When I first heard the term gluten sniffing dog, I thought perhaps it was a joke. Of course dogs have an amazing sense of smell, but the concept still seemed kind of incredible to me.
Dogs are employed to sniff out bombs, narcotics, and they can even detect certain types of cancer with impressive accuracy. But most recently they’re being put to the test sniffing out gluten.
ZEUS, GLUTEN SNIFFING DOG EXTRAORDINAIRE
A gluten sniffing dog named Zeus has been a life changer for 13 year old Evelyn Lapadat. If she accidentally ingests trace amounts of gluten, she endures days of joint pain, exhaustion, and stiffness.
Her mom explained, “If someone puts a crouton on a salad in the back at a restaurant and takes if off and says, ‘Oops, this needs to be gluten-free,’ and brings Evelyn her salad, previously, she would say, ‘Looks good to me,’ eat it, and be sick for three days.”
But since they got their gluten sniffing dog, Evelyn hasn’t gotten sick. Zeus goes to school with Evelyn and checks both her food and her hands for gluten before she eats anything.
If Zeus detects gluten, he will lift his paw. If he doesn’t smell any gluten, he will turn his head. Evelyn said, “I haven’t gotten sick in a really long time and it’s like a really big relief.”
Evelyn’s mother 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.”
At present, there is no nationally established criteria for training. But if you’re interested in getting a gluten sniffing dog, companies will explain their individual education methods, standards, and examination requirements.
Here are a few companies if you’re interested in looking into it further:
Willow Service Dogs is owned by Dawn Scheu who had refractory celiac disease. When Dawn was diagnosed, she was told she had 3 years to live.
She used her unique experience training scent detection dogs to train a dog to aid her with her celiac disease. Her doctors now claim she is the healthiest person they know with celiac disease.
Nosey Dog Detection Partners trained the first successful gluten detection dog in the United States and is owned by a Certified Master Dog Trainer.
If you’re not familiar with service dogs, it’s important to know that they are an ongoing committment. They need training several times per week to continue being proficient at scent detection.
One year old dog accomplishing gluten scent detection training at a grocery store. Video courtesy of Willow Service Dogs on YouTube.
Gluten sniffing dogs are perfect for gluten free homes. Since the home is already clean, the dog can smell items as they are brought into the house to see if there’s any gluten in them.
In public where gluten is very prevalent, accuracy can be a litte more challenging.
If you have other prohibitive allergies in your family, there are service dogs that are trained to smell additional allergens to include peanuts, cashews, dairy, and red dye 40.