Published in Benchmarks, Fall 1999
I'm frequently asked about what to feed Wheatens. If a dog is sick, often we prescribe a special diet. Depending on the illness, the selected diet might be hypoallergenic, low in fat, low in protein, or combinations of these variables. But if a Wheaten is healthy, is there a preferred diet? Well, that question opens a can of worms. Part of me feels that if they need glasses, let them wear glasses. "Glasses" might be a hypoallergenic diet. BUT (and it's a big but) we aren't sure that food allergies contribute to PLE/PLN — we're only guessing. If we protect an individual from showing its sensitivities, we may be ultimately hurting the breed as a whole. Animals that might otherwise have shown abnormalities in screening tests (blood, urine, and/or fecal tests) might go unrecognized, and therefore be bred more. Animals included in our DNA bank might be wrongly considered unaffected. You see where I'm going.
For now, my recommendation is to feed healthy Wheatens normal, unselected diets, and to have dogs screened annually for evidence of abnormal intestinal permeability by the Fecal Alpha-1-Protease Inhibitor test, and for abnormalities in the blood (albumin, globulin, creatinine, etc.) and urine (urinalysis, urine protein/creatinine ratio). If abnormalities are noted, let Shelly Vaden or me see the results and help you and your veterinarian determine if further testing is necessary, or if it is time to start a special diet or medications. And of course, let's let each other know about affected animals, both for the Open Registry, and for the DNA bank.