Gluten sensitivity in a naturally occurring enteropathy of Irish setter dogs, and the effects of excluding dietary cereal from birth on the subsequent response to gluten challenge were investigated. Peroral jejunal biopsy specimens were obtained at 1 year of age for morphometric and biochemical examinations, and intestinal permeability was assessed using 51Cr-ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. Affected setters, reared on a normal wheat containing diet, exhibited partial villus atrophy, intraepithelial lymphocyte infiltration, reduced brush border alkaline phosphatase activity, and increased intestinal permeability. Gluten sensitivity was shown by introduction of a gluten free diet, which resulted in resolution of morphological and biochemical abnormalities and decreased intestinal permeability, and subsequent gluten challenge, which resulted in relapse. In contrast, littermates reared exclusively on a cereal free diet showed minimal changes when challenged with gluten, apart from intraepithelial lymphocyte infiltration. These findings document a gluten sensitive enteropathy in Irish setters and indicate that exclusion of dietary cereal from birth may modify subsequent expression of the disease.
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