Your poor shepherd had no idea that things as common as wheat and gluten could one day cause him to break out in an itch that no fury of scratches could satisfy. But those pesky allergens are easy enough to avoid with a change in your little guy's diet.
Explanation and Diagnosis
Wheat and gluten allergies simply mean your shepherd cannot have grains in his diet. Gluten is found in grains, and wheat is a grain, so it's simpler for you to just think of his diet as grain-free from now on. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to wheat and gluten are identical to any food allergy. Your pup will scratch more than normal, rub up against people and furniture and may have nasty purple and black spots appear all over his pink skin. His antenna-like ears will also be itchy, and your dog may make them twitch, as if there's something inside of them. Allergy tests can't detect food allergies, but your vet will set your pup up with a tasty hypoallergenic dog food for 8 to 12 weeks. His allergies are found by adding one ingredient at a time back to his diet and seeing which ones are causing issues.
Although you can opt to keep your shepherd on hypoallergenic food, there's no reason to if your vet has already identified wheat and gluten as the allergens. But you will have to put him on a new diet consisting of grain-free food. You might have heard that grains are a great source of carbohydrates for your tall-eared pup, but grains are often filler products in many pet foods. Vegetables, like potatoes and peas, provide more than enough carbs. The only downside to grain-free foods is that they're a bit more expensive than a traditional bag of food.
From those tasty bacon sticks to the mouth-watering peanut butter biscuits, your dog has probably enjoyed more than a few lip-smacking snacks in his lifetime. But the discovery of wheat and gluten allergies doesn't mean he has to give up treats. Just get him a few grain-free treats instead. You can also find many grain-free treat recipes online so you can be your pup's personal chef.
Your work isn't quite finished once you put your shepherd on grain-free treats and food. He can develop other food allergies later in life. The meat products he scarfs down when eating his dinner can actually develop into an allergen much like wheat and gluten, so always be on the lookout for a return of allergy symptoms. His food allergies can also cause medical conditions, so keep an eye out for abnormal shedding, skin discoloration, lack of appetite and nail problems. Symmetrical lupoid onychodostrophy, for example, is sometimes seen in German shepherds who have food allergies. The disease causes your pup's immune system to go rogue and attack his nails.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.