Allergies in dogs are on the rise. Each year, more of our furry friends contract food, environmental, or insect bite allergies. So, as a pet parent, you want to know how best to help your pooch. Whether they already have an allergy, or are at risk of developing one later on, knowing the types of dog allergies and how to treat them is important. This includes knowing what dog allergy tests involve!
Tests for dog allergies are helpful for finding out what allergen is causing your dog’s reactions. This is especially important for identifying environmental allergies, as anything from pollen to dust could be responsible. Similarly, intradermal tests are the gold standard for diagnosing flea bite allergies in dogs. So, ready to find out more about dog allergy tests? Read on with us!
Allergies are conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. Today, allergies are very common. In humans, allergies can manifest as hay fever, allergic asthma, and food hypersensitivities. The underlying mechanism of an allergic reaction is immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) of the immune system. These antibodies bind to the offending allergen, and then to mast cells or basophils (a type of white blood cell). It’s here that they release inflammatory chemicals that start the allergic reaction.
Much like people, dogs suffer from a range of allergies and some are more common than others. And, because dog allergies come with symptoms that may mirror other health conditions, it can be difficult to pin down precisely what’s causing your pup’s problems. Next time you find your dog excessively scratching or licking themselves, it may be time to speak with your vet about allergies that your pooch could have. The sooner your vet diagnoses your dog, the sooner you can remove the allergen from your dog’s environment! This is where dog allergy tests come in. With a specialist blood test or intradermal testing, your vet can tell you exactly what is causing your pup’s problems.
Many dog breeds are prone to developing allergies. These include Shar-Peis, Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, Boxers, and West Highland White Terriers. Also, other breeds include Lhasa Apsos, Scottish terriers, and Boston Terriers. However, any dog breed can develop an allergy. If your breed is prone to developing allergies, be vigilant for early signs, like itching and licking.
Dog Allergy Symptoms
Allergies can cause a range of symptoms and may vary in intensity. The symptoms may also differ depending on your dog’s specific allergy. In general, however, there are some classic symptoms to note in dogs. The common signs of dog allergies include itchiness, hives, red skin, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, and runny eyes. For some, facial swelling can occur. You might notice your dog’s face becoming puffy, especially around the muzzle and eyes. If this happens, be vigilant for signs of systemic anaphylaxis! Some dogs suffer from chronic ear infections, too.
In severe allergic reactions, some dogs develop systemic anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening response. The most common signs of anaphylaxis in dogs include severe itching, hives, a swollen face, excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In systemic anaphylaxis, your dog may have difficulty breathing. This can lead to cyanosis – a blueish discoloration of the gums and tongue. An anaphylactic reaction is an emergency, and your pup needs to see a vet right away. Never wait to see if your dog’s symptoms improve, as it is extremely likely that they will not.
Types of Dog Allergies
There are several types of allergies that dogs can develop. These include environmental allergies, food allergies, insect bite allergies, and contact dermatitis. Your dog may have more than one allergy, leading to a range of symptoms that can be difficult to pin to one allergen. For this reason, dog allergy tests are the gold standard in diagnosing your pet’s condition.
Types of Hypersensitivity
There are several types of allergic reactions that can afflict your dog. The first, and perhaps most common, is the type I hypersensitivity. This is the most widely-known type of allergic reaction and includes anaphylaxis. But how does anaphylaxis occur? Anaphylaxis occurs when an antibody called IgE recognizes an invading antigen and attaches itself to it, leading to a widespread release of chemicals like histamine. Type I reactions include food allergies, bee sting reactions, and penicillin allergies. The most common symptoms include hives, facial swelling, and swelling of the airways. Unfortunately, this can quickly develop into systemic anaphylaxis.
Type II reactions, or autoimmune reactions, involve inflammation and damage to tissues. In a type II reaction, platelets (immune thrombocytopenia) and red blood cells (autoimmune hemolytic anemia) may be destroyed. Type III reactions involve antibody-antigen complexes that get stuck in certain places of the body. They can get stuck in blood vessels in the skin, joints, and kidneys, where they cause local damage. This type of hypersensitivity is a component of systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis in dogs.
Type IV hypersensitivity is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. It’s also responsible for many delayed drug reactions, such as drug hypersensitivity syndrome. In a type IV reaction, white blood cells and macrophages work to wall off the antigen to prevent damage.
Just like people, dogs suffer from seasonal and environmental allergies. But what exactly is an environmental allergy? If your pet has an environmental allergy, it means that their immune system overreacts to things in their everyday surroundings. So, allergens like dust, pollen, grass, weeds, mold, and fungi can cause allergic reactions in dogs. Oftentimes, these allergies are seasonal, so you may only see your dog itching at certain times in the year. Lastly, environmental allergies in dogs are on the rise, with a 30.7% increase in dogs in the past 10 years.
When certain substances make contact with your dog’s skin, they can cause localized allergic reactions known as contact dermatitis. The symptoms of contact dermatitis include a red rash, itching, scaly skin, bumps and blisters, swelling, and tenderness. These rashes take anywhere from days to weeks to completely heal. This makes them different from hives, in which a rash appears and fades within minutes to hours. Similarly, contact dermatitis only fades when the skin no longer comes in contact with the allergen. So, since contact dermatitis relies on the allergen to cause the reaction, it’s important that you identify the allergen with an allergy test to help your pup to avoid it.
Food allergies involve an allergic reaction to an ingredient in your dog’s food. Dogs tend to be allergic to proteins and can be allergic to any protein they have ever previously eaten. For dogs living in North America, Europe, and Australia, the most common allergies are beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, and wheat. Because of this, most vets will look into these foods before any others. Also, some dogs develop an allergy after years of seemingly eating the food without a problem. In addition, some dogs will be allergic to other specific ingredients like milk products and wheat. Food allergies in dogs may cause skin lesions, itching, and gastrointestinal problems.
In contrast to a food allergy, a food intolerance causes less severe symptoms. These symptoms are often limited to digestive problems. Similarly, a food intolerance does not involve an immune response, unlike a true allergy. Intolerance will not cause life-threatening symptoms either. However, any diarrhea that occurs due to eating the offending food cold causes dehydration if your dog does not drink enough. Speak to your vet about ways to help your pup with their dietary intolerances!
Many dogs are sensitive to the proteins in the venom or saliva of biting insects. As such, bee stings, spider bites, fleas, and ticks are common causes of insect bite reactions in dogs. The common signs of insect bite reactions include swelling and redness at the site of the insect bite. According to research, flea allergies in dogs are on the rise. One report shows that there has been a 12.5% increase in dogs in the past 10 years. So, if your pup shows signs of a flea allergy, consider asking your vet about intradermal testing for confirmation. Dogs with flea allergies may need extra protection from fleas. Such measures might include washing their bed more often and avoiding other dogs on walks where reasonable. Be sure to treat any other pets in your home for fleas, too!
Dog Allergy Tests
Identifying your dog’s allergies isn’t always straightforward. So, a vet may need to carry out a test to identify a specific allergen. These tests include intradermal testing, RAST testing, ELISA testing, and the elimination method. Each test has its pros and cons, and some are best for specific types of allergy.
An intradermal test is a test done to confirm if your dog is allergic to a specific substance. The test involves injecting a small amount of the allergen into the skin using a syringe and needle. One test is done with a saline solution and another using histamine. The saline solution causes no reaction – a positive reaction means that the skin of the dog is overly reactive, and the results that follow may be false positives. After 10 to 20 minutes, the injection sites are evaluated for their size, redness, and turgor. Luckily, most dogs with flea allergies show an immediate reaction. To conclude, intradermal skin testing is the “gold standard” in identifying allergies in dogs. However, it is only done by veterinary dermatologists. Pet parents seeking intradermal tests may need to travel to a veterinary dermatologist. Contact your vet about your options!
A radioallergosorbent test (RAST) is a type of blood test. This blood test can be done without anesthesia, making it quick and simple for your pup. Once a blood sample is drawn, it’s sent to a specialist laboratory and results should come back to you in one or two days. This blood test is done to detect specific IgE antibodies to suspected allergens. IgE is an antibody associated with the Type 1 allergic response – so, for example, if a dog exhibits high IgE levels against chicken, the test indicates that your dog is allergic to chicken proteins.
Like the RAST test, the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test involves taking a blood sample from your dog. The ELISA assay involves a specialist absorbent plate that has antibodies on it. Your dog’s blood sample is added to the plate. Then, any antigens found in the sample will bind to the antibodies on the plate. Next, the detection antibody is added to the plate. This detection antibody binds to the target antigen on the plate. Lastly, the substrate is added to the plate which can add color to the finished test. So, speak to your vet about ELISA tests for your dog if you suspect an allergy!
Elimination Diet Method
The best way to determine if a dog has a food allergy is to remove the food from their diet. Potential food allergens can include protein sources, like chicken or dairy, or carbohydrate sources, like corn or rice. Also, some dogs will have more than one food allergy. These allergies can come on at any time, even if your pet previously ate the food with no problems. Where multiple allergies are involved, finding a way to balance your dog’s diet can be difficult without veterinary assistance.
Some vets recommend a prescription therapeutic diet or a prescribed home-cooked diet to control food allergies. The most common novel diets include rabbit and potato and venison and potato. Many lamb or fish diets are no longer “novel”, as these ingredients are becoming more common in commercial diets. It’s crucial for a home-cooked diet to be nutritionally complete, so consult with your vet before trialing any meals at home. Alongside the food trial, pets should not be given table scraps, treats, rawhides, or any other foods made with animal products. The trial should be done for at least 8 to 12 weeks. If a pet has a food allergy, there should be at least a 50% reduction in licking and scratching, but these changes can take up to 12 weeks to become noticeable.
Allergy Tests For Dogs: FAQ
Have any more questions or concerns about dog allergy tests? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt about your dog’s health, always ask your vet for advice.
The best way to help your dog with their allergies depends on the cause of their allergies. For example, environmental allergies are manageable with some adjustments to your routine. Where possible, avoid walking your dog in the early morning and late afternoon when pollen levels are at their highest. Steer clear of fields where plants are common, too, to avoid pollen. When you get home, wipe your pup’s paws with a moist cloth to remove pollen and allergens from their pads. As well as this, be sure to clean your dog’s bed regularly.
The most common food allergies in dogs stem from proteins, especially those from dairy products and meats. Each time a dog eats food with these ingredients, their body reacts and causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction. In addition, the most common insect bite allergy in dogs is flea allergy. Flea allergies in dogs have risen in the past 10 years by 12.5%. Apart from this, statistics on dog allergies are currently lacking.
Dogs can develop allergies to foods that previously caused them no problems. This can occur at any time in your dog’s life, whether they are one or five years of age. At present, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that dogs can outgrow allergies in the same way that people do. So, it’s likely that your dog needs to stay on their prescription diet for the rest of their life to combat any food allergies that they have.
The price of allergy testing depends on the type of test you require! For example, an intradermal allergy test costs an average of $200, but the price varies depending on how many allergens your vet tests your pet for. Different vet clinics may also charge different rates for sedation. Similarly, blood tests like the RAST and ELISA test may cost $200 or more. Be sure to call in advance to check for the pricing of the tests your pet requires.
If your dog eats a food that they are allergic to, symptoms can appear within an hour of eating. However, they may be delayed, not appearing for another 6 to 24 hours. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the allergy that your pup has.
Dog allergy tests are a useful way to identify the cause of your dog’s allergic reactions. This allows your vet to come up with a treatment plan for your furry friend. The tests for allergies include intradermal testing, RAST testing, and ELISA testing. For food allergies, elimination trials are the gold standard of treatment.