For most dog-lovers, our furry friends are an extension of our family, so it’s only natural that you never want to see them in discomfort. If your dog is wriggling and scratching more than usual, it may be allergic to some type of food, fabric, or environmental factor. 

Allergies can be seasonal or all year round, and some can even be life-threatening. Therefore, it’s imperative that we look out for symptoms and signs of allergies. With the correct form of dog allergy testing and professional veterinary advice, you can help your pooch live a stress-free and, most importantly, itch-free life.

What is dog allergy testing?

Dog allergy testing helps narrow down the cause of your pet’s symptoms. Once your veterinarian has conducted a routine exam and ruled out the possibilities of fleas they can conduct various tests to see which types of infection may be present and test for specific allergens. 

There are three main types of allergies that your dog can be tested for, which are skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. Let’s explore them in greater depth. 

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies, also known as atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common types of allergic reactions in canines. It’s characterised by red, itchy, skin, and a whole lot of scratching. Problem areas tend to be around the ears and paws, although you may notice some irritated skin around your pet’s groin, underarms, and wrists. 

Food Allergies

According to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, around 32.5% of dogs that have skin allergies also develop food allergies or sensitivities. Some of the most common ingredients that dogs are allergic to include chicken, beef, and dairy products. Symptoms of food allergies include vomiting, diarrhoea, bald patches, and itchy skin. 

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies can include dust mites, shampoos, cleaning products, mould, and even certain fabrics. Symptoms can include itchy welts, excessive licking, loss of fur, and recurrent skin infections.  Given the wide range of potential allergens, these are some of the most difficult to pinpoint. However, an allergy test can help you determine which is the culprit and how to tackle the allergy.

Different Types of Allergy Testing

There are four main types of dog allergy testing, which include, blood tests, intradermal skin tests, elimination diets, and at-home dog allergy test kits. The cost of allergy testing in dogs varies according to the type of test, however, specific allergies will require specific forms of testing and each method comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

Blood Testing

Blood testing is one of the most common ways to test for allergies due to its high level of convenience. The dog blood test for allergies cost around £130 to £195. A small blood sample is extracted from your pet and tested for geographically appropriate allergens, such as dust, mould, and pollen. These tests can also be used to identify food allergies and fabric allergies, such as nylon or cotton.   

Benefits 

  • Less invasive 
  • No need for general anaesthesia 
  • No itchy or irritated skin if your dog has a positive result 

Challenges 

  • Less reliable than a skin test
  • Can result in false positives  
  • Accuracy of results is dependent on the lab and type of test 

Intradermal Skin Testing

Intradermal skin testing is recognised as the gold standard of dog allergy testing and it can only be carried out by veterinary dermatologists. To conduct a skin test your dog must be sedated and a small patch of hair must be shaved off. The veterinarian then injects a range of allergens into your pet’s skin and monitors the area for reactions. Based on the severity of the reaction, or lack thereof, your vet will prescribe an appropriate treatment protocol.  

Benefits 

  • Higher accuracy in results 
  • Easier to identify specific allergens 
  • Results are visible within 20 minutes 

Challenges 

  • If positive, your dog will have an allergic reaction
  • Must stop taking medication prior to the test 
  • Most invasive test which also requires general anaesthesia  

Elimination Diet

Two of the most commonly asked questions are, can you test your dog for allergies at home and are dog food allergy tests accurate? Yes, if you suspect that your dog may be allergic to some type of food, the best dog food allergy test you can conduct is an elimination diet. In this instance, you or your vet will prescribe a diet trial with new ingredients for your dog. 

Your pet will have to follow this strict diet for a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks, with no extra dog food treats or table scraps. It’s important that you stick to this diet plan, as any mishaps could skew the results of your trial and bring you back to square one. 

If your dog finishes the twelve-week cycle without any symptoms of allergies, your vet will conduct a “challenge”. This involves reintroducing suspected ingredients one by one until the culprit is found. Once your dog’s symptoms return, you will know which ingredient is causing the allergic reaction.  

Benefits 

  • No need for invasive procedures 
  • Can be done from the comfort of your home 
  • Can be conducted without the help of a specialist 

Challenges 

  • Can take a long time to identify allergies 
  • You must follow a strict diet or risk misinterpreting results 
  • Won’t help if your dog suffers from skin or environmental allergies 
  • This dog food allergy test cost can be expensive depending on the duration

How to tell if your dog has allergies

It’s important to determine whether your dog is suffering an allergic reaction or exhibiting symptoms of another health condition. It’s always best to get a professional opinion, however, here are some symptoms of dog allergies that you should always look out for: 

  • Red, irritated, and swollen skin 
  • Excessive licking or itching 
  • Fur loss 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Recurring ear infections 
  • Recurring paw infections 
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea  
  • Sneezing and/or wheezing
  • Periodic chewing on body parts 
  • Constantly rubbing body parts on walls, furniture, or the ground 

Testing for allergies at home

Can dogs be tested for allergies other than food allergies at home? Of course, another popular form of dog allergy testing is at-home testing kits. These tests are perfect for pet parents that prefer non-invasive allergy tests. All you have to do is send in a sample of your pet’s fur and saliva to your closet laboratory. 

An environmental and dog food allergy test kit is a painless experience for your pooch. It’s also one of the more inexpensive options for dog allergy testing. So, how much is a dog allergy test at home? Depending on the provider, an at-home dog allergy testing kit can cost anywhere from £35 to £100, with discounts for multi-pet families. 

Benefits 

  • Competitive pricing 
  • Can identify between 100 and 135 potential allergens 
  • No needles, strict diets, or anaesthesia  

Challenges 

  • Less reliable than a dog allergy blood test or intradermal skin test 
  • Without professional supervision, you could conduct an error 
  • Results may take two weeks or more 

At Dogwood Referrals, we’re always available to lend a helping hand, we promise to offer an exceptional level of care and support for the dogs that we meet and treat. We provide advanced treatments and specialist knowledge in a wide range of conditions and illnesses. 

We hope you found this guide to dog allergy testing helpful and that it answers all your questions and concerns in regards to your dog’s health. If you need some further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.