There are a lot of good reasons to own a dog. They make great companions, have surprising health benefits, and can help with depression and other mental illnesses. Now, some extremely talented pups are being used to help their humans in a unique way: by sniffing out gluten.
These dogs are trained to help a few of the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, reports TODAY. The autoimmune disorder causes people to be intolerant of gluten—a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease affects each individual differently. For some, symptoms may occur in the digestive system (particularly the small intestines) while others may notice abnormalities in other parts of the body. (Related: The Weird Thing That Could Make You More Likely to Have Celiac Disease)
For 13-year-old Evelyn Lapadat, the disease causes joint pain, stiffness, and fatigue that starts after she consumes even the smallest amount of gluten, she told TODAY. Even after making extreme changes to her diet, she continued to get sick—until her furry friend Zeus came into her life.
Now, the Australian shepherd accompanies Evelyn to school and sniffs her hands and food to make sure everything is gluten-free. By raising his paw, he cautions that whatever she's about to eat isn't safe. And by turning his head, he signals that everything is okay. (Related: #SquatYourDog Is the Cutest Workout Trend to Take Over Instagram)
"I haven't gotten sick in a really long time and it's like a really big relief," Evelyn said. Her mom, Wendy Lapadat, added, "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."
As of right now, there aren't any national guidelines for training gluten-detecting dogs, but the potential of having such an awesome tool at your disposal is pretty exciting.