June 18


Gluten-Free Pup

By Sue Ingebretson

June 18, 2013

additives, allergy, autoimmune, catfood, cats, dogfood, dogs, fur, Gluten Free, pet, Pets, preservatives


Yum! Yum!

Can you imagine having NO choice in what you eat? What if a plate or bowl is simply thumped down in front of you … and, you’re expected to scarf it down, lick your lips in satisfaction, and wag your tail.

Wait … what?

I’m of course referring to your favorite furry house guest – most likely your cat, dog, or both.

It’s hard to imagine their perspective. Mealtime is completely choice-less. The only input they have is to either eat or turn their noses up at what’s offered.

When Pup first came to us, we thought she was the world’s pickiest eater, and we thought that trait was so cute! She’d take a piece or two of her dry food and carry it from the kitchen into the living room or wherever we were. She’d nibble on it a bit. She’d lick it a few times. She’d pick it up and take a bite. She’d drop it back on the carpet. She’d often take an hour to eat ONE tiny piece of kibble.

It was so adorable … at first, anyway.

Dinnertime Blues!

Then we figured out she wasn’t lonely for our company. She was sick! She knew that her food was unhealthy. She knew it caused her untold (literally) grief, so she simply didn’t eat it.

That sent us on an all-too familiar “quest for the best” search for the absolute finest puppy cuisine available. I’d done the same for me, so it was just a different path to look for the best food for her. We tried lamb, duck, potato, rice, etc. and still, she continued to refuse her food, looking worse day by day.

Then it got dire. Her fur began to fall out … in chunks!

She was a frightening sight. We wish we’d taken photos of her at that time, but we were too busy trying to solve the problem. People – from a distance would come to pet the little pup in my arms assuming she was a Chihuahua or something nearly hairless. As they got nearer, they’d flinch in horror as they could see her “some hair here, no hair there” appearance. She looked like she had mange or something tragic. She eventually lost all of her fur on her face, legs, and tummy. And what remained was thin, scraggly, and sparse.

Fred Mertz and Pup

In hindsight, we can laugh now at how her wrinkled forehead and baldness made her look an awful lot like Fred Mertz.

You may wish to re-visit this post – Does Your Greatest Teacher Have Fur? – where I point out how disturbing it is for a Sheltie to be bald!

We definitely had our work cut out for us. But one big shortcut was my own experience. I knew that what I ate had a direct effect on how I felt. I couldn’t help but feel her pain. I knew that moving away from processed foods and moving toward holistic, natural, and whole foods helped me immensely.

I knew she had autoimmune conditions, so could she be super-sensitive to some food groups, too?


This was all more than ten years ago. I’ve been eating gluten-free for more than a decade, so it’s hard to recall, but when we changed her diet, we didn’t think of it as gluten-free, or even allergen-free. It was just a diet that was “away” from processed foods and “toward” whole foods.

I looked up recipes for whole foods for pets and found one to try. I learned that fillers in dog foods such as wheat, soy, corn, cornmeal, processed oats, and highly processed flours, can have a serious impact on allergic pets. And then there are the preservatives and additives. Pets can be just as sensitive to chemicals and “fake” ingredients as we are!

Is your pet sensitive?

Look for these basic tell-tale (tail?) clues:

            – Disinterest in food

            – Hair/fur loss

            – Itching/scratching/biting/licking at themselves – especially the feet

            – Vomiting/constipation/diarrhea/gas

            – Chronic infections (UTI, ear, etc.)

            – Coughing/wheezing/runny nose, etc.

            – Bloated belly/abdominal discomfort/joint pain

If your pet is showing any signs of distress, I’d strongly encourage you to share this information with your veterinarian. Then read the labels on your pet’s food packages. In addition to toxic chemical preservatives and additives, check for these most common allergic ingredients: wheat, processed flours, dairy egg, corn, soy, and a host of animal proteins such as beef, fish, pork, chicken, etc.

For us, making our own pup food was the best solution. My husband and I used to make a real production out of it, but now we can make an entire batch (50+ meals) that lasts for several weeks, in about 20 minutes or less. It’s a cinch and Pup has thrived. Her fur began to grow back almost right away. Before we knew it, she looked like a typical Sheltie. We always say that her fur grew in overnight just like a Chia Pet.

Of course, having her fur grow in was a great outer sign, but when her energy, playfulness, and happiness quotient improved, we knew that she’d healed on the inside, too.

Do you have any pets that may have allergy issues? What works for you?

I look forward to your comments below!

  1. You know, I hadn’t thought about all the ingredients in dog food. I like the idea of making it myself and giving my dog food that doesn’t have filler or things I can’t pronounce in it. Will look into finding a “recipe”.

  2. I would love to have your recipe! I make pb dog biscuits fresh for my 3 dogs but they have whole wheat flour and oats in them. I wonder if there’s a good gluten free dog biscuit recipe?

    1. Mitzi — I don’t have a biscuit recipe as I have friends who make delightful ones that are fresh and made with only the BEST and finest ingredients. Lucky me! Feel free to email me for the food recipe if you like.


  3. Love this…and so timely. We must change the way we see and think and interact with those who really wear fur. They too are in need of health coaching! My cats are pretty much Vegans–and I think if they had been in my care from birth they would be totally–and that is a huge change. They are healthy and their food includes not only grasses, ancient grains, nuts, fruits and veggies, Brewers Yeast and ACV but Coconut Oil for all the right reasons. It is interesting to note that these changes also make summertime more comfortable for them. Domesticated cats and dogs seem to be able to make this change–and can be gluten-free if need be too–since they are no longer hunters. You have got my mind working overtime on this one…. Considering all the GMO corn that goes into pet food and the horrible things factory farming has done to other animals whose parts go into many brands of pet food, why would anyone want to feed someone they love such filth? Good work Sue!

    1. Thanks Jana! As you know, it’s only the best for Pup 😉 But seriously, it’s amazing how well pets or anyone can do when they get the foods that fuel and feed them best. Some stores in my area carry quinoa and healthier ancient grains in bulk, so it’s not such a price hindrance. It’s something to consider. Hugs to you!

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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson