t ready to let that happen. To make a long and convoluted story short, I became convinced he had the canine version of gluten intolerance.

After several blood tests and vet-to-various-vet discussions, it was determined that he had some autoimmune conditions (sound familiar?). I went along with the thyroid and adrenal meds, as he was one paw in the grave, but I also shifted him to a totally grain free diet and added Nordic Naturals cod liver oil to his daily food. He now eats only meat, fish and some vegetables. He chews on raw beef and bison bones and eats selected people-food leftovers. It took several months, but he’s come back to life, regained his weight and as long as he he isn’t exposed to gluten, he does okay for an old guy (he’s almost 11). If he ingests gluten (via a random dog biscuit), he immediately starts showing signs of celiac disease. Rashes, low energy, brain fog, joint pain, allergies.

The rashes show up on his face (I’m wondering if he has doggie DH). The low energy and joint pain are evident on our daily dog walks. You’re probably wondering how I know he has brain fog. He’s my most favorite special dog in the world, I just know. I call it dogheimers. Or, maybe he’s just meditating, but whatever it is, it accompanies exposure to gluten.

Dogs aren’t supposed to be eating low-grade gluten, corn, soy, dairy and other cheap byproducts pressed into nasty little nuggets. If Fairbanks’ behavior (he’s a backyard squirrel hunter) is any indication of his culinary evolution, they’re supposed to be eating birds, bunnies, squirrels and other small animals. If he was in a pack of Alaskan dogs, I’d say maybe caribou or salmon, but definitely not gluten and soy.

Once I figured out the food he needed to thrive, I found a wonderful local pet shop that carries high-quality, grain-free dog food. I rotate his proteins by purchasing two different bags each time I stock up. One time it might be fish and potato or duck and sweet potato. The next time it might be bison, lamb or venison.

Those of you who’ve been following this blog know I belong to Grant Farms CSA program and support my local farmers. Well, Andy Grant is drifting into the pet food business (sort of), so pastured, organic beef bones and organ meat will also be part of Fairbanks’ diet. Perfect. Join a CSA and you and your pet will be healthier and you’ll be supporting the “eat local” movement in new and wonderful ways. Better for your health, your pet’s health and the health of the environment. As it should be.

Peace, love and gluten-free dogs!
Okay, okay. If you insist, here’s one more picture. Wasn’t he the cutest puppy ever?!

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43 Responses to “can dogs get celiac disease”

  1. Tevis says:

    AAwww! Fairbanks!

  2. Erin says:

    Now you have ME gushing too….Such a beautiful dog!!!

    I am glad you sleuthed out his “diagnosis” 🙂

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa, Gluten Free Emily. Gluten Free Emily said: Gluten Free For Good can dogs get celiac disease: What do the following signs and symptoms suggest to y… #GlutenFree […]

  4. Melissa!
    I switched my little canine girl over to a homemade gluten free diet about a month ago. She wasn’t having nearly the severe symptoms as your Fairbanks (beautiful boy, by the way, just gorgeous!) but was having frequent loose stool. I had been thinking about switching her to homemade food, and took the plunge. Just like how I cook for me, she gets a big crock pot full of various meat, sweet potato, salmon, and veggies. She also gets a tsp of Bone meal for calcium, and a 1/2 tsp of fish oil. Her stools have normalized, and she looks fantastic.
    Peace, love, and gluten free dogs indeed!

    • Melissa says:

      Erin, Thanks for the comment, especially since you’re SO busy with other things right now. =) I’m not doing totally homemade food at this point, but it sure makes a difference to switch them to a GF diet of healthy meats and vegetables. Your crock pot stew sounds wonderful (for people, too).

  5. Stephanie says:

    What a beautiful boy you have!! I have huskies and have reached the point where I cook for them in order to keep them healthy and seizure free. Their diet is mainly wild game, rice or potatoes, and vegetables with the occasional fruit. They love it and I love that they aren’t sick any longer.

    • Melissa says:

      Stephanie, I’ve read that dogs who have seizures often miraculously respond to a gluten-free diet. Isn’t it amazing what food can do (both good and bad)? Well, we have common dog loves — northern breeds. I love huskies and malamutes. Aren’t they wonderful! Thanks for your comment, I do appreciate it.

  6. Jen Cafferty says:

    My dog is definitely gluten intolerant. I don’t know if she has celiac, but definitely can’t eat gluten.

    I laughed when the vet asked me if I had ever heard of gluten. My little puppy mill rescue was obviously meant to live with us since everything that falls on the floor is gluten free! There are probably a ton of articles online about gluten intolerance in dogs. And I know the homeopathic vets are pretty up on it too. Good luck!! Jen

    • Melissa says:


      Whether you call it celiac or gluten-intolerance, it’s all the same and all good if the dog (or cat) responds positively to a GF diet. Love the vision of GF treats falling on the floor and your pup snatching them up. 🙂

  7. Hi Melissa,

    Great post. (And a very cute pup who turned into a very handsome dog!) Our dog, Altai, definitely has similar issues with gluten and corn especially. We keep him off those, and buy, like you, dog foods with fish and potato, or duck, or other dog-healthy ingredients.

    Cheers, Pete

    • Melissa says:

      Hey Pete — first off, BIG congratulations for your amazing accomplishment (50+ mile endurance run to raise money for celiac disease awareness). Wow, very impressive. Altai is right, dogs aren’t supposed to eat gluten, corn and soy (among other things)!

  8. There are so many dog (and cat) recovery stories after pets go gluten free. Yours is a terrific one, Melissa! Fairbanks is indeed a beautiful dog and was such a cute pup, too. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this post … who knows how many faithful companion lives you may have just saved. Seriously.


    • Melissa says:

      Shirley, Thanks for your comment (but guess where I found it — darn spam folder, it takes some of the good ones and leaves a few weird ones). Yes, wasn’t Fairbanks the cutest puppy? Gosh, he was (is) such a doll. And isn’t it amazing how nasty gluten can be for both people and pets? Love hearing from you as you’re always so cheerful and inspiring! xo

  9. Anne says:

    Well hello Fairbanks – and Melissa,
    Of course you are the picture of the week Fairbanks! I am glad that your former troubles got diagnosed by Melissa.
    I reckon that you just wanted to blend into the family completely and were being totally supportive to Melissa :). Or did you happen to catch it off her?
    Wuff, wuff and ciao for now
    Anne 🙂

    • Melissa says:

      Wuff, wuff to you too, Anne.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding a touch of humor to the conversation. Yes, poor Fairbanks probably caught celiac from me. That’s what I told his vet, but I doubt he believed me. He did smile and pat Fairbanks (or was it me) on the head. Hope you had a wonderful summer and are enjoying some nice pleasant fall weather in your “neck of the woods.”

  10. Julie says:

    What a beautiful dog! I feed my dog raw … she gets raw chicken backs, turkey necks, lamb necks, marrow bones, and occasionally some cooked veggies, or raw carrots or apples. She does not shed AT ALL. Her coat is shiny, and she stays lean without a whole lot of effort.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Julie, thanks for the comment and all the good dog food recipe ideas. It’s amazing how nice our pets’ coats look when they are allergy free and consuming nourishing food, rather than recycled, low-grade by-products. I haven’t heard of Oma’s Pride, but will do a little research and check it out. I appreciate all the great information!

  11. Julie says:

    Whoops, hit submit by accident! We live near Oma’s Pride and they have great raw premixed stuff.

  12. Alta says:

    I totally believe that they can have whatever doggy version of celiac disease exists. Just like most humans, dogs have not evolved to eat a diet rich in grains, gluten, corn, and soy. I’d love to find a grain-free dog food that I can buy – as much as I’d love to, I can’t quite keep up with making homemade dog food every day! (I’ve done it) I can barely keep up with making homemade people food every day as it is! 🙂 My dogs don’t experience these symptoms, thankfully, but I know they’d benefit from an even cleaner diet than some Science Diet or Iams or whatever.

    • Melissa says:

      Alta, I know, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Dick Van Patten (yes, the actor — can’t remember what he was in) makes a grain-free dog food called Natural Balance. There are various meat and potato combos. Good stuff. Thanks for the comment. I always appreciate your input.

  13. Kristine says:

    Nordic Naturals shout out???! Thanks! I agree he is a good looking dog, absolutely handsome!

    • Melissa says:

      Yes, Nordic Naturals shout out indeed! I’ve got the whole family taking some version of omegas, including Fairbanks. He responded quickly to cod liver oil (he’s the only one on cod liver oil) and he actually likes the taste and smell. 🙂 Of course, he’s a northern breed dog and supposed to be eating raw fish. And yes, isn’t he handsome? Plus, he was such a CUTE puppy.

  14. Cid says:


    It all makes sense…. when did we shift to a cereal diet and did dogs and cats ever chew on grain in the past? Also I look with interest at the article about a strange rash… how many people present these symptoms to doctors who never think of gluten as a possible cause?

    Fairbanks is very lucky he has you as a housemate, it’s a great relationship.


    p.s. Melissa, I’ve not been feeling good recently, in fact most of the UK have fallen under another cold-like virus which seems to hang around. Yesterday I passed a tree full of elderberries so I picked a few and made a cordial with lots of different spices and orange…. could be my imagination but I feel better since taking it as a hot drink.

    • Melissa says:


      It’s always so nice to hear from you. Wish we were in easy tea drinking distance, I’d love to try and help you sort out ways to fight the UK crud and stay healthy all winter. I’ve got it down pretty good (knock on wood). But, I must say, your elderberry brew sounds incredibly healing. We’ll have to bottle that for our “natural living” boutique/soup kitchen. Right now I’m in the midst of a 100 hour Anusara Yoga Immersion and doing all I can to stay healthy and strong through 8 hour days of yoga and philosophy. It’s wonderful, but also draining so keeping the immune system on patrol is important. There are ways to do that — in combination with your sweet smelling hot drinks. 🙂

      As for Fairbanks, he really is a wonderful companion and I treat him like the important part of the family that he is. He’s such a big teddy bear. And he doesn’t respond well to the “filler cereal dog food” that is the norm now. The minute he gets a dose of that kind of food, I can tell he’s not feeling well and slipping back into an autoimmune state. It’s amazing how quickly it happens. Seriously, it’s just as though he has celiac disease (coeliac to you folks across the pond).

      Take care of yourself, Cid. And hopefully we’ll be having tea (or one of your berry concoctions) together one of these days. Is Table #5 still an option?


  15. Cid says:


    I think we could muscle in on table #5…. Miles might find it a challenge producing fat free, cheap deals along with hedgerow fare and gf, plus a good portion of outrageous laughter and heated debate into the wee small hours 🙂


    p.s. sadly the time has come to replace the famous all terrain anti slip faux leopard slippers. A fitting end to an illustrious career would mean a burial with bugles bugling….. I have considered launching them from a ship but international maritime law would probably frown on it 🙂

  16. Liz says:

    Oh, Fairbanks! He is so darn handsome.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Melissa. Henry does not eat gluten (or any grains) either. He didn’t have symptoms like Fairbanks, but he did have skin rashes. Like humans, dogs haven’t had enough time to evolve to eat many grains – it just makes so much sense!

    I hope you’re well and I’m happy to be back at catching up on my favorite gf blogs.

  17. Such a gorgeous pup! Majestic is the word. I’m glad you stuck with it to figure out how to make him feel better!

  18. RI GF Mom says:

    my labradoodle too. From the time she was a puppy she had a “sensitive” tummy and frequently threw up or had runny stools. We took her to a local holistic vet (Dr Doolittle… seriously, that’s her name) who prescribed many food based supplements and a special grain free diet. Initially we did it with special canned food and re-constituted veggies (europa brand), but now we do large batches of chicken, turkey, beef, bison or fish (whatever is on sale at whole foods that can be ground and frozen) along with her veggies and pumpkin or sweet potato (the vet says they soothe upset tummmies) and her supplements. I still can’t believe that I cook for my dog, but she’s so healthy and vital and never gets sick anymore (until she gets into someone else’s kibble, ie at a friend’s house, and then she’s “as sick as a dog” all over my house…. YUCK!). Yes, I believe my dog has CD too)

  19. Sam says:

    Do you mind saying what brand of dog food you are giving Fairbanks? My 15 1/2 year old rotti/blue heeler mix has had major skin problems for 2 years, and nothing seems to help. He’s been on way too many antibiotics and prednisone, and still has good days and bad days, with most of the symptoms you mentioned at the top of this article. There are days he’s very confused, and walks in circles, and the vets just want to medicate him. Someone suggested that it may be a glucose intolerance, and I’m checking that out now. He’s been on several grain free diets, but I’m starting to realize that possibly the treats I’m giving him could be setting him off. His blood work is extremely good for a dog his age, and his major problems is skin itchies and a hip problem causing mobility issues. Some days he’s great and some days he’s miserable….and the doctors don’t have a clue. Now that I’ve read this article, I’m highly suspecting gluten may be the cause of the ups and downs. I’d really like to know the brand of food that works for Fairbanks.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Sam,

      I use Nutrisca dog food. Here’s the link. I’d suggest rotating the proteins so your dog gets a variety of essential amino acids. I think the chicken and chickpea or salmon and chickpea are good, low allergen formulas. And dogs seem to really like the taste. Watch out for treats! Those are laden with gluten and other grains. A good treat is a chunk of baked potato or some canned green beans. =)

      Gosh, I’m sorry to hear your dog is having problems, but you must have been doing something right as a 15 & 1/2 year old dog is unusual!

      Good luck and take care!

  20. meg says:

    Awww, Amazing!! Great post. 🙂

  21. […] also shared her dog’s recovery from multiple health issues by following a gluten-free diet in this post.  Finally, the best part—the giveaway! One gfe reader will receive two bags of BARKSTERS […]

  22. Heather says:

    Was this dog a husky? I am wondering because I had a husky with loose stools, skin issues on his face, seizures, etc. No one knew what was wrong with him, and we eventually put him to sleep at age six (he was blind and very ill by then). Years later, I was reading about huskies and noticed that one of their hereditary issues was an inability to absorb zinc. When I researched what a zinc deficiency would look like, it was exactly my dog – including the horrible skin and runny poop. The cure is zinc supplementation. I recently had an acquaintance complain of similar symptoms in his husky and although the vet had never heard of it, I convinced him to present the information to the vet and lo and behold – his dog was better almost immediately. I am wondering whether your diet unknowingly upped your dog’s zinc and that’s why he improved.
    Read here:

    • Melissa says:


      GREAT comment. Thank you for this information. I’m not familiar with this condition in huskies. My dog was an Alaskan Malamute. Yes, you could call him a husky. Northern breed dogs have some of these weird food sensitivities, but your thoughts about zinc bring up a totally different question. Zinc is found in meat and fish (among other foods) and when you put dogs who evolved to eat fish and meat on a diet of grains, problems occur.

      Thanks for weighing in on this. It’s such an interesting topic. I’ll remember this about zinc. Interesting!


  23. Tia says:


    Didn’t put two and two together until now. This is what my new job is about. One of the reasons I love it. I work for a pet boutique that teaches people about proper nutrition for their pets, especially dogs. They had an Alaskan Malamute named Malichi that had similar issues. They researched themselves after many vet visits that didn’t help. They put him on a raw food and grain free dog food diet and he totally turned around. They opened their store five years ago, and now they are revamping their web presence to inform the public about pet health. See why I’m getting lost in my new job, as well as my boys and new boy? Miss you guys.


    • Melissa says:


      Shoot, I can’t even put 2 and 2 together in my own life, let alone anyone else’s. I love your new job! I’ll email you.

      Thanks for setting me straight!

  24. Melissa,
    I had looked around, done my research and was feeding Marie Laveau “good” premimum food. Still weight loss, poor appetite, skin issues, everything you listed. I had even gone so far as to cook for her, recipes from “reputable” sites, they all include grain. She would gain a little weight then go south again. She started having seizures, bloat episodes, pain that made my sit and rock her wondering how to get her in the car for that last trip to the vet. Out of desperation, I tried a very expensive no grain food. In two weeks the improvement was very noticeable. A month later, all grain is forbidden fruit and my once crippled, miserable beast is chasing squirrels and being the bossy pest we know and love. Since this was something that seemed to develop with age I typed in “can dogs have celiac disease”? Thank you, I just needed some assurance I was on the right track. She is off all meds except celery seed. She has always been allergic to corn,but I never thought grain in general could be this bad.

  25. Michele says:

    I am glad to find a gf blogger finally writing about gf and pets. Even if the dog is not celiac, your pet is a huge potential source for cross-contamination — if he eats wheat, most likely, so will you (come on, who doesn’t kiss her dog?). And most “wheat free” dog treats are not gf, but rather contain barley. Fortunately, grain free dog foods have become quite common (my dog currently eats Acana — he is picky, so I can vary the flavor daily) — because dogs do not need to eat wheat anyway! when was the last time you saw a wolf grazing? Remember, commercial dog food is not designed for the dog, but rather for the convenience (and wallet) of the owner — in particular, the owner’s reponsibility to pick up the dog’s poop…. Grain makes your dog poop regularly and compactly — but not healthily. I am also oonvinced many of the skin problems dogs suffer are nutritional in origin.

  26. Sandra says:

    Thanks for all this information. I have a 12 year old Labradore who has had chronic dioahea for 6 months and more recently vomiting and has had all sorts of medication with no success. She recently had a week at the local kennels and was not sick in there at all which we couldnt believe! After being home 1 week she started vomiting again 🙁 When I saw her at a neighbors yard today eating bread scraps thrown out for the birds I thought I wonder if dogs can be celiacs (My mother is a celiac).This page has been very helpful! And your dog is gorgeous!!

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