By Kristen Chandler
Most everyone in the food allergy community is aware that there are many uncommon but not unheard of allergies in addition to “the top eight.” We also know there are many hidden sources of allergens. Some foods that most people would not consider allergenic do contain allergens. Many food allergens can also be found in non-food sources such as shampoos, lotions, soaps, medications and supplements. But another hidden source of allergens most people wouldn’t consider is dog food.
Before you start laughing, I’m not suggesting that anyone’s child eats dog food. A more likely scenario would be that the dog eats the dog food containing allergens, then licks the child who is allergic to something in the food and a contact reaction occurs. Dog food and treats may contain allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, meat and milk.
When my son was younger, in addition to his food allergies he was also allergic to dogs and cats. He outgrew the dog allergy but not the allergy to cats. One day, he was playing with a neighbor’s dogs, petting them and letting them lick him, and he was fine. He didn’t exhibit the symptoms of allergic asthma like he had when he was around dogs when he was younger. However, a couple of weeks later, when he was playing with a different dog, the dog licked him and he broke out into hives in the very spot the dog had licked. When I mentioned both incidents to his allergist, the doctor said there must have been something in the dog’s saliva that caused my son to have a reaction. Now, I was still learning to navigate my way through food allergies and never considered the fact that the dog may have eaten something containing allergens and that was why he’d had a reaction.
Anaphylactic reactions are rare in these cases. Since the dog usually licks external skin, a contact reaction (hives or welts) is normally what happens. It is unknown how long allergens can remain in a dog’s saliva, but they can remain in human saliva for a few hours. Around 5 to 16 percent of people who have food allergies have reported experiencing an allergic reaction after kissing someone. If the dog had eaten something containing allergens, then licked the child on or inside of the mouth or nose, a more serious reaction could occur.
Does this mean children who have food allergies should avoid dogs completely? Not necessarily. If you have a dog, you should check the labels on their dog food just like you do the food that you buy for your family. If you don’t have a dog but your allergic child encounters one, just use caution. Most importantly, keep your child informed. Let them know to be careful around other people’s dogs and to try not to let the dog lick them. Most importantly, explain to them why they need to be careful.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you heard of or experienced a similar situation? We would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below!