Whole Dog Journal Tips January 4, 2013

(Canine Allergies #3) Properly Diagnosing Your Dog’s Allergies by Nancy Kerns

There are a few different types of tests available that purport to identify the allergens to which a dog is hyper sensitive; some of them are helpful and some are a waste of time and money. Since all of them are commonly referred to as “allergy tests,” few people know which ones are credible, and which ones are not. The following is a brief description of the types of tests available for allergy diagnosis.

- Blood (serologic) tests for antigen-induced antibodies -- Two different methods (RAST and ELISA) are used for the most common commercial test products used by veterinarians. Historically, the tests have been unreliable with lots of false positive and false negative results, though the technology has improved over the years.

- Skin (intradermal) tests for environmental allergens -- In an intradermal test, tiny amounts of a number of suspected or likely local allergens are injected just under a dog’s skin. Most veterinary dermatologists feel these tests are much more reliable than blood tests for antibodies. It should be noted that testing is more time-consuming and expensive, not to mention stressful for the dog, who must be observed very closely, several times, by a stranger!

- Tests for food allergies -- Both blood and skin tests for food allergies exist, but it’s difficult to find anyone (besides the companies that produce the tests) who feel the results are worth the paper they are printed on. It would be exciting and useful if it worked, but so far, the tests are a work in progress, with only an estimated 30 percent accuracy rate. Why bother when you can conduct a food elimination trial that will deliver much more accurate information about your dog’s food allergies.

For more information on diagnosing and treating allergies in your dog, purchase Whole Dog Journal's ebook Canine Allergies.