How our Pet Guinea Pig Helped our Daughter Understand her Allergies

Processing the feelings associated with having food allergies can be difficult for a young child. So I want to share something that has been a big emotional support for our daughter. Back when our daughter was 3, she really struggled with having different foods than my husband and I. Our daughter’s safe foods are very hard to source, and it’s not possible to get enough to feed our whole family her foods. Alhrough we do sometimes share a treat like freeze dried fruit. We spent a lot of time researching animals and diets, to make sure we could find a pet to feed without making our daughter sick. Fortunately despite her many food and environmental allergies, she doesn’t have any animal allergies.

picture of a girl feeding a Guinea Pig

Eventually we got a Guinea Pig, and it ate our daughter’s safe fruits and vegetables, plus hay, and pellets free of all her allergens. We had conversations many times a day about what was safe and not safe for a Guinea Pig to eat. We talked about keeping the Guinea Pig healthy, and making its tummy feel happy. It has been really helpful for our daughter to realize she can share some foods with the Guinea Pig, but others safe foods for our daughter, like meat and nuts, would hurt it. And the Guinea Pig eats grass and hay, but that is bad for people to eat.We talked about the foods our daughter and the Guinea Pig could both eat, and encouraged our daughter to feed her those foods often. Having to respect the food restrictions for a pet has helped our daughter with the idea that we are helping her by not sharing foods with our daughter that make her feel bad.  Within a month of getting our Guinea Pig, our daughter stopped asking to eat our food. Getting a pet was the most helpful thing we have ever done for helping deal with the emotional aspect of FPIES.

Even though we settled on a Guinea Pig, this same lesson could work with any pet. Each species has its own dietary requirements. Having a daily, ongoing conversation about dietary needs, cross contamination, and keeping everyone’s body healthy really helps the lessons sink in. Do any of you have a pet? Comment below what kind of pet you have, and if it’s been helpful to your family.