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Hi there!

Does anybody know what the breeding implications are for a dog that is gluten sensitive? My boy was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity only this week. I can already see the difference after only a couple of day's gluten free diet so I'm VERY happy!!! He was in so much pain and it seems to be better now! For the first time in months he is driving me nuts again and it is absolutely wonderful!!! 

We have decided to go the "natural" route and have cooked about 20kg vegetables and rice that we will feed together with a raw piece of chicken or pet's mince each day. It should last us a month. We'll see how it goes but the dogs seem to love the new diet. Funny thing is that we will save about 50% on our dogfood bill!!

I am a geneticist and because the disorder is inherited, I've read up on the mode of inheritance. It seems to be autosomal recessive, which is the same as CLAD and both PRA-rcd1 and PRA-rcd4. However, I could only find one study where they did a proper research study on this.

I really would love to breed with my dog because he is so beautiful inside and outside and have very good hunting insticts. I'm just scared to mate him to my female because there is no test available and I couldn't find any research that the gene causing the disorder has been identified. It seems noody has worked on this, mainly because of a lack of funding. I don't want to take the chance that my girl might be a carrier of the mutation, or even clear because all the puppies will be carriers if she is clear. If the carrier puppy is accidentally mated to another carrier, their pup have a 25% chance to be affected. I don't want to put another owner through this, not to mention the dog throught the pain and discomfort that my boy had.

If anybody could please give me advise I would apreciate it so much!

Thanks a lot!


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Hi Henriette,

I know gluten sentitivity to be a inherited disorder found in Irish Setters though I have no personal experience with it myself and would not know how widespread the problem is within the whole population. I fear it is another of those genetic disorders like MO, GDV, epilepsy and HD that we can not simply do a DNA test for and know the answer. Is the mode of inheritance definitely autosomal recessive or is this an assumption based on other breeds (or even humans)?


Dear Susan,


Thanks for getting back to me!

The only published research paper I could find looked at one family of 44 Setters who had problems with gluten sensitivity and they concluded that it was inherited as autosomal recessive. I've contacted the leader of this study and he said they are not working on it anymore due to funding, which is normally the biggest problem :-) I can't find any reports that the gene has been identified that has the mutation and causes it. Without the gene being identified we can't do anything and can't develop a test. I would love to do the research myself, as I work for a private genetic laboratory, but once again funding is a problem. To identify the gene is rather pricy!

If enough breeders/owners are willing to get on board I'm willing to do research on the mode of inheritance for free, but then we would need information on pedigrees, litters and how many pups were affected etc.

Thanks so much and have a great day!


Hi Henriette,

First let me just say it is great to know we now have a geneticist on board here! And I must applaud your  wonderful offer to help the breed.

I must look into coeliac disease in humans and see what inheritance pattern is know there. I know we can't transfer one-to-one from humans to dogs but it would be interesting all the same... I assume you are referring to the paper by S.C. Daminet published 1996 'Gluten-sensitive enteropathy in a family of Irish Setters' Can. Vet. J. 37.? Not that I have read it, but it is mentioned in one of my books.

The people to get the right asnwers from are the breed health coordinators in the UK. The team around Professor Ed Hall are at present trying to define which health problems need adressing according to prevalence within the breed and according to the effects on the wellbeing of the dog (and owner).

You can get in touch with Lynne Dale, health coordinator of the Irish Setter Breeders Club via isbchealth@hotmail.co.uk and I am sure she will be very willing to give you further information.

As for funding, I am optimistic that breeders and owners of Irish Setters would be willing to help with funding as soon as it is known that a concrete project has been set up. Having said that I admit that possibly problems like GDV and epilepsy would be considered more important for funding at present.


Good luck! Please keep me informed how you get on.



PS I admit I do not know much about the american side of our breed and depending on the background of your dogs you may also want to try contacting the US health coordinator.


Dear Susan,

Thanks so much! We try our best and it is great to know you make a difference in an owner and dog's life! It is a bit strange to be on the other side of the problem though, but hopefully we can do something about it!

There is a newer article by Dr Garden and his team, "Inheritance of gluten-sensitive enteropathy in Irish Setters" in 2000, but I will try to get the one you've mentioned as well. I've seen Prof Hall's work as well so I will try to contact him too. Maybe they are close to an answer and even if I could just give my boy's DNA for research then I've also helped!

I will surely get into contact with Lynne Dale and see what we can do. Even if we can just try to do a world-wide study on the prevelance of the disorder it can help a lot.


Thanks again and I'll keep you updated!

Dear Henriette,

Thank you, I just googled the article and found it under this link

"Inheritance of gluten-sensitive enteropathy in Irish Setters"

I would not be surprised if research does prove that the problem is more widespread than one would first assume, simply because most owners will contact their vet and may be given be given a special gluten free diet and the problem will be solved. The dog owner will be relived a solution has been found and the whole story would end there, maybe even the breeder would be left unaware.

It is thanks to this kind of internet forum that owners suddenly find they are not the only ones with a problem and can help one another. 


I've also found the full version of the article from 1996 here:

Gluten sensitive enteropathy in a family of Irish Setters


Henriette, I know you have access to these article but I think they may be of interest to many people listening in on this forum.

This is great thanks! I've read through it again and this could just as well be me dog they were talking about! I hope we can help all Setters suffering from it!

Dear Susan,

The vet who diagnosed Fiddich also said that often the vets don't know about this because the Setter is such a rare breed (especially here in South Africa). They then treat the dog for IBD or colitis and miss the actual couse of the disease. The dog is then doing better becase they are put on a natural diet and they never realise that it is actually caused by the gluten!

I'm really glad that there are forums like these because young owners/breeders like me don't know what to do and we can get advice from the guys who have been around for years now.

It's really great!

Henriette, please give it some more time, before you decide about breeding from your boy. This is a very hard decision of heart against head and you just got the diagnosis recently. So sorry for you - this is not easy !

There is a german society for cynological research, which is sponsored by german kennel club. They might want to know about your story. http://www.gkf-bonn.de/  Perhaps you can contact Dr. Helga Eichelberg. Good luck !



Dear Christiane,


Thanks for replying! My only bitch is only 9 months old now and I won't mate her until she is 2 years so we have another year and a bit to decide and if it happens to be so that I can't breed from him to prevent this from spreading, so be it! I'm definitely not going to send pups out into the world that may have the same problem.


I will surely contact Dr Eichelberg and hopefully we can get the ball going!





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