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Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy in Irish Setters

Gluten-sensitive enteropathy is a rare genetic disorder observed in dogs, particularly within the Irish setter breed in the United Kingdom. This condition emerges when the affected dog consumes gluten, a protein present in wheat and various grains. Symptoms include diarrhea and weight loss.

Symptoms and Types

  • Mild cases of diarrhea
  • Inadequate weight gain (or weight loss)


The manner in which Irish setters inherit this intestinal disease remains unknown, but symptoms worsen due to dietary gluten present in wheat and other grains.


To diagnose your dog’s condition, you’ll need to provide a detailed history of its health to the veterinarian, including when the symptoms started and their nature. The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination along with various tests including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel. Often, serum folate levels are low, indicating chronic malabsorption of food. Confirming the diagnosis may involve obtaining a small intestinal (jejunal) biopsy using endoscopy (a procedure guiding a small instrument through the mouth into the intestines) or laparotomy (abdominal surgery). Biopsy samples from dogs on a gluten diet typically show an increase in intraepithelial lymphocytes (indicating an immune reaction to gluten) and partial villus atrophy (abnormal finger-like projections responsible for absorbing food).


Ensure that your dog’s diet excludes any food containing or having come in contact with gluten.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will arrange regular follow-up appointments to monitor your pet’s serum folate concentration every 6 to 12 months.

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