How To Test Allergies In Dogs

Here are some frequently asked questions about dog allergy testing that we’ve gotten from readers.

RAST (Blood) Testing

Your veterinarian may conduct RAST (or radioallergosorbent) blood tests if they think your dog has atopic dermatitis (inhalant allergy). There is no requirement for anesthetic or shaving the injection site. The body develops antibodies in reaction to environmental allergens like pollen or mold, and a RAST blood test checks for these antibodies. The likelihood that your dog has an allergy to a particular allergen increases with the number of antibodies. Dog allergy blood tests can be less accurate than skin tests, but they are thought to be safer because there is less chance that an injection site severe allergic reaction will occur. 1

Intradermal (Skin) Testing

This test, which is the “gold standard” for identifying the source of atopic dermatitis, involves injecting a tiny quantity of a suspected allergen just beneath the skin’s surface. The area is checked for a reaction at the site after about 20 minutes. To enable for the monitoring of the injection sites for a reaction, significant portions of your dog’s coat must be shaved. Intradermal testing has three points to consider: The test could be pricey, your dog will need to be put to sleep, only veterinary dermatologists can perform it, and they might not be available in your area. 2, 3, 4

How Much Is A Dog Allergy Test At A Vet’s Office?

Prices vary depending on your veterinarian and area, but generally speaking, you may anticipate to pay $200 on average for a skin test and $200-$300 for a blood test. If your dog needs a skin test, you could also have to pay for the anesthesia and the vet visit. The cost of sedation ranges between $50 and $100 for small dogs and $100 and $200 for large dogs.

Does Dog Insurance Cover Allergy Testing?

In most circumstances, the answer is yes; pet health insurance can assist pay for allergy testing for itchy skin and other issues, depending on the ailment or reason you’re receiving the test and the coverage information from your insurance carrier. Some pet insurance policies will pay for the allergy check and the entire vet appointment, but the extent of the coverage will depend on the insurance company and your particular policy. Reviewing the top pet insurance providers are our professionals.

How can I determine whether my dog has allergies?

Naturally, both humans and animals are susceptible to allergies, which are the result of the immune system’s mistaken response to foreign chemicals. Dogs can develop a variety of various allergies. Dogs and their owners face difficulties as a result of skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergens. To make matters more challenging, the symptoms of these many forms of allergies may also coexist.

Skin Allergies

The most typical type of allergic reactions in dogs is allergic dermatitis, which is short for allergic dermatitis. Skin allergies in dogs have three primary causes:

  • Allergic dermatitis to fleas
  • food intolerances
  • allergens in the environment

An allergic reaction to fleabites is called flea allergy dermatitis. Some dogs are sensitive to the saliva of fleas. Affected dogs experience severe itching as a result, especially at the base of their tails, and their skin may get red, swell, and scab over. Flea filth or other flea-related indicators may also be visible, as well as the actual fleas themselves.

Additionally, food allergies and sensitivities might result in itchy skin. Dogs with food allergies frequently experience itching in their ears and paws, which may be followed by gastrointestinal issues.

Environmental allergens like dust, pollen, and mold can result in atopic dermatitis or allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Since these allergies are typically seasonal, your dog may only itch at particular periods of the year. The paws and ears are typically impacted, just like with food allergies (but also include the wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes).

Secondary infections are possible with all types of skin allergies. Your dog runs the risk of exposing himself to bacterial and yeast infections that may need to be treated by scratching, biting, and licking at his skin.

Food Allergies

AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein believes that actual food allergies may not be as frequent as people believe. True food allergies cause an immunological reaction that might manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and/or diarrhea), skin issues (hives, face puffiness, itching), or both. Similar to severe peanut allergies in people, a severe reaction with anaphylaxis might occasionally occur.

What about all the dogs who consume certain hypoallergenic dog food diets, though?

When individuals claim their dog has a food allergy, they typically mean that their dog also has a food sensitivity, also referred to as a food intolerance. Contrary to real allergies, food sensitivities are a progressive response to an irritating element in your dog’s food, such as beef, poultry, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, or milk, and do not require an immunological response.

Food sensitivities in dogs can cause a variety of symptoms, such as gastrointestinal ones like vomiting and diarrhea or dermatological ones like itching, poor skin and coat, and recurrent ear or foot infections.

Working with your veterinarian to manage your dog’s symptoms and identify the item causing the response is the best way to identify and treat a food allergy.

Acute Allergic Reactions

An acute allergic reaction in a dog may be the most frightening of all allergy types. Dogs can get anaphylactic shock if they have a severe allergic reaction, just like humans can. If not addressed, this could be fatal.

Some dogs may experience an anaphylactic reaction in response to bee stings, vaccine reactions, and other things. For this reason, it is always advisable to closely monitor your dog after the administration of any new vaccine, medication, or food. Fortunately, dogs seldom experience anaphylactic reactions.

Additionally, as a reaction to an allergy, your dog could develop hives or face swelling. An antihistamine can be used by your veterinarian to treat swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyelids, or earflaps. Although it may appear dangerous, this condition is rarely deadly.

Do dog allergy tests pay off?

Dogs can get allergic to many different things. Read our article on the four typical dog allergies for more details. Veterinarians or veterinary dermatologists can diagnose environmental allergies quite effectively, however they are often less suitable for identifying food allergies.

Intradermal skin testing and blood allergy testing are the two different kinds of veterinary allergy tests. In intradermal skin testing, a veterinary dermatologist injects your dog with tiny amounts of suspected allergens (when the animal is asleep or anesthetized) and observes how the skin reacts. A sample of your dog’s blood is taken for blood allergy testing, and it is examined for reactivity to various allergens. However, neither of these tests should be used to identify food allergies in dogs who have atopy (allergies to inhaled substances or their environment).

How can I tell if my dog has food allergies?

One of the most prevalent allergies or hypersensitivities that can affect dogs is a food allergy. An allergic pet’s immune system overreacts and makes antibodies to substances that it normally would not. In a food allergy, antibodies are made against a specific food component, typically a protein or complex carbohydrate. Since an allergy must produce antibodies in order to develop, food allergies typically show up after repeated exposure to a single brand, kind, or form of food.

What are the clinical signs of food allergies in dogs?

The symptoms of a food allergy in a dog are typically hives on the skin, paws, or ears, as well as stomach issues like vomiting or diarrhea. There may also be other, more subtle changes, such as hyperactivity, weight loss, fatigue, and even hostility.

Are some ingredients more likely to cause allergies than others?

Proteins, particularly those derived from dairy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or wheat gluten, are the most typical food allergies in dogs. When a pet consumes food containing these ingredients, the antibodies interact with the antigens and cause symptoms. But almost any food element has the potential to cause an allergy. The most frequent offenders are proteins, but other elements and additives may also be at fault.

How is a food allergy diagnosed?

A food trial known as an elimination trial, which is fed for eight to twelve weeks, is the best and most accurate way to diagnose a food allergy. This particular diet cannot contain any items that your dog has consumed in the past if you want it to be a true elimination trial for it. Additionally, it mandates that no additional foods, treats, or supplements—including flavored vitamins and specific parasite preventives—be fed throughout the trial time.

Performing a food challenge by reintroducing your dog’s old food is the next step if your dog’s allergy symptoms disappear while they are being treated with the food trial. If your dog’s symptoms go away after the food trial AND come back within a week of a subsequent food challenge, a food allergy has been conclusively diagnosed in your pet.

Blood tests can reveal whether a dog is allergic to a particular food. Your veterinarian will go over whether these so-called serum IgE tests would be helpful in identifying your pet’s problem. This blood testing may not be as effective as food elimination tests, according to some studies.

How is a food allergy treated?

A diet that excludes the harmful dietary component is chosen after it has been discovered. Your veterinarian can provide your dog with a variety of hypoallergenic diets that can be fed to them for the rest of their lives. Three different hypoallergenic diets exist:

  • veterinary hydrolyzed protein diets, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d, Royal Canin Hypoallergenic Hydrolyzed Protein or AnallergenicTM, and Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed, in which the protein molecules are broken down to a size too small to be recognized by your dog’s immune system.
  • Veterinarian novel protein diets that don’t contain any ingredients found in your dog’s previous foods, like Rayne Nutrition’s Kangaroo-MAINTTM, Rabbit-MAINTTM, or Crocodilia-MAINTTM, Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d, Royal Canin Selected Protein PD or Selected Protein RC, or Kangaroo-MAINTTM from Royal Canin.
  • home-made novel protein diet that is free of any elements included in your dog’s previous diets; this diet must be created by a veterinary nutritionist and frequently calls for the addition of a balancing supplement like Hilary’s Blend for DogsTM or Balance IT.

Retail pet foods are not produced using the stringent health and safety standards to prevent cross-contamination, in contrast to veterinarian diets.

Contrary to veterinarian diets, which are produced under strict health and safety guidelines to prevent cross-contamination, pet meals sold in retail establishments may not always claim to be “limited-ingredient” or to not contain ingredients that your dog is allergic to.

Can food allergies be cured?

For dogs with food allergies, there is no treatment. Avoidance is the only available remedy. When symptoms are severe, some dogs will need medication, but a hypoallergenic diet can successfully treat the majority of canines.

Is it likely that my dog will develop other food allergies?

When a dog develops an allergy to one food, they may later develop allergies to other foods. In addition, a lot of dogs who have food allergies also have additional allergies, like atopy (an allergy to inhalants or the environment) or a flea allergy. Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has a food allergy so they can help your pet get back to living a healthier, more comfortable life.

Canine allergies to grass exist?

It’s entertaining to watch your dog playfully chase a frisbee through tall grass. It is content, wags its tail, and gets lots of exercise and fresh air. Regardless of how enjoyable the activity was at first, for some dogs, this little bit of freedom outside may be all it takes to trigger a grass allergy.

Who would have imagined that a household pet might succumb to an illness that only affects 18% of people in Australia and New Zealand, rather than animals, according to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy?

But it’s accurate. Grass allergy in dogs is more prevalent than you might imagine. More than 80% of the 262 trialed dogs in a study at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna tested positively for allergies to grass, weed, and tree pollen.

Numerous dogs have allergies to grass and its pollens, as demonstrated by the study, but what are the signs and how can you cure them?

What relieves allergies in dogs?

To lessen itching and enhance general skin health, try giving your dog a natural nutritional supplement like fish oil or a fatty acid like omega-3 or omega-6 oil. Additionally demonstrated to reduce allergic reactions and promote better skin is coconut oil. Lastly, check to see that your dog’s drinking water (and dish) are kept clean and contaminant-free.

Further treatments

Make an appointment to see your veterinarian if your dog won’t stop licking, scratching, or chewing, has red, inflamed skin, or is losing hair. A specialist may recommend more severe therapies such as antihistamines, steroids, or allergy shots, often known as immunotherapy, depending on the severity of the problem.