Dog Allergy Testing: Everything You Need to Know
If you’re looking to adopt a pup or have recently taken on the challenging yet rewarding experience of raising your own pup, you need to be aware of allergies as they come in all types and forms. Allergies can appear in dogs much like they can in humans with the added complication that your pet can’t effectively communicate with you to tell you something is wrong. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to look out for symptoms, monitor your pup’s behavior and seek treatment or medical advice when necessary. In the following article we’ve researched and compiled the most important things you need to know about pet allergy testing so you can be confident that, should something go wrong, you’ll be able to tackle anything that comes your way.
Can Dogs Have Allergies?
Yes, dogs can suffer from allergies just like we do. While allergies may come from different sources, dogs can nevertheless experience allergic reactions and they should be carefully monitored and controlled. Of course, noticing and diagnosing an allergy can be very difficult with pets since there is no way to communicate and finding the source of the allergy can, at times, prove problematic. While some allergies might be predictable based on family genetics or breed standards, other allergies can be extremely specific or they might occur at a later stage in life despite there being no previous history of allergies. Noticing and diagnosing allergies can be a very tricky business for pet parents but there are several things you can do make it easier.
Before we get into the warning signs, symptoms and ways to deal with allergies, it’s important to know that allergies can be severe or even fatal depending on the specific allergy and your dog’s reaction to it. If you are ever concerned about your dog’s health and you think an allergy might be to blame, seek professional medical advice from a vet before attempting to fix things yourself. If, however, you just want to be prepared in case your dog has an allergic reaction, you’ll want to know the symptoms to watch out for and what the treatment process could look like.
Dog Allergy Symptoms
As we mentioned, symptoms of dog allergies can vary greatly depending on the specific dog and allergy. While some allergies may only provoke small reactions, others may be far worse. So, if you notice one or more of the following symptoms in your precious pooch without any apparent reason, it could indicate that they are experiencing an allergic reaction.
- Ear Infections
- Skin Infections/Lesions
- Hair Loss
Professor of Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Joseph Bartges, states that these symptoms can be triggered by seasonal or food-based allergies. However, there is some degree of crossover, meaning that 30% of dogs with food allergies are typically prone to flea or seasonal allergies too. While some allergies may present only one or two symptoms, others may provoke several symptoms such as skin irritation and soreness as well as diarrhea or vomiting.
If you notice any of these symptoms appearing on your canine companion and you’re unaware of any allergies or medical conditions which might cause them, contact a vet to seek their professional advice. Your vet may recommend some steps to reduce the risk of reactions and to treat ongoing symptoms or, if the case seems more severe, they may wish to see your dog in person to perform a dog allergy blood test, skin test or urine test.
Allergy Testing for Dogs
Testing for allergies in dogs can be a difficult task and, in most cases, there will be some trial and error involved until your vet can determine the cause of the allergy. For example, the vet may have to conduct dog food allergy testing if they believe the problem may be nutritional, or blood or urine tests may be used to determine different types of allergies.
- Dog Food Allergy Testing
Usually this process will begin with a comprehensive review of your dog’s diet. You might need to recall everything your precious pooch has eaten since the symptoms appeared or your vet may ask about the ingredients which compose your dog’s diet. This is because dogs are commonly allergic to chicken, eggs, dairy, beef, wheat, soy and corn. If any of these ingredients are present in your dog’s diet and have been ingested within the timeframe of the symptoms developing, you vet will most likely suggest that you avoid some or all of those products depending on the severity and specific case. If you eliminate these products and the symptoms disappear, your vet may be happy to conclude that the allergic reaction was food-based and no more treatment is required besides avoiding that food product. This process isn’t a quick one, however, and it could take up to a few months for symptoms to fully disappear. During this period your vet will keep in touch to check up on your poorly pup as you monitor their progress through the dietary changes.
A popular treatment for this food-based allergy conditions is homemade/homecooked meals for your pooch. These can either be raw or cooked and they allow you to carefully monitor and control everything your pup eats. This treatment is popular amongst pet parents who have time to plan, prepare and make meals for their pooch as it allows them to put in extra care and thought into looking after their canine companion. If this isn’t an option for you, don’t worry, after finding the source of the problem your vet will recommend ways to handle your pet’s allergy based around your pup’s needs and your schedule and lifestyle.
- Seasonal Allergy Testing
If this process doesn’t work, the symptoms remain or even get worse, this could indicate another source is to blame, perhaps a seasonal allergy. Pollen, grass, dust and fleas are all commonly associated with seasonal conditions due to the change in nature which brings about these issues. Identifying and diagnosing seasonal-based allergies is a far simpler procedure in areas where seasonal changes are clearly apparent. In climates which experience noticeable seasonal changes through Spring and Summer, such as blossoming flowers and pollen production, seasonal changes can be easier linked to allergic reactions, states Dr. Patrick Mahaney. However, in some climates and specific cases, seasonal allergies may not correlate precisely with seasonal change. This issue is particularly prevalent in older dogs whose seasonal allergies can deteriorate to year-long allergies.
Testing for seasonal allergies can be more complicated than food allergies purely due to the potentially endless list of environmental triggers of allergies. Since natural allergens can be found all around us, a more comprehensive skin test might have to be carried out. During this test (known as and intradermal skin test), small amounts of allergens are injected into your dog, just beneath the surface of the skin. If an allergen causes the area to become sore, swollen, red or itchy, the vet can then create an immunotherapy shot to counter the effects. This solution can then be administered by the pup’s parents at home for up to a year as at this point 70% of cases will show positive results, states Dr. Sarah Nold.
If immunotherapy shots aren’t necessary or a simpler solution can be provided, your vet may prescribe different types of drugs to assist in relieving the effects of allergens.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines are a popular choice as they can be usually be purchased over the counter. They work just like antihistamines for humans and come in various forms which means you can try out different methods to see which one your dog responds best to.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can be an effective treatment for skin conditions and infections such as itching, redness, rubbing, biting or scratching. These can be administered through creams or pills.
- Steroids: Steroids are often prescribed in the same way and for the same reasons as antibiotics, except they are reserved for particularly severe cases. While they are effective, steroids can have negative side effects if used over a long time. To monitor the effects of steroids, you vet may have to carry out urine or blood tests.
- Fatty Acids: Fatty acid supplements (such as Omega-3) can be prescribed for many reasons. These supplements improve skin health as well as cardiac and joint problems.
- Flea Treatment: Flea treatment is readily available from most pet stores or veterinary practices. This medication comes in many forms (flea collar, creams or pills) and is usually quite successful. It might also be beneficial to clean your dog’s bed and living environment to remove the risk of flea infestations.
- Environmental Treatment: Put simply, this treatment involves ensuring your dog avoids contact with allergens (such as particular flowers or grass etc.) or washing them/wiping them down thoroughly after they encounter the allergen. Although this treatment is simple and effective, it might not be the most ideal solution for dealing with allergies since it limits your dog’s freedom to explore outside and requires lifestyle changes for both you and your pup.
When using any kind of medication to treat allergies in dogs, it is essential to follow the vet’s instructions and never administer more than the recommended daily dose of the specific drug. If you need assistance administering a drug to your dog or if you want to know more about your options, consult your vet for advice which is tailored to you and your dog’s specific needs.
If your poorly pup requires medication for conditions or allergies, your vet might ask if your pup has any history of drug-based allergies. While these can present some issues, drug allergies are almost never as severe for dogs as they are for humans, states Dr. Jennifer Coates. While adverse effects to drug medication can occur in dogs, the symptoms are not typically severe and can usually be treated through a simple change in drug. If your pup is taking medication and you’re concerned they might be responding poorly to it, raise this issue with your vet and seek an alternative drug or treatment if possible.
Keeping on Top of Your Pup’s Health
If you’re lucky enough to not have to deal with dog allergies, you might simply want some advice on how to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Other than simply monitoring your dog closely, by far the best advice would be to ensure your dog receives the correct nutrition for their dietary needs and keep a consistent and thorough grooming routine. Discussing dietary needs with your vet will give you a clear idea of what type of food your dog needs and how you can provide this carefully. Furthermore, by taking care of your dog’s grooming needs, you can minimize the risk of allergens entering the body while ensuring they look and feel good simultaneously. If you don’t know already, learn how to clean your dog’s ears and eyes, how to brush their teeth and how to keep their coat clean too. By doing this, you’ll have the best chance of eliminating the risk of skin- and food-based allergic reactions.
If you’re an experienced pet parent, a first-time pet parent or you’re only considering adopting, canine allergies are an important and serious aspect of puppy health to be aware of. Learning symptoms, warning signs, procedures and treatment will greatly improve your confidence as a pet parent as you’ll have a better idea of things to look out for and you’ll be prepared in case you notice any allergy symptoms. Being prepared is the key to being a great pet parent and you know everything you need to know about allergies. Just be sure to always keep an eye on your precious pooch’s behaviors and bodily functions, closely monitoring any changes and reporting these to your vet if you have any concerns. By being prepared and acting quickly like this, you’ll greatly reduce risks and improve your pup’s chances of a speedy and successful treatment.