I’m walking through the pet store with my dog’s leash tied around my waist. My hands are trapped in a bear hug around an enormous bag of kibble and I watch in horror as I realize that the woman who is reaching down to pet my dog with her right hand is holding an open bag of peanut butter treats in her left hand.
My heart is racing, I’m starting to sweat. All I can think to say is “Please don’t feed my dog!” It comes out as a quiet squeak. I’ve begun one of the full-blown panic attacks that I know all too well since my last anaphylactic reaction.
“Don’t worry,” she tells me, “I’ll just let him lick the flavor off my fingers. No treats today. Who’s a good boy?”
She has no idea that I am severely allergic to peanuts and I, unprepared for this possibility, am so deep in the shock of the moment that I can’t act quickly enough to stop this whole situation from happening. I mean I can deal with waiters, chefs, my friends and family, but I never thought to have a plan for walking my dog in public. My arms full, my throat tight, I feel suddenly powerless and terrified.
A few deep breaths and a short car ride later, my wife came to the rescue and cleaned the puppy’s mouth with poultry flavored toothpaste (which he LOVES by the way).
Ever since my most recent reaction, I have found myself to be on much more high alert, but this was a situation I was simply not aware of and was slow to react to. It was a wake up call to say the least.
Armed with a desire to be more proactive, my wife and I did some research about our puppy and my allergy. As new pet owners we had no idea that the pet store is actually an anaphylaxis mine field waiting for one wrong step to blow up in my face. Well mine field or not, we weren’t about to give up our beloved pooch, so we set out to arm ourselves with some knowledge and basic planning.
If you have a dog or other pet here are some of the pitfalls we have learned to avoid at the pet store:
- Treats and Toys: Many of the dog treats at our store are peanut safe but there are also many that use peanut butter as flavour. Some toys also use peanut butter flavors to promote licking and chewing of the toy. Just like our groceries we’ve learned to check the ingredients list every time.
- Toothpaste, Deodorant and Shampoo: Dogs love peanut butter. Like children their toothpaste is flavored to make sure they enjoy having their teeth brushed. So naturally the toothpaste made for dogs comes in flavors such as poultry, beef and peanut butter. Puppy shampoos and deodorant also use scents such as almond. We’ve learned to be careful about the hygiene products we buy because many have potential allergens.
- Groomers: Nothing is cuter than my dog fresh off of an all out pampering from our groomer (but OK maybe your puppy is cuter). But as much as I love the look, I was nervous to learn that our groomer uses all the same peanut flavored and almond scented products we have been avoiding in the store. On top of this, groomers will often use treats to encourage good behaviour and pacify excited dogs. We have made special arrangements for peanut-free toothpaste and almond-free shampoo. We have also asked the groomers not to use any treats. If that is not an option for you or your dog, then consider sending along your own treats for the groomer to use.
- Other Dog Lovers: I am constantly amazed by how many people desperately want to feed my dog. Something about cute, fuzzy animals makes us want to feed them. We have noticed that sometimes people won’t ask first; they just give our puppy a treat. Like the woman from my opening story. They aren’t aware that this could be dangerous for me. They just see a cute puppy and want to feed him. We have learned to carefully and politely discourage this.
These are the most common peanut/tree nut encounters I have with my dog but there have been many others. The reality is that I have to be aware of my allergy in every situation. Whether my dog is with me or not, a little bit of preparation and awareness will go a long way. Since learning a little bit about what to look for at the pet store I am now much more relaxed and easy going.