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Can Dogs Detect Corn Allergens?

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We all know that dogs’ incredible powers of scent can aid in detecting everything from drugs to low blood sugar. Recently at a Dallas hospital, dogs were used to identify and alert to a different danger: corn.

Corn allergies–one that can be triggered by allergens in products you’d never suspect–can be so severe that even coming in contact with the air could cause an anaphylactic reaction, a serious, life-threatening allergic response that makes it hard or impossible to breathe–or even to proceed with a routine surgery.

This was Wendi Porter’s concern. The North Texas resident needed knee replacement surgery but has a severe corn allergy.

Sniffing Out Corn

“I felt like nobody understood how serious my reaction to corn was until I connected with the care team at Texas Health Flower Mound,” said Wendi Porter, 49. “They listened and addressed all my concerns before the procedure.”

Porter’s two service dogs helped. The pharmacy established a control test with the dog sniffing a plain gauze product that was confirmed to have no corn products.

The hospital then set about minimizing Porter’s exposure to corn allergens.

Deana Carter, B.S.N., R.N., orthopedic program coordinator at Texas Health Flower Mound organized multiple departments. Employees from the OR, Supply Chain, Environmental Cleaning Services, Nutrition, Anesthesia, Nursing and the Pharmacy Department participated in the planning that took three weeks.

“We discovered that a lot of medications and other products such as hand sanitizer and detergent contained corn products,” said Carter. “We also looked for the safest isolated room to keep Porter away from break rooms.”

The Pharmacy team researched each medication that Porter’s physicians expected to use, looking at literature and product details.

“The hospital implemented a strict procedure to test common hospital medications for corn products before anything took place,” said Gurbinder Jassar, PharmD, director of pharmacy at Texas Health Flower Mound.

Porter’s service dogs then checked products; Porter had both knees replaced with no complications in September and December of 2022.

“Having people acknowledge the seriousness of this allergy is difficult but the care team really went the extra mile and even further than I expected,” said Porter.

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Photo source: Texas Health Resources

Paris Permenter
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