The good folks at Purina animal feeds have come out with an amazing new product—a real service to the cat community—in the form of a dry cat food that significantly neutralizes the “Fel d 1” protein which is the primary cause of allergic reactions to the cat in humans. It takes two to make an allergy; in this case a protein in the cat’s saliva and a human who has a sensitivity to this protein and already has a load of other allergens assailing them.
Being “allergic to cats” affects approximately one in five adults worldwide. And in the United States, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about three in 10 people experience allergic reactions to dogs. It is a major reason for animals being turned into animal shelters or showing up on Craig’s List; however, many dedicated pet lovers choose to suffer with their allergies rather than dispose of their animal buddies.
There is a huge amount of misinformation floating around which can result in tragic disappointment for pet owners. Perhaps the most persistent and pernicious misinformation, and sadly one used far too often by puppy mills and unscrupulous breeders who don’t care what type of heartbreak they ultimately cause pet buyer and pet, is that some breeds of dogs or cats are “hypoallergenic” and won’t cause an allergic reaction in humans. This misinformation is based on the idea that the animal’s fur, hair, lack of it, or how it sheds or doesn’t shed, results in making the dog or cat “hypoallergenic.” Poodles and their mixes (the ‘Doodles’) are usually the dog put forth as being “non-shedding” and therefore “hypoallergenic.” In fact, the entire poodle mix “doodle” craze was built on this myth and is shamelessly used as a marketing tactic by unscrupulous breeders. And while a poodle will definitely leave less hair on the carpet than a Labrador or a husky, the fact is, a dog or cat’s hair has little to nothing to do with the human allergic reaction.
Many scientific organizations and medical journals have debunked the notion of hypoallergenic animals, and yet the myth goes on. Just google “The Myth of Hypoallergenic Pets” and literally pages of scientific reports and statements concerning the falseness of this claim will pop up. In the Journal of Allergy Clinical Immunology (2012 Oct.), researchers published findings regarding their observations. Quoting from their report: “Certain dog breeds are described and marketed as being ‘hypoallergenic’ on the basis of anecdotal reports that [certain breeds] are better tolerated by patients allergic to dogs.” The scientists collected hair and coat samples from dogs, from hair settled on the floor, and took airborne dust samples from the study dogs’ homes.
The results? Significantly higher levels of the canine allergen protein Can f 1 were found in hair and coat samples of so called “hypoallergenic” dogs than of dogs considered non hypoallergenic. And while Can f 1 levels on the floor were lower for “Labradoodles” there was no difference between breeds for airborne levels. The scientific conclusion? “There is no evidence for the classification of certain dog breeds as being ‘hypoallergenic.’”
What causes an allergic reaction in some humans when in the presence of a cat or dog? The culprit is a protein called Fel d 1 in cats and Can f 1 in dogs. Studies in cats show that the production of Fel d 1 can vary widely among individuals and also fluctuate throughout the life of the animal. Studies have shown that male cats produce three to five times less of the protein after neutering.
In order to understand why Purina’s new dry cat food works, it is important to understand how the protein Fel d 1 gets from the cat to the environment where it then affects humans. The protein is produced primarily in the salivary glands, sebaceous glands, and to a much lesser extent in the lacrimal and anal glands. When cats groom, they spread their saliva and sebaceous oils throughout their coat where it can come into contact with people and can also drop to the floor or attach to a particle or dander and float through the air. Bathing a cat has a negligible impact, as studies show the protein levels return to baseline within 24 hours.
Purina researchers worked to produce a product that would not affect a cat’s ability to produce the protein as its biological function is unknown at this time. Here is where it gets highly technical, and for those interested in the science, I suggest you take a look at the reports available online from Purina. Suffice it to say that the protein has to undergo “polyclonal binding to neutralize Fel d 1’s allergenicity.” It involves the use of eggs from chickens exposed to Fel d 1. Amazing stuff.
The new Purina food neutralizes Fel d 1 at its source—in the cat’s mouth (saliva). With cats fed “free choice” (food always present), Fel d 1 levels “significantly” reduced starting week three of feeding. The reduction ranged from 31 to 77 percent with an average of 47.45 percent reduction.
The Purina article, found by Googling “purina pro-plan liveclear cat allergen reducing food,” has an interesting explanation as to why it is not necessary to reduce the protein’s level by 100 percent in order to give relief to humans who suffer from pet allergies.
With the good news comes a little bad—the price. The food is not cheap, and considering what Purina has to go through to produce it, it is understandable. A 3.5 pound bag will cost you about $25. But for thousands suffering to keep their pet, and for those pets doomed to be sold to unsuspecting buyers thinking their “wonder dog or cat” won’t cause them to have an allergic reaction who are then displaced due to the reality of the situation, this product could really be a boon.
So please, spread the word. Please stop the cruel hoax of the “hypoallergenic” pet by spreading correct information as to the causes and cures of pet caused allergies.