Monday, January 19, 2009

25F Prioritizing the Allergen Scent Training

We recently had a question about training a dog to recognize one allergen in many substances. For example, the trainer had started with bread as the allergen, then switched to flour, but the dog could not recognize the component of flour found in the bread. That is because you want to start with the pure allergen first, then dilute it in other foods later. (wheat, flour then bread)

Start Scent Training with the Pure Raw Allergen:
When selecting what to train the dog to recognize and indicate an allergen, we must start with the pure allergen and all its parts.

For example: Wheat
Whole wheat seeds (of different common and uncommon varieties -Duram, White, Winter and Spring)
Cracked wheat
Wheat bran
Wheat germ
Unbleached wheat flour (ground endosperm)
Puffed wheat
(this list is not an exhaustive list)

Mild Processing:
Next present pure allergens (above) that have been cooked or processed and train until the dog is consistently recognizing and indicating them.
Fermenting (malt, beer, wine) etc. 

This may change the proteins in them and may alter the smell so it is different enough that the dog may not recognize them.

As a Common Component in Different Foods:
Next, we would start to train foods with other things added. The amount of allergen in each food varies and the dog learns to ignore other scents associated with the other foods. Ideally, choose foods that have a decreasing amount of allergen in them so the dog learns to detect smaller and smaller amounts. (This is not an exhaustive list.)

Whole wheat bread
White bread
Bran muffins
Noodles (pasta)
Home-cooked cereals (that contain multiple grains like oat, corn, rice and wheat)
Processed cereals (that contain multiple grains)
Non-wheat cooked foods topped with cracked wheat, wheat germ, flour etc.

As a Common Additive to Edible Products (check the ingredient list to ensure there is wheat in these products)
Next, train other materials that contain smaller and smaller amounts of wheat.
Some examples include: (This is not an exhaustive list-do your research to identify foods that may contain wheat, especially if you or your client has anaphylactic allergies)

Soybean, rice and potato flours that contain wheat
Instant hot chocolate mix
Commercial frosting
Graham crackers
Salad dressing
Breaded meats
Hot dogs, sausages and the like
Cottage cheese
Cream soups
Soy sauce
Canned soups
Imitation and processed cheese

Other Types of Allergic reactions:
If the person has inhalant allergies (and the resulting reaction is hay fever, asthma, anaphylaxis etc), then the following need to be trained (again using wheat as the example allergen).

Wheat pollen (of the various types of wheats-in case the person travels to other areas)
Wheat plant stalks and leaves
Wheat plant dust (small bits from all parts of the plant)

Allergens may also be found in other non-food products and may trigger allergic reactions when applied topically:
Hand and body lotions
Hair products

An additional consideration about grains and peanuts: For some people, the moulds that grow on the coating of the grain or peanut is the allegen, not the actual protein in the wheat.  In this case, train the raw seed with the seed coat intact without any processing (as in whole wheat bread).

Using any of this information is AT YOUR OWN RISK. Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs and its volunteers accept no responsibility for its use.