CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity

The idea that CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity has been presented by recent research.

They were actually quite confident with the link between the two, saying in the research,

Canine epileptic cramping syndrome in [border terriers]s is a gluten-sensitive movement disorder triggered and perpetuated by gluten and thus responsive to a gluten-free diet.

This is pretty exciting stuff! CECS (short for Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome, or sometimes called ‘Spike’s Disease’)  is an unusual condition found almost exclusively in border terriers. These dogs are normal dogs except for when they have an ‘episode’ or a seizure. During an episode, the dog will ‘cramp up’. Typically, they remain conscious, but can’t walk, and sometimes appear worried following an episode.

Chip, a border terrier that does not have CECS

Chip, a border terrier that does not have CECS

So far, there has been no real diagnostic test or explanation for the condition. In December 2013, a study looked at CECS, but it was an owner-survey, information-gaining exercise. Which is important, but doesn’t give us answers!

It was so important that it actually spurred this research. In the December 2013 study, 50% of dogs were found to ‘respond’ (i.e. have less episodes) on a gluten-free or hypoallergenic diet.

So now let’s welcome this lovely small study titled ‘The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten Free Diet in Border Terriers with Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome‘, which begins to look at how we can both diagnose and treat CECS. Exciting stuff!

The aim of the study was to work out if a gluten-free diet would effect dogs with CECS. Not only did the researchers want to know if the dogs stopped having episodes, but if their blood looked different with and without gluten. Naturally, they wanted to know if these things were correlated.

The dogs involved were 6 border terriers (an equal mix of male and female). Each dog:

  • Had had CECS for at least 6 months
  • Had been diagnosed with CECS via veterinary observation (including video)
  • Had had at least 2 CECS episodes
  • Had not tried gluten-free diets before

For interest sake, the average age of onset for CECS in this small sample was 2.6 years.

Winnie, another border terrier who does not have CECS

Winnie, another border terrier who does not have CECS

Once recruited, the dogs had blood taken and the owners were given instructions for the dog going on a total gluten-free diet (Hypoallergenic Canine Dry from Royal Canin). The dog underwent a general physical examine (and some dogs went through more intensive procedures, owners consenting) and all were determined to be healthy, beyond the presentation of CECS.

The blood was again taken at 3, 6, and 9 month periods.

The blood was tested for antibodies which are considered important in diagnosing gluten sensitivity in humans.

The blood of non-CECS border terriers was also taken and tested.

The owner was asked to keep a record of the incidents of CECS in their borders.

Are you ready for the results? They’re pretty compelling.

So all that changed in these border terriers’ lives was that they were put on a completely gluten free diet. With this one change, all of the borders terriers, when they adhered to the gluten free diet, stopped having seizures within 4 weeks. Three dogs did not have seizures at all once they started the diet.

Two dog owners, upon completion of the trial, accidentally fed their dogs treats with gluten… And the dogs had seizures again. So not only did a gluten free diet stop seizures, the reintroduction of gluten caused seizures.

Now let’s talk about “Dog 6″. Dog 6′s owner is the epitome of why these kind of studies, where dogs are left with their owners, are hard work! Throughout the study, Dog 6 was a dog that continued to have seizures. Dog 6′s owner presumably fed the dog the gluten free diet, but then allowed the dog to continue to graze on horse poo when out and about.  This issue wasn’t identified until late in the study and so Dog 6 was excluded from the serum results listed in this article. However, when Dog 6′s owner actually did was they were told and stopped the horse poo eating, Dog 6 stopped having seizures too! When Dog 6′s blood was tested 3 months after the study ended (but 3 months into the owner actually doing it right), that dog’s blood results was consistent with the other dogs, and it too had ceased having episodes.

Why is this study such a big deal?

Up until now, we have had no way to diagnose nor treat CECS. (In fact, one of the criteria established in the 2013 study of CECS indicated that if a dog fails to respond to epilepsy medication then it probably is CECS. Nice to know, but not a great deal of help.)

The blood results from these dogs showed high levels of relevant antibodies in affected dogs while they consumed a diet with gluten. The presence of gluten-associated antibodies could be used to diagnose CECS.

Clearly, a treatment has been identified too: avoid gluten!

Other areas that are of interest:

  • Signs of gastrointestinal upsets could be a sign of gluten problems, or of future CECS. Vomiting, soft stools, or belly grumbling was reported in 2 of the dogs featured in this study. The presentation of belly problems and CECS together can be an indication of just one problem – gluten sensitivity!
  • The story of ‘Dog 6′, to me, really shows the importance of owners in being vigilant. I feel that many dog owners take a rather lazy approach to food elimination diets, but elimination means to completely remove. If you don’t completely remove, you can’t say that it’s been tried!
  • In humans, celiac disease has sometimes been associated with a rash… Which makes me think back to the correlation between CECS and skin-conditions in borders identified in the 2013 study.

Another quote from the study:

These investigations support the hypothesis that CECS is a manifestation of gluten sensitivity, making this the first [sudden onset] movement disorder in veterinary medicine with a serological link to gluten.

What research from here?

This is a very small study, and it’s important that we do more research before making solid conclusions. This study itself suggests further research:

  • With a larger sample size
  • More research into the correlation of gastrointestinal upsets and CECS
  • A double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial

But in the meantime, while we’re waiting to know more, these researchers (and I!) recommend that, if you have a border terrier with CECS, you switch the dog to a diet that eliminates all gluten foods.



Lowrie M, Garden OA, Hadjivassiliou M, Harvey RJ, Sanders DS, Powell R, & Garosi L (2015). The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet in Border Terriers with Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome. Journal of veterinary internal medicine / American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 29 (6), 1564-8 PMID: 26500168


Further reading:

Gluten Sensitivity Triggers Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome in Border Terriers


CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity



Going Rawr! for Fussy Eaters

I am a long time advocate of raw food diets, and was excited when approached by Maggie Rhines’ regarding her new book Going Rawr! Dog Lover’s Compendium.

In his book, Maggie explains how some picky eaters may struggle to make the change to a raw food diet.  But you know you need to persevere because it’s for the good of your dog. Fortunately, there are some tips out there that will help you help your dog adjust to this new and healthier diet.

Here are 7 tips from Maggie’s book to help you encourage your picky eater onto raw food:


1. Adjust your feeding schedule.

Having a set feeding time can encourage dogs to eat, setting them up for the habit of eating at a set time.  This means that their digestive juices get flowing (in a Pavlovian, classical conditioning way) and you will also know that your dog is definitely hungry by this time.  Dogs have also developed to exercise before a meal (i.e. ‘hunt first’ then eat), so a jog or run before a meal can sometimes help a dog to build up their appetite.


2. Regulate how much food your dog is getting.

If your dog is regularly leaving some of their meal in their bowl, then you may be feeding them too much. You may need to reconsider how much you are feeding. The dog might also be in a habit of leaving food. One way to help your dog finish his food and finish it quickly is to set a certain amount of time for them to eat. Say you only give them 20 minutes to finish their food. After that, take away his food bowl. That way, he’ll be encouraged to eat his food and to finish it quickly. You could also have a look at Sue Ailsby’s teaching a dog to eat guide, to break any bad-eating habits your dog may have.  Removing food after 20 minutes or so also prevents the raw food going off – obviously not desirable!


3. Lay off on the treats.

If your dog is often disinterested in their meals, maybe they are getting too many treats and snacks in between meals. If you cut out these treats, it may increase the dog’s appetite and make them more keen to eat raw. If you are the type to do a lot of training with your dog, make your raw meal into the training treats, or switch to play-based rewards for a week or two, could help encourage your dog’s appetite.


4. Variety is the spice of life.

Some dogs respond well to variety. The joy of raw food is that it is quite varied naturally! Planning a varied meal doesn’t have to be complicated. You can rotate his meals every 3 days. Serve different kinds of meat or different kinds of fruits and vegetables to keep him excited during meal times.


5. Make it fun.

Sometimes dogs enjoy the packaging of a meal more than the meal itself!  Dogs that are used to using food toys, like Kongs, may be inclined to extract raw food from these toys as well.  Some dogs may be inclined to get stuck into a raw bone or carcass if you were to drag it around or use it as a lure or tug toy first.  If your dog is used to receiving food treats in training, start using raw food as training treats.  These are all fun-based strategies that could work to getting your dog to try the new food.


6. Maybe he’s not feeling well.

When you’ve tried different methods and your dog is still not eating, it could be a sign that your dog is not feeling well.  If his lack of appetite is accompanied by a general lack of interest in any activity, a vet check may be in order.


7. Do the slow switch method.

Some dogs just need more time to adjust to raw food diet especially after being so used to a different type of food for a long time. To help a smooth transisition, you may like to mix some of the old diet in with the new diet, and gradually increase the proportion of the new diet, until the new diet is fed exclusively. This method has the extra benefit of reducing the incidence of upset tummies as a result of a diet change.


Introducing the raw food diet to your dog isn’t always as easy as just giving him raw meaty bones to munch on. There are a lot of things to consider, especially if your dog is the sensitive/picky eater type.

To learn more about switching raw, be sure to check out Maggie Rhines’ Rawr! Dog Lover’s Compendium.

(Thank-you, Maggie, for your article ‘Why is it important for a dog to undergo detoxification before switching to raw?‘, in which a reciprocal link was provided. Thanks!)


How to Reduce Your Dog’s Weight

A dog in ideal condition will have a thin layer of fat on their ribs. Dogs that are a healthy weight should have their ribs easily felt with minimal pressure on their sides, but not seen. When viewed from the side, these dogs have a ‘tuck up’, and when viewed from above, they have an obvious waist.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier crossbreed on scales

Photos © Ruthless Photos

Overweight dogs will have a thicker layer of fat over their ribs. To feel an overweight dog’s ribs, the dog’s sides must be pressed. When viewed from the side and above, these dogs look more like a ‘block’, with no tuck or waist.

Some breeds may have characteristics that make it difficult to judge the condition of the dog, but these general guidelines are applicable for most breeds. For purebreds, there are specifications for the correct weight, but these too are only guidelines, and some individuals dogs may be small or large for the breed, and so may have different ideal weights.

Canine obesity is a serious health concern. Overweight dogs, in general, die earlier than dogs of appropriate weights. This is because being overweight puts more stress on an animal’s internal systems and organs (such as their heart, lungs, liver and kidneys). This leaves overweight animals more likely to develop cardiac disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, and respiratory problems.

Obese animals are also at a greater risk of cancer, anal gland problems, constipation, diabetes, intestinal gas, stroke, skin problems, and an impaired immune system in general. Additional weight can cause and exacerbate health problems, such as arthritis and joint problems, including spinal disc issues. Overweight animals generally tolerate the heat less, have difficulty exercising, and are more likely to injure themselves when they do exercise.

If you believe your dog is overweight, it is important to check with your vet before making considerable changes to your dog’s diet or exercise regime.  There are some medical problems that may cause your dog to be overweight.

If you want to reduce your dog’s weight, there are a number of strategies that could be utilised. Continue reading