WHAT IS DOG ALLERGY TESTING?
Dogs and cats can suffer from lifelong allergies to many agents. The majority of these proteins, known as allergens, can ruin the quality of life of any dog or cat. Seeing young dogs and cats suffering from allergy symptoms at such a young age is disheartening. This where dog allergy testing comes in. The autumn scene to the right might be beautiful but leaf mold causes intense allergies in pets. If it is not a food allergy or parasitic (flea or mite) many animals are condemned to regular doses of corticosteroids to alleviate signs of inflammation and pruritus (itch). This is dangerous as it can lead to iatrogenicThis term means a disease that is drug induced; that is caused by some pharmaceutical product. In this case, too much prednisone or other corticosteroids are taken for maintenance of another disease but do to excess, causes Cushing"s Syndrome. Cushing’s Syndrome; a debilitating disease involving the pituitary and adrenal glands plus a long term suppression of the immune system.
One of the leaders in dog allergy testing (immunotherapy) is Heska®. They have a complete diagnostic and therapeutic division dedicated to canine and feline allergy sufferers around the country. The theory behind dog allergy testing is taking a blood sample from a animal, analyze it for the allergens causing the problem and than develop a personalized vaccine to prevent the allergen from causing clinical signs in the future.
CANDIDATES AND PRECAUTIONS
Dog allergy testing is most popular in young animals that are suffering from an allergy and have an entire life ahead of them to live. Who wants to see an animal suffer throughout his or her entire life? Adult dogs are also tested and can find relief from many allergens in the environment.
The only caveat in dog allergy testing is that the dog or cat has to be off of all corticosteroids for at least 3-4 months. This can be a double edged sword as many dogs are so miserable that prednisone is the only thing that will make them comfortable. That is the hard part. I recommend that dogs be given frequent, cool bathes employing any oatmeal based shampoo as needed. Certain antihistamines do help the animal from scratching itself. Atarax® (hydroxyzine) dosing helps the majority of animals get over the hump.
The procedure for dog allergy testing is simple. An appropriate volume of blood is drawn from the animal and the sample is sent to Heska. The neat thing about dog allergy testing is that each part of the country has a specific panel that the blood is tested against. Since southeast Florida is warm year round, everything grows down here so there is a specific South Florida panel! Each part of the country will have unique allergens and those that overlap such as food, fleas and ticks.
DOG ALLERGY TESTING PROTOCOL
If the veterinarian diagnoses a food allergy, it is than relatively easy to change the diet with prescription foods so that that protein is eliminated from the diet. Allergies to fleas and ticks are mitigated by the many topical and oral flea and tick products on the market. Those are the easy cases. The rest require some work.
The major benefit of dog allergy testing is that a vaccine is usually developed that is injected into the dog over certain time periods. Most animals require a monthly injection for relief. The success rate is usually about 70%. That means that some do not respond but the majority do receive a benefit. For those people that do not want injections done regularly, there is a new sub lingual (dosing under the tongue) approach known as “Therapy Drops”. Animals that are given the vaccine need to be on flea and tick preventative to minimize exposure to those particular allergens.