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Anaphylactic Allergies: Can I train my own allergen detection dog?

Did you know that even some folks with anaphylactic allergies train their own service dogs?

While it may seem scary, with the right precautions, it is definitely possible!

Today we have Delta Tails' lovely assistant, Lauren Storm writing about her experience with training a gluten detection dog while also being anaphylactic to wheat and gluten!

Take it away, Lauren!

Hi! I'm Lauren Storm, and along with being a professional trainer, I have also worked with Delta Tails to train my own gluten detection dog. I have both celiac disease and anaphylaxis to wheat and gluten, so it looked a little bit different for me!

I’ve personally had some very expensive detours to the emergency room - even once in a foreign country.

 

I have a combo of an autoimmune disease called celiac disease and anaphylactic allergies. Celiac disease means you can not eat gluten because it damages your small intestine. But my body has taken it a step further, and I have an anaphylactic allergic reaction to wheat as well as gluten. This means my face and throat swell to a point where I can no longer breathe. 

It's terrifying.

The tricky part is that gluten and wheat are the glitter of the food world.

They are EVERYWHERE.

Think about anything with bread or crackers, your favorite cereal, and oat milk. They ALL have gluten and wheat! Even sunscreen and lip balms can have pesky gluten.

If you’ve ever spilled glitter in your house you know it's pretty hard to avoid.

That's where detection dogs come in. 

That's right - a dog can help you avoid being twins with Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

There’s one small catch.

The thing you are most allergic to has to be brought inside your house (if you are training a dog yourself, that is).

For most gluten detection dogs for Celiac handlers, there are some precautions when training. But if you have anaphylactic allergies - you're going to want a hazmat team.

There is a way to train a detection dog safely when you are anaphylactic, but oh my do the first few sessions feel like a horror movie.

Here is how we keep safe when training Milo to detect gluten for me.

  • My spouse prepares all the tins and gluten outside or in our basement.
  • We keep the testing items double bagged in storage.
  • During the training session, I wear a KN-95 mask, gloves, long sleeves, and socks to prevent any contact.
  • I wash my hands before and after every session thoroughly.
  • In case of an emergency, we keep an epipen out on the table.
  • Our trainer, Blythe, has my emergency contacts saved and on speed dial.
  • There is a button for my service dog to call 911 if all else fails.

Now for the million dollar question - is it really worth the risk?

My family frequently asked the same question, but we learned quickly just how much dogs can detect!

We started the scariest project of my life and within three months, my service dog made his first save - he alerted me to a straw at a fair.

My entire family's faces looked like they saw a ghost.

We were shocked and so relieved.

While the toxic glitter was a nightmare to me - it was becoming an endless fun game to my dog. 

Since I'm anaphylactic, my dog is able to check surfaces as well as the typical foods and packages a regular detection dog is trained for.  Since we started a year ago, he's caught gluten on hospital sheets, our pet dog, food we thought was gluten free, packages in the mail, and so much more. 

Before I trained Milo, I was using my epi pens (and ending up in the ER) multiple times a month.

Since training him and beginning this work with Blythe, I have had one ER trip in 6 months.

That makes the precautions, the nervousness, the fear, and the hard work totally worth it.

If you struggle with an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen and think you would benefit from a service dog like Milo, you can learn more by reading this post on whether a detection dog is right for you.

I can't wait to meet you!

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