Darwin’s Dogs lends a paw to food allergy research

PUBLISHED ON June 25, 2017 by linda boettger

Do you, a friend or a relative have a food allergy? The prevalence of food allergy is growing rapidly, particularly among children. Today, 1 in every 13 people under the age of 18 are affected by food allergies, with symptoms ranging from an itchy mouth to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Researchers have been left scrambling to understand the causes and how best to treat this deadly disease.

As many dog owners know, dogs also suffer from food allergies. Darwin’s Dogs has started an exciting new collaboration with the Food Allergy Science Initiative at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to understand the underlying causes of food allergies and to discover new treatments.

Any dog that is part of Darwin’s Dogs can also be part of this new project.* All we need is for you to login to your account and fill out a few new surveys about your dog’s eating habits. Even if your dog shows no signs of a food allergy, we still need their help. Every dog is important!

In people, and in dogs, developing an allergy to food has a lot to do with your genes, but we don’t know which genes matter. Despite years of work, genetic studies in people haven’t given us many conclusive results. This is where Darwin’s Dogs can help out! Just like people, dogs are diagnosed with food allergies. Even when eating hypoallergenic diets, they might still encounter foods they are allergic to and get sick. If we can find genes involved in food allergy in dogs, we can investigate whether these same genes contribute to food allergies in people.

dog eating

Food allergies aren’t just caused by genetics. The lack of exposure to certain foods at a young age, excessive cleanliness, and even light levels may play roles in food allergy, but the connections are not well understood. Pet dogs share our food and live with us in our homes, and might be able to help us figure out how environment contributes to allergies.

Please visit our website and fill out our new food allergy surveys. We’ll then include your dog’s genetic profile in both our food allergy and behavior studies.

*Dogs entered into the allergy study will be funded through existing initiative grants, and so may be sequenced sooner than those awaiting our Darwin’s Dogs funds.

Want to talk with other people about this story? Post about it on the Darwin's Ark's forums!