Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy in Irish Setters

By PetMD Editorial on Apr. 26, 2010

Gluten-sensitive enteropathy is a rare inherited disease in which the affected dog develops a sensitivity from eating gluten found in wheat and other grains. Only reported in the Irish setter breed in the United Kingdom, the disease causes diarrhea and weight loss.

Symptoms and Types


The mode in which Irish setters inherit this intestinal disease is unknown, but clinical signs are exacerbated by dietary gluten found in wheat and other grains.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel. Serum folate concentrations are often found to be abnormally low, a good indicator of chronic malabsorption of food. Your veterinarian can also confirm the diagnosis by taking a small intestinal (jejunal) biopsy via endoscopy (whereby a small instrument is guided through the mouth into the intestines) or laparotomy (abdominal surgery). 

Biopsy specimens from affected dogs reared on a gluten diet will reveal an accumulation of intraepithelial lymphocytes (a sign of an immune reaction to gluten) and partial villus atrophy (abnormally shaped finger-like projections found in the intestine that are responsible for absorbing food).



Avoid feeding your dog food that may contain or have come in contact with gluten.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments in order to measure your pet’s serum folate concentration every 6 to 12 months.

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