Who can ever resist a doggy story? Well, not many of us so, when you combine a dog with a feel good allergy story, you are away!

We first tracked down allergen-detector dogs back in 2006 when we discovered PeanutDogs.com run by Sharon Perry at the Southern Star Ranch Boarding Kennels in Texas. Sharon trains her dogs not only to sniff for peanuts but for narcotics, for termites and for ‘accelerants’ thus helping fire departments and insurance companies to establish whether fire was a genuine accident or was arson.

Then we found  Bill Whitstine in Florida who runs Mold-dog.com, sniffing out sources of mould in your home; extremely useful for anyone suffering from a mould allergy. Bill says: ‘We have dogs trained all over the world, we have sold 11 bedbug detection dogs between Switzerland and France, none in the UK yet, but its really not that difficult. I travel to Europe once the dog is trained and teach the company the proper use, maintaining certification, etc.  Skype is a wonderful tool for us to use with the customers.  We also have dogs in Japan, Spain, all over Canada and also train dogs for food allergy detection such as peanuts, tree nuts, etc.’

Three years later, in 2009, we tracked down AngelServiceDogs in Colorado who sniff out a range of allergic substances – and they are certainly very much still in operation. Indeed you can see pictures of GeoDottyBrie and Molly all of whose families have started websites either to raise money to get their dogs, or to report on how they are getting on.

And now my colleague John Scott has sent me a cutting about gluten-sniffing dogs….  A report in the Lansing State Journal tells the story of super-sensitive celiac Dawn Scheu and her gluten-sniffing German short haired pointer, Willow.

In a former life Dawn had trained search and rescue dogs and when eating out became too hazardous for her to contemplate, she started to wonder whether a dog could be trained to sniff gluten. A fortunate meeting with FEMA-certified master dog trainer Kathryn Watters, and the acquisition of Willow, and she was up and running.

A year later Willow has transformed Dawn’s life and she and Kathryn have started Nosey Dog Detection Partners to train dogs not only to sniff out gluten, but sugar for diabetics. They are also training dogs to work with autistic clients and with those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Back in 2009 I could not find anyone in the UK offering similar training but I am glad to say that this evening’s trawl led me to Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes. Medical Detection Dogs not only train dogs to sniff out allergens but to warn of diabetic hypos, narcolepsy  attacks, Addisonian crises (which can cause severe pain seizure and lead to collapse), undiagnosed cancers and to find bedbugs before their eggs hatch and they attack!

Working my way on down the Google search options I also found the Georgia K9 Academy (in Ohio, as far as I can make out) who offer straight obedience  training but also train assistance and support dogs.  They specialise in ‘seizure detection companion’ dogs who can sense and warn of an oncoming seizure, and autistic companion dogs, but they also train ‘peanut dogs’.

For those more interested in the  bedbug issue –  and this most definitely includes commercial hotels chains etc –  Vermikil has another team of bedbug detecting dogs that you can hire.

No…. I think this investigation has gone far enough! I shall go and take refuge with my cats!



Way back in 1987, just as I was starting work on a major history of English food, my eighteen-month-old son, Jonathan, and his father were diagnosed with dairy intolerances. Back then the alternatives for those on dairy-free diets were few and far between and pretty unappealing so, after some months of experimentation, I launched Berrydales Special Ices, soya based ices which were dairy and additive free – and tasted delicious! While manufacturing the ices I started a newsletter, The Inside Story, about food allergy and food intolerance and, by 1995, it was a quarterly magazine circulating to over 35,000 health professionals. In 2000 The Inside Story, re-named Foods Matter, became a subscription magazine and now all of that information, and much, much more, is accessible on the Foods Matter, Coeliacs Matter and Skins Matter sites and on our two freefrom food sites, FreeFromFoodsMatter and FreeFromRecipesMatter. You can follow me on twitter @FoodsMatter or email me at michelle@foodsmatter.com And, of course, you can also follow the exciting growth of freefrom food by checking out our annual FreeFrom Food Awards celebrating the best and the newest in freefrom foods!

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