Is Allergy Testing For Dogs Accurate

Veterinarians and veterinary dermatologists currently employ skin allergy testing for dogs as another type of allergy testing. Since the patient must remain motionless for a longer period of time during skin allergy testing than during blood allergy testing, it is more invasive. To test a dog’s skin for allergies:

  • Patient is under sedation
  • The person is positioned on its side.
  • On the patient’s side, a little area is shaved.
  • In a specified pattern and order, minute amounts of each test allergen are injected just beneath the patient’s skin by little needles, allowing the allergen responsible for the dog’s slight increased reaction to be determined.

The shaved region is checked to discover which allergens caused a reaction after some time (often a few hours). A veterinarian and/or veterinary dermatologist can recommend the best course of treatment based on what the pattern suggests. According to estimates, skin allergy testing for dogs can be up to 75% accurate in identifying the presence of dog allergies. However, if patients have used steroids or antihistamines in the months before to testing, skin allergy tests may not be reliable. Your dog’s veterinarian can advise you on whether skin allergy testing is necessary and likely to provide accurate results for your canine companion.

Are canine allergy blood tests reliable?

Even while food allergies, also known as adverse food reactions or “AFRs,” are not prevalent in pets, diagnosing them or totally ruling them out is nevertheless a difficult task for both veterinarians and pet owners. Many pet owners and veterinarians turn to easier techniques like blood and saliva testing because the “gold standard”—an elimination diet and re-challenge—is challenging and time-consuming.

Unbeknownst to many pet owners and some veterinarians, typical commercial blood and saliva tests have not been validated, meaning that whether the results are positive or negative, they do not necessarily correspond to clinical changes that actually occur in animals. To put it another way, there is no proof that an ingredient is safe for a pet if a test results are negative or positive, respectively.

While many pet owners and veterinarians have reported that allergy symptoms disappear after avoiding substances that the pet had tested positive for in blood or saliva tests, I’ve also had just as many claim relief while feeding the pet ingredients that had tested positive (often without the pet owner realizing that the ingredient is included in current food or treats).

Prior to this, while there was little evidence that these tests could successfully identify allergies, there was also little evidence that they *didn’t* work. The publication of two studies that assessed some of the most popular blood and saliva food allergy/sensitivity tests for dogs recently changed that.

In the first study, which was carried out in Europe, researchers compared a popular saliva test and a popular blood test in three groups of dogs: healthy dogs with no allergic symptoms, dogs with suspected food allergies who were undergoing diet elimination and re-challenge testing, and dogs with known food allergies to identified ingredients.

Depending on the type of test, 20–30% of the healthy canines responded strongly positively to one or more items. Another 53% of healthy canines reported marginally positive saliva test results. In fact, healthy dogs showed higher favorable salivary reactions than allergic dogs did! Overall, there was no difference between healthy and food-allergic dogs in the number of dogs who responded well to the tests. Only one of the positive blood tests was associated with a dog that had a recognized allergy.

The same saliva test used in the European trial as well as two widely used blood tests were used to screen 30 healthy canines in the second investigation, which was carried out at the Cummings School. On each test, 60–100% of the dogs tested positive for one or more items. One of the blood tests revealed that two dogs had positive results for every antigen, whereas the saliva test revealed that a different dog had positive results for every antigen. Remember that these dogs are healthy and show no signs of allergies!

Takeaway: Food allergies should not be diagnosed in dogs using saliva or blood tests since they cannot accurately distinguish between healthy and allergic dogs. Many popular foods could be mistakenly identified as allergies by using these blood and saliva tests. These items might thus be avoided by pet owners in favor of more pricey, uncommon, and possibly nutritionally risky exotic products.

Although diet elimination is challenging to perform effectively, it is still our best option for identifying food allergies in animals.

How are dog allergies detected through testing?

To find out if a dog is allergic to specific antigens, a blood test called a RAST test, or radioallergosorbent test, can be utilized. This test is frequently carried out as part of the evaluation for canine atopy, a skin condition caused by an inhalant allergy.

With the use of allergy testing, you and your veterinarian can identify the allergens that might be causing your dog’s atopy so that a treatment strategy can be developed.

What is atopic dermatitis?

There are three typical reasons why dogs develop allergic skin conditions:

  • An allergy to food proteins is referred to as a food allergy.
  • An allergy to the proteins in flea saliva causes flea allergy.
  • An allergy to inhaled environmental allergens is known as atopy.

Atopy is a prevalent cause of seasonal allergic skin illness in dogs and is a skin reaction to inhaled allergens.

What are the signs of atopy?

Redness and itching are the two most typical symptoms of allergic skin illness in dogs. Dogs occasionally scratch themselves until their skin is completely raw, which can result in more noticeable skin lesions and secondary skin diseases. These symptoms are present in all allergic skin diseases, including atopy, food allergies, and flea allergies. For additional information on this allergy, refer to the handout “Inhalant Allergies (Atopy) in Dogs.”

How will my veterinarian diagnose atopic dermatitis?

To rule out non-allergic skin conditions is the first step in treating a dog with suspected allergic skin disease. Based on your dog’s clinical signs and medical history, your veterinarian may carry out a skin scrape to rule out mange, a fungus culture to rule out ringworm, and other tests. Your veterinarian will determine that your dog has allergic dermatitis if the results of these tests are negative and the clinical signs and background information match (allergic skin inflammation).

“Further testing is required to identify the allergens that are causing your dog’s sensitivities once allergic dermatitis has been detected in your dog.”

Additional testing is required once your dog has been diagnosed with allergic dermatitis in order to identify the source of their allergy. Atopy is an exclusion diagnosis, therefore your veterinarian must first categorically rule out flea and food allergies. A food trial is required to rule out a food allergy; improved flea control may be employed to do so. Your veterinarian will identify your dog as having atopy if neither of these therapies results in an improvement. If your veterinarian suggests a food trial, see the handout “Food Allergies in Dogs for information on how to carry out a food trial. For information on flea prevention, check the document “Flea Control in Dogs.”

What role does allergy testing play in addressing atopy?

While some atopy instances can be handled with symptomatic therapies, it is frequently useful to identify the allergens that are causing a reaction.

Even though it’s typically impossible to restrict a dog’s exposure to allergens, you can treat your dog for hyposensitization by identifying which particular allergens are responsible for an allergic reaction. In order to create immunological tolerance, hyposensitization includes giving your dog modest doses of the irritating allergens (as injections or by mouth) every one to four weeks.

Hyposensitization helps between 60–80% of dogs, though results might not be apparent right once and some canines need ongoing treatment.

How is allergy testing performed in dogs?

Dogs can be tested for allergies using either RAST testing or intradermal skin testing. Every technique has benefits and drawbacks.

The “gold standard” for identifying the cause of atopic dermatitis, intradermal skin testing, is only carried out by veterinary dermatologists. Dog owners who want their pets to undergo intradermal testing must visit a dermatologist; however, not all pet owners may have access to this service (not all areas have dermatologists and the cost can be high). Additionally, intradermal skin testing necessitates anesthesia for your dog. It is necessary to shave off a sizable portion of your dog’s coat in order to monitor the injection sites for a reaction.

RAST testing, in contrast, just needs one blood sample. Your regular veterinarian may take this blood sample during a routine wellness examination. A reference laboratory receives the blood sample for analysis. Your dog won’t require any sedation or anesthesia for this test, nor will the hair need to be shaved.

Will my dog have to go off his allergy medications prior to RAST testing?

RAST testing can frequently be carried out when canines are taking their usual allergy medicines. Contrast this with intradermal testing, which often necessitates an extended period of medication-free time for dogs before testing.

Are there drawbacks to RAST testing, compared to intradermal testing?

Theoretically, yes A higher percentage of false positive test findings, or positive test results that cannot be verified using intradermal skin testing, has historically been linked to RAST testing.

Practically speaking, however, the RAST data indicate that the majority of dogs treated with hyposensitization still show a considerable improvement in their skin illness.

Is there anything else that I should know about RAST testing?

It’s crucial to realize that RAST testing is often only beneficial if you want to try hyposensitization for your dog. It can only be used to determine the underlying cause of atopic dermatitis that has already been diagnosed; it cannot be used to diagnose atopic dermatitis.

It’s crucial to realize that RAST testing is often only beneficial if you intend to try hyposensitization for your dog.

The allergens found during RAST testing typically include a wide range of weeds, trees, grasses, and other allergies. The main advantage of this test comes in helping to inform the creation of hyposensitization therapy because avoiding these chemicals is often not very practical for most dogs and people.

If a dog allergy test comes back negative, may you still have the allergy?

The presence of allergy-specific antibodies in your blood is indicated by a positive test result. This typically indicates an allergy.

The results of the blood test will specify what you are allergic to. You may test positive for something, though, even though you’ve never experienced an adverse reaction to it.

If the test comes back negative, you probably do not actually have an allergy. This indicates that the allergen tested has probably had no effect on your immune system. However, it is possible to have an allergy and still have a normal (negative) allergy blood test result.

An allergy professional should interpret allergy blood test results cautiously. When identifying a particular allergy, your doctor will also take into account your symptoms and medical background.

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.

What allergy affects dogs the most frequently?

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.