When your peanut allergy is life-threatening

You’ll never forget the first time you met your dog. Those doe eyes. That wagging tail. You wanted to pick him up and take him home right then and there. You love your dog more than anything, but there’s something holding you back from truly enjoying your time spent together. Maybe he barks in the middle of the night. Maybe he likes to chew your shoes. Maybe you think he’ll never learn to walk on a leash. Or maybe – just maybe – you’re worried about your peanut allergy.

 

Possible medical emergency

When I held Gus, a Lhasa Apso with an attitude, in my arms I knew he was the one for me. I just didn’t know that owning the lovable little scamp would bring a host of new challenges to my door.

You see, food allergies aren’t just about putting something directly in your mouth. You know not to eat that peanut butter sandwich or candy bar, but you don’t think about what your dog might encounter every day. He could easily eat something with peanuts in it and promptly lick you in the middle of playing, leading to a possible medical emergency.

6 tips to keep in mind

Since I adopted my boy four years ago, I’ve learned what I should and shouldn’t do to keep my health in check. If you have a peanut or other food allergy, these tips should help.

  1. Talk to your vet. When I took my dog to his first appointment, I noticed a sign on the wall that warned people about their use of peanut butter to keep dogs calm. If I hadn’t seen that sign, there could’ve been big problems. Let your vet know about your allergy. It only takes a few seconds, and you’ll feel better in the long run. Ask them to use other incentives or offer to bring a treat from home.
  2. Come to the dog park prepared. Check around for anything in the area that your dog could swallow. There could be a treat left behind by another dog, something he could choke on or something that could make him sick.
  3. Talk to your neighbours. Believe it or not, I’ve had complete strangers come up and hand snacks to my dog. Sometimes I don’t find out about it until he’s already chowing down and the person is walking away. This is scary enough when you don’t have any allergies, but especially if you’ve never seen the person before and they don’t know you. If they like to dote on animals, ask your neighbours not to feed your dog without your permission. If they value your friendship and health, they should stop their bad habits.
  4. Read ingredients religiously. I can’t stress this enough. You never really know where peanuts will show up. Even something you’d never associate with peanuts in a million years might have some peanuts in it in some form. I don’t say this to frighten you, but to help you stay on top of things. You’ll probably miss out on a lot of cool things (dog birthday cakes tend to be peanut-flavoured, for example), but there’s no law that says you can’t make something at home.
  5. Discuss your allergy with your pet sitter. Even if you’ve only hired a sitter to check on your dog while you’re at work, make it clear that they shouldn’t bring any treats from home. Some dog sitters only show up to take pets for a walk or refill the water bowl, while others are more involved. To ensure they understand, talk to them in person or write a detailed note that they can read each time they enter the house. Leave the note where they’ll see it.
  6. Make your own treats at home. This might seem a little crazy to some, but baking delicious treats for your dog in your own kitchen takes the frustration out of trying to find something suitable at the store. You can save money, too, and relax knowing the treats are safe for your dog to eat around you. It might take some experimenting before you find something he likes, but it’s worth it in the long run. Check online for recipes or invest in a good cookbook or two. Bone-shaped or holiday-themed cookie cutters making baking more fun, so try them out!

 

Worthwhile challenges

Adopting a dog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – but it does come with challenges. When you have a peanut allergy, you have more to worry about. You come across more hurdles, especially from people who don’t take food allergies seriously (or don’t understand how they work). That doesn’t mean you should never open your heart to a furry best friend. If you have a dog or think you might want one in the near future, I hope these tips will give you the freedom to love your pet.

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