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Pet foods can trigger human allergies

Q: Our toddler has multiple food allergies. When he developed a skin rash, facial swelling and wheezing soon after our dog licked him, it didn't surprise us that he might also be allergic to dogs. The thought of finding our dog a new home tore my heart to pieces because she and I shared our lives long before my husband or son joined the family.

Our veterinarian saved the day by recommending we feed our dog a prescription food made from only those ingredients that didn’t trigger our son’s allergies. After we started the new food, our son no longer showed signs of being allergic to our dog. If you tell your readers about this, they too may be able to keep pets they might otherwise have to give up.

A: Food allergies afflict 15 million Americans, including five percent of children, and they cause 150 deaths every year. These eight allergens are responsible for 90 percent of human food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat.

In a recent study, researchers found that 86 percent of pet foods contained at least one of the major human allergens, and 42 percent contained at least two.

This may present problems for family members with food allergies. Many curious toddlers taste their pets' foods, and most enjoy kisses from their dogs while food particles cling to the tongue and hair around the dog’s mouth.

Moreover, an allergen may be present in pet food as an ingredient whose name is unfamiliar. For example, whey and casein contain milk. 

Ingredient lists also can surprise you. For instance, milk is present in some dog foods and human foods fed to dogs, including hot dogs and lunch meat.

Readers who want to help address this problem can contact their pets’ food manufacturers and ask them to list major allergens on the label.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

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