Because pet food, pet treats, and flavored pet toys can contain allergens, it’s necessary to consider how your food allergic child might come into contact with them.
Pre-school children are particularly susceptible to pet food allergens since they naturally put fingers or objects into their mouth multiple times per hour. They may directly ingest bits of animal food found on the floor, or taste test a pet’s favorite toy.
Allergic individuals might also react to the saliva of animals that have ingested allergen containing foods. For instance, if a dog has eaten peanut butter its friendly lick or wet kisses could cause a skin rash, or even a severer reaction, in someone allergic to peanuts. Reactions to animal saliva are rare, but have been reported.
Fortunately, the same common sense strategies we use to avoid people food allergens work equally well for avoiding pet food allergens.
Avoiding Pet Food Allergens
The most obvious way to eliminate a pet food reaction in the home is making sure your pet’s meals, treats, and toys do not contain the allergens you are concerned with. However, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) does not require that allergens are listed on pet food labels. To be certain a product is allergen free you may have to call the manufacturer.
Dairy, wheat, and soy are frequent ingredients in pet cuisines; less frequent but still common is peanut, egg, fish, and shellfish. However, any food allergen might be found in a pet product, and this is true not only for cat and canine fare. Allergens may be in foods for rodents, fish, birds, and reptiles, or any other critter that becomes a cherished part of your family.
Other avoidance tactics include strategically placed pet food dishes, feeding pets meals and treats in a single designated area, having family members wash their hands after feeding pets, and asking friends or family not to bring unapproved pet treats or toys into the house.
Outside the Home
Naturally, not all animal contact that children have is in the home.
Kids encounter animals in their neighborhood, parks, petting zoos, other’s homes, and at day care, or in school. However, the risk of food allergen exposure from animal contact outside the home is low, and hand washing (or using wipes) after playing with, or feeding animals sets the risk even lower.
The benefit of companionship with animals far outweighs the risk of pet food allergen exposure, for nearly all kids, when common sense precautions are applied—but allergy reactions are invariably a surprise. Those with auto-injectors should always keep one or two handy.