Peanut Detecting Dogs
Veterinarian Reviewed on July 1, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Ironically, it is the most common food allergy in America, but also the most commonly used food item as well. Of all the different types of food allergies, peanuts and tree nuts are most likely to cause severe allergic reactions, such as hives, stomach cramps, vomiting and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Treatment for peanut allergies includes antihistamines and epinephrine injections to help prevent anaphylactic shock. Most adults spend their lives trying to avoid any type of nut, but children, on the other hand, have a harder time at distinguishing was food contains traces of peanuts and which is safe to eat.
For most of their children’s lives, worried parents have worked hard to keep trace amounts of peanuts away from their allergic children, such as planning peanut-free parties at home, avoiding social gatherings, reading product labels, and changing family’s lifestyle so that peanuts can be avoided at all cost.
However, things are starting to look up for children who are allergic to peanuts: Peanut Detecting Dogs.
These dogs have become valuable assets for children who are allergic to peanuts. Reason being is that a dog’s sense of smell is far greater than that of human beings and so they are able to sniff out peanut products and residue that humans would not be able to smell at all. In fact, dogs actually have 45 times the number of olfactory receptors that humans have, which permits them to be able to smell one thousand times better than a human.
Most breeds of dogs, including mixed breeds, can be used as peanut detectors, although the most commonly used breeds are German Shepherds, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. Poodles are preferred by people and children who are also highly allergic to pet dander as they do not shed and are comparatively dander free.
Dogs that are trained as Peanut Detectors usually go through extensive training. The end result, however, is that these are dogs can easily detect minuscule amounts of peanuts of any type or form, such as raw peanuts, cooked peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter, and dust residue from peanuts. They can even tell the difference between a McDonald’s chicken nugget and a Chick-Fil-A chicken nugget that was cooked in peanut oil!
Dogs are carefully selected, and then tested and screened for temperament and characteristics that would help them to be both a working dog and a family companion.
Such dogs have already proved their worth over and over again with their diligent devotion to preventing their owner’s contact with peanut residue and thereby, a severe allergic reaction.
Director of Training and the owner of Southern Star Ranch Boarding Kennel in Florence, Texas, Sharon Perry, has already trained quite a few dogs to sniff out peanuts and peanut residue.
Perry searches all of the animal shelters in the Dallas, Texas, area to find what she deems to be the perfect prodigy pup. More specifically, Perry is looking for dogs that are “wild, crazy and want to play ball ’til hell freezes over, maybe a little longer,” she says.
Once found, Perry takes them back to her kennel for six months of intense training. Perry’s peanut dogs are also trained to be very gentle, loving, and trustworthy who will be a devoted companion to their new families.
The dogs are trained to discreetly scan guests who come to your home for any residual peanut odor, as well as sniffing library books, groceries and any other object or product that is being brought into your home for peanuts, peanut residue or peanut odor in order to reduce the chance of an allergic reaction. Since these dogs are also deemed as Medical Companion Dogs, they are allowed to accompany the children in public places where they will sniff out the environment, food and even friends to determine if the area is peanut free.
The total cost of finding, caring for, and training a dog to detect peanuts is $9,995, plus the traveling expenses of the prospective family to do additional training for two weeks.
Karen Gensel, brought Remy, one of Perry’s trained dog’s, home for her son, Billy. Remy has proved his worth for Billy, with Gensel saying:
“… to know there is an added level of security, a layer of protection that I could provide in no other way, has endowed a confidence in both my son and myself that I never knew we could experience.”
Photo Credit: EuroMagic
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan