This is kind of off the top of my head, but I have been reading various articles related to gluten intolerance in pets and how grains are just as bad for them as they are for humans, yet I can't seem to find anyone specifically addressing how a pet's diet might play a role in human allergies to them.
My girlfriend has two cats that I have had allergy troubles with (I have always had allergies to cats and dogs), though my reaction to them seems to have diminished since I began eating Paleo three months ago. We have a 12' x 16' Florida room on the back of the house where they stay, but they do come inside occasionally. Up until recently I really had noticeable issues with them even if I never touched them, which I rarely did. Eating Paleo seems to have helped me with some of that, and in the meantime we've been sharing more table scraps while we research raw diet info for them. Our thought is to continue to get ourselves on track all the way first, with the idea to eventually shift them over to a diet that's more natural for them as well.
The common prescription for pet allergies is to simply avoid contact with the problematic animal(s), but I'm now curious to find out if removing commercial pet junk food and feeding them their natural diet might have any effect. Thinking about all of this and reading the ingredients on regular canned cat food has led me to an interesting line of questioning:
If a cat or dog eats commercial pet food containing wheat gluten and/or other grains, is there a possibility that it could be transferred through their dander as a grain-specific allergen to humans?
In other words, is it possible that gluten-sensitive individuals might react more to the dander of pets that consume wheat than to those which do not?
Could eliminating grains from our pet's diet be beneficial not only to them, but to us, especially those of us more sensitive to grains?
Is it possible that a pet allergy could even be a secondary indicator of gluten-sensitivity?
Could the pet allergies of an estimated 10-30% of people be linked to underlying grain and/or other food/chemical allergies which may be manifesting as secondary reactions to specific ingredients in neolithic pet food?
EDIT: Thanks for the answers so far, James, Jenny, Marie, Doug, Shah78. I am definitely asking about a connection between pet diet and pet dander and how it may cause an allergic reaction in people, but I'm specifically interested in those of us who may be more sensitive to wheat gluten than usual. In the post How Do You React to Gluten? many PH'ers noted how they react to various levels of gluten exposure and of course, the answers vary widely.
I know it's a stretch, but I'm basically just wondering if it is even possible to react to gluten through exposure to the dander from pets that eat it.
My Naturopath has cats that her husband used to be allergic to. Since switching the cats to a real food (basically Paleo for Cats) diet, her husband's allergies to their cats have disappeared. He is still allergic to other people's cats, but not his own Paleo cats. Interesting, no?
I really like your theory. Come over to our house and rub your face in our Paleo Cat's fur. (She actually has an amazingly pleasant smell, by the way!)...... Seriously find a paleo cat in your city and check out your theory. I'd bet 50-50, you are on to something. Where do you live?
Interesting theory. However, there are hypoallergenic breeds that don't cause problems in people with allergies. Presumably they're not eating raw/regular stuff. So while the theory is plausible, it would need to be tested. I assume the companies that breed the hypoallergenic ones wouldn't pay for that. :) You might get support from dog food companies, but I think they'd have a lot to lose if they make the dry corn/grain petfoods.
I would not be surprised if this is a serious factor in the allergy increase since our grandparents' generation. Seriously, does anyone on PH have a Grandparent over 70 who has allergies?
Anyway, as a raw feeder for 8 years, I can tell you that the process to convert your GF's cats to raw is much easier than dogs as they are true carnivores. You can check out RawPaws for info specific to cats if you are interested.
One of the things that is really interesting in the Raw Feeder community is the prevalence of dogs with "secondary" contamination issues. These dogs have allergies to meats raised on grains or soy. Obviously this can be difficult to diagnose as most people aren't feeding their dogs pastured meats, but once diagnosed many of the issues (vomiting, skin problems, etc.) disappear...overnight.
Just something to think about...and I wonder how many of us are dealing with similar issues.
I don't think it would be a factor in most pet allergies, as the real problem is in the fur/hair/dander of animals. There is also the concept of "hypoallergenic" dogs, which is really just a fancy way of labeling dogs/cats that are non-shedding and don't have the same hair. My "paleo kitty" hurts my dad just as much as my neighbors cat does- it doesn't really matter.
I currently subscribe to the hygiene hypothesis of allergies associated with IgE and the lack of exposure to parasitic worms allowing an inappropriate immune response to be developed. Improved hygiene and lower levels of parasites goes pretty hand-in-hand with the development of allergies, and preliminary studies have shown potential.
So, while your pet may be healthier as a result of an improved diet (freeze that meat first!), I'm not sure what effect it would have on your allergies if they are of a dander/hair variety. Probably none? But here's to trying!
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