How To Conduct Allergy Testing For Dogs? Symptoms & Types Of Allergies, Treatment and Prevention

Does your dog keep scratching one part of her body?  Do you see red, inflamed skin? Are her eyes or lips swollen? She may have an allergy. You may need to get your pet to have an allergy test for dogs.

What do you need to know and do as the owner if your pet has an allergy? Let’s find out.

Why is it important to recognize allergies?

You need to recognize if your dog has an allergy. You also need to know the difference between allergy symptoms and other diseases.

An allergy can be irritating and painful to your dog. It can be itchy and inconvenient. It could lead to a more serious problem, such as breathing problems. Your dog may scratch so much that a secondary infection develops. She could wound herself as well.

In addition, an allergy may be a symptom of an underlying disease. So, testing your dog as early as possible is better. This will enable you and your vet to treat the condition of your dog early.

What symptoms could your dog exhibit?

Symptoms may differ. But an itch is the main symptom. Your dog will attempt to ease this itch by licking, scratching, or chewing a spot where the allergy attacks. One or a combination of the following symptoms may be present:

  • Licking, screwing, or chewing one area excessively, most commonly:
    • eye area
    • ears
    • belly
    • muzzle
    • groin
    • ankles
    • toes
  • Rubbing body parts against furniture, walls, or the ground
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Fur loss or bad coat
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Constantly shaking her head
  • Chronic diarrhea or gas for food allergies
  • Inflammation
  • Scabbed skin
  • Swelling body parts
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Snoring (rare)
  • Coughing (rare)
  • Anaphylactic shock (a severe reaction that could be fatal if it’s not treated immediately)

What are the types of dog allergies?

The spot your dog continues to worry about is a big indication of the type of allergy it is experiencing. There are also many types of allergens (things that cause allergy) in and out of the house. 

  • Contact – allergens, bacteria, or viruses may attack your dog’s body through contact with plants, other animals, etc. She may also be allergic to her dog bed fabric, her food bowl’s plastic material, or even her shampoo.

This type is also called atopy or allergic dermatitis because the allergy manifests mainly through skin irritation.

  • Food – your dog may be allergic to food, especially protein sources, carbohydrates, dairy products, vegetables, legumes. Examples are the following:

Meat or animal products

  • chicken
  • beef
  • lamb
  • pork
  • fish
  • rabbit
  • egg

Grains

Vegetables

Legumes

  • peanuts
  • soy
  • lentils
  • peas

Dairy

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt

According to statistics, food causes about 10% of allergy cases among dogs. Allergy is a genetic problem in the first place. But her environment can also cause her to develop an allergy.

  • Inhalants – pollen, dust, mold, etc. could fill the air that could trigger your dog’s allergy. Consider also man-made triggers such as perfumes, cigarette smoke, home cleaning products, and sprays of insecticide.
  • Parasites – fleas, mites, and other parasites could be biting your dog and trigger allergic reactions. It is the saliva of the parasites that cause the skin of your dog reaction.
  • Infections – common secondary causes may be infections with yeast, fungal, or bacteria.
  • Disease – illnesses like hypothyroidism.
  • Medicines – your dog may have an allergic reaction to certain medicines or vaccines just like humans.
  • Breed – every dog is unique, and environmental triggers play a major role in your dog’s chances of becoming allergic. But it is known that some breeds have a higher risk of getting allergies. Some of these are Beagles, Boxers, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Irish Setters, Pugs, and Terriers.

The immune system of your dog will be compromised if it has an allergy. The major cause of the condition is the extreme reaction of her body to the allergen. Her body sees the allergen as a threat, releasing substances such as histamine. These substances cause itchiness, redness, or other allergic reactions. This is the attempt by the body to expel the danger.

Also, your dog would rarely be allergic to just one thing. Her environment can change in a heartbeat so her allergies could have more than just one cause.

Any inflammation could allow secondary infections to enter her body. The body of your dog is comprised of bacteria and yeast. But since her immune system has already been compromised, she won’t be able to fight these secondary invaders.

Since the causes could be complex, the best thing to do would be to bring your dog to the vet for the proper allergy testing and diagnosis once she shows symptoms of allergy.

The allergy should not be diagnosed. Some symptoms may appear to be an allergy, but they might be something else. Food sensitivities (a.k.a. food intolerance), for example, can cause your dog to vomit or diarrhea. But it’s not going to compromise her immune system so it’s not a true allergy.

Don’t delay the vet’s visit. The longer you delay, the more costly the treatment may become. If you delay the treatment, your dog will also suffer longer. So, the earlier, the better. 

What allergy testing for dogs can be done?

Your vet will not immediately perform an allergy test. The first test is to search for visible or external sources of allergic symptoms such as fleas, mites, fungi, or yeast.

The most common allergy testings for dogs are skin testing and blood testing. But there are other methods, especially for food allergies. Each one has its pros and cons.

1. Skin testing (a.k.a. prick testing) – a vet or a specialist dermatologist will inject small amounts of allergens in a particular order and pattern through the skin of the dog. It’s similar to a human patch test.

If any part of the skin swells within 15-20 minutes of the injection, your dog is allergic to it. Experts will know the pattern-based allergen that is the culprit.

Pros Cons
Constant and close monitoring before until after the procedure Invasive
More than 75% accurate if the patient is not given steroids or antihistamines a month before the examination Needs about 40-60 injections
  Needs general anesthesia/sedation
  A small area is shaved

2. Blood testing (a.k.a. serum testing) – the vet will take some blood from your dog. A laboratory will test the sample against a variety of allergens.

Pros Cons
Convenient Results can sometimes be hard to confirm
Any veterinarian can take the sample and interpret the result Might not be able to test other types of allergies like fabric allergy
Easy to perform  
Doesn’t need sedation  
Area, where blood will be taken, doesn’t need shaving  
A single sample is enough for many tests  
Can test against allergens to materials like nylon or cotton  

3. Food testing – food allergy with blood or skin testing is difficult to detect. The most effective food allergy test is to manipulate the diet of your dog.

There are two types of food testing. One type is to remove food from the diet of your dog until it shows improvement. The other type is to feed one type of food for weeks. Each type can show you which food is the cause of the allergy.

Your vet may request for a blood or skin test to find out if there is a specific allergen in your dog’s body when the culprit food is determined.

Pros Cons
 Can lead to the best diet for your dog The procedure can take a while to complete (sometimes up to 6 months)
Can lead to a healthier dog Trial and error
Once the allergy is treated, there is a high chance that it will not come back since you will control what she eats Expensive

There is no one best allergy test. Since the cause can be complex, it is only normal that the treatment will not be simple.

How can you treat your dog’s allergies?

Allergies can not normally be cured. But these can be treated in different ways, such as oral medication, topical lotions, or antigen therapy that can be injected.

Every allergy is as unique as every dog. Thus, the treatments could be just one or several combinations. The right treatment depends on the allergy source, how severe the symptoms are, and if your dog has other medical conditions. These therapies may include some therapies such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory therapy: your dog will need to take anti-inflammatory drugs like antihistamines or corticosteroids to stop her body from producing any allergic reaction.
  • Immune modulators: this therapy modifies and reduces your dog’s itching, which is the body’s response to the allergen.
  • Dietary and food supplements: This involves removing protein or grain allergy from the diet of your dog. The vet may also prescribe a specific diet or brand with hypoallergenic ingredients. Giving supplements to your dog might boost its immune system.
  • Anti-itch therapy (a.k.a. anti-pruritic): This is similar to anti-inflammatory therapy where your dog takes medicine, but this therapy targets the substance that makes your dog itchy.
  • Shampoo therapy: Since skin dermatitis or skin contact is your dog’s most common way to acquire an allergen, it is essential to bathe it with special shampoos to remove dust, dirt, bacteria, yeast, parasites, or other allergens on its body. It is also possible to use this type of therapy for allergies caused by parasites. Some shampoos have ingredients to help your dog stop itching, decrease inflammation, and kill parasites.
  • Hyposensitization therapy: Your dog will receive minute amounts of antigens injected to desensitize its immune system. The allergy test will identify the allergen. Then very small shots of antigen will be injected every week to your dog.  Approximately 50% of dogs who underwent this therapy improve significantly. Also, about 25% needed anti-inflammatory therapy.

How can you prevent your dog from getting allergies?

The best way to treat an allergy is to avoid the allergen’s source. But it may not be possible to do it. But you can begin with small measures such as:

  • keep your house and yard free of fleas and mites.
  • regularly cleaning your house so dust will not accumulate.
  • bathe her regularly.
  • keep her toys, bedding, bowl clean.
  • avoid going outside when it’s pollen season.
  • feed your dog only quality dog food.
  • give your dog fatty acid supplements such as omega-3 to boost your immune system and keep your skin highly moisturized.
  • apply coconut oil or other oils to keep the skin of your dog healthy; the oil may also act as a barrier against certain allergens.

Conclusion

Allergies are not fun at all. The constant itching, sneezing, and other symptoms may be terrible to humans. Can you imagine how bad it is for your pet?

Helping your dog overcome her allergies will make her life more comfortable. So the sooner you start her treatment, the sooner she can return to give you kisses of love.

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