Attention, Coeliacs! In The US, Dogs Are Being Trained To Identify Gluten In Food

According to data from the National Federation of Celiacs of Brazil (Fenacelbra), the immune response to the intake of gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye — affects about 2 million Brazilians. The classic symptom related to celiac disease is diarrhea, but it can also cause bloating, gas, fatigue, anemia, and osteoporosis. Thanks to greater ease of diagnosis nowadays, many people are discovering that they are allergic to gluten and improving their quality of life.

On the shelves of supermarkets, more and more products are beginning to appear, targeting this audience. In the United States, some dogs are being trained to recognize gluten only by smell. In the case of Evelyn Lapadat, 13, who is extremely sensitive even to the tiniest trace of gluten in food, relying on the help of her dog, Zen, makes all the difference.

The Australian shepherd spends all day with her, checking her hands and sniffing the food. If he lifts his paw, it means he smelled gluten. If he turns his head, it means the food is safe. “I haven’t gotten sick in a really long time, and it’s like a really big relief”, Evelyn said. “I feel like I don’t have to be a complete control freak anymore. I feel like he can be a control freak for us”, said the girl’s mother.

In a training location in Colorado (USA), dogs are rewarded when they identify the smell of the protein. Experts warn that there are still no national guidelines for training dogs that detect gluten, thus families should do their research and closely examine the companies that are willing to do this and their processes.