Healthy Living

Gluten-Sniffing Dogs for Celiac Disease Patients

Gluten-Sniffing Dogs for Celiac Disease Patients

Key Takeaways

  • Gluten-sniffing dogs are highly trained to sniff and tell you if a food contains gluten. These dogs help celiac disease patients.
  • Some celiac patients are so sensitive to gluten that even that slightest bit that slips into their diet makes them severely sick for days at a time.
  • In restaurants, it is especially easy for gluten to slip into what was supposed to be a gluten-free meal, so these dogs come in really handy in such cases.

When you think of a loyal and friendly pet, the first animal that comes to mind is most likely a dog. Countless are the things dogs can do for us. From military, sense of dangers, protection, guiding and as well as being our best companions, a dog has value on all sorts of levels. They are powerful. Their sensitive noses help humans with various aspects. They also have a very high capability to sniff bombs, drugs, and even disease (much of what we shall cover here).

Over time, there are new discoveries where some of these canines are trained to assist families in a very special way. Yes, apart from other special cases, they are uniquely helpful in sniffing out gluten. Well, let’s dive into the how these canines are assisting people with celiac disease. They are specially trained in a manner where they are capable in detecting gluten in foods. Canines have previously been used to sniff out prostate cancer (with uncanny accuracy) as Italian researchers reported. They have also been used to sniff out lung tumors, and they are being tested if they can also detect ovarian cancer. Their potential is very high and in the near future, they would be of more great help.

Celiac Disease Overview

Celiac disease is a condition people have when they eat foods containing gluten. The cause of celiac is not known by doctors but when you have this disease and eat foods containing gluten, it triggers an immune response abnormally which causes damage inside of the small intestines. When the small intestines are damaged, they are unable to effectively do their work of absorbing nutrients from food.

People with celiac are advised to avoid all foods containing gluten. This situation can be challenging, as care is taken by changing the way you eat. You need to observe at all costs by strictly eating gluten-free foods as well as avoiding drinks like beer or ale. This is where the story of helpful dogs comes in. They aid people with celiac disease to detect foods with gluten. Not all dogs though. These dogs are special in a way that they are highly trained to sniff and tells you if the food contains gluten. From research, more than 3 million Americans are diagnosed with celiac disease. This calls for the need for better ways to help people with celiac avoid gluten food in the best and easiest way. And with the discovery of some special dogs' capabilities to help, people with celiac may find relief with these dogs.

One Story of a Celiac Patient

Get to know a 13-year-old girl, Evelyn Lapadat, from Indiana who ails with celiac disease. It often leaves her with fatigue, joint pain, and stiffness. Evelyn is so sensitive to even the smallest amount of gluten. She always tries to keep to her diet, but sometimes, she finds herself with food containing gluten. It hasn’t been easy for her. Her mother, Wendy, told TODAY that “If someone puts a crouton on a salad in the back at a restaurant and takes it off and says, 'Oops, this needs to be gluten-free,' and brings Evelyn her salad, previously, she would say, 'Looks good to me,' eat it, be sick for three days,"

But that was before she met Zeus, a great Australian shepherd who is always by her side. He is a big relief to her. She appreciates his presence and help, as she hasn't gotten sick for some time since Zeus came to her help. Zeus usually check her hands, sniffing her food, and if he raises his paw, it means that the food contains gluten. On the other hand, if he turns his head, it means the food is safe for Evelyn to eat (gluten free).

Dogs like Zeus are ideal for a gluten-free home. Whenever someone brings in anything with gluten, then he can sniff and relief the dangers that gluten food might have caused to people with celiac disease. There may be no accuracy in detecting gluten in public places like a restaurant where gluten is all over. Gluten sniffing dogs make life a bit easier for celiac patients. Though there are no guidelines for training these dogs, they are unusual and it's exciting to think about their potential of how it helps. Despite their defense line, caution should also be taken.

Furthermore, some food may be labeled as “wheat free” but may still contain gluten. Always be sure to read labels as some things like medicine, vitamins and even lipstick may contain gluten. A phrase like "Hydrolyzed vegetable protein" or "Modified food starch" may mean that they contain gluten as well. As research continues with studying celiac disease, latest research has shown that a certain type of virus could trigger person’s immune system to overreact to a gluten diet which may lead to celiac disease. According to the research team at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, led by Dr. BanaJabri, this virus switches off the person’s body “peacekeeper” response to gluten, which tricks the body's immune system to think that gluten is a harmful substance.

Other Medical Conditions that Dogs Help Sniff

Scientific facts from research reports that dogs have about 220 million scent receptors, unlike human beings with only 5 million. Dogs detect odors in parts per trillion as well as detect countless subtleties in scents. As an ongoing study, dog trainers and researchers are trying their best to find ways these dogs can be of our help in health care. Some of the known fields these dogs have successfully proven to help involve the following.

Detecting Cancer

Yes, they have been useful in sniffing out various types of cancer including breast cancer, skin cancer, and bladder cancer. Highly trained dogs can do better jobs in these fields than humans. To what chemical compounds they are sniffing for different types of cancers samples to alert presences of the diseases remain a big challenge to both the researchers and dog trainers.

Helps Detect Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a dangerous condition caused by brain disorder that affects the ability to control sleep-wake cycles. A person with this disease can suddenly fall asleep even in the middle of a task. Trained dogs distinctively detect the scent of narcolepsy when an attack is coming on. They help by giving an early warning so that a person with this condition can look for safety before it strikes. This is the same situation for migraine-trained dogs. They help by telling when a migraine is approaching as early as two hours before it strikes, according to a study published in 2013.

Detects Low Blood Sugar

Like detecting migraines and narcolepsy, they are of great help to diabetic people. They help them know when their blood sugar level is dropping so as to change their blood sugar levels. Dogs4Diabetics is one of the organizations that train these dogs for such services.

Help in Detecting Seizures

Trained dogs in this category have an innate ability to alert and/or respond to seizures. They detect and provide an alert to these patients. In such, they must pay attention to the alert these dogs provide.

Fear and Stress

There is no doubt that dogs accurately smell our fears. They smell when we are feeling fear or experiencing increased levels of stress. They smell surges of hormones released by our bodies in order to detect our stress conditions. In such, they can signal a handler for the need to take a few deep breaths and more. This is of great help in order to cope, especially when we understand that panic attacks and other diseases are associated with stress. There are other undiscussed ways that dogs can be of unending help. If you have such a special dog, appreciate him or her like a gift from the unseen cosmos. Like you, we love dogs very much.