Everything You Need to Know About Allergy Tests for Pets
Have you noticed your pet is extra itchy at certain times of the year or after eating certain foods? Perhaps you’ve thought about testing your pet for allergies. Or have you already purchased a test and the results say your dog is allergic to 287 out of the 300 possibilities?
How is that even possible?
There are many factors to consider before performing an allergy test for your dog. Here’s what you need to know about allergy tests for pets.
When is an allergy test helpful?
There are lots of at-home allergy tests available for purchase across the internet. The tests are not scientifically proven and should not be considered in diagnosing a medical issue. However, the test may assist you in narrowing down potential triggers if your pet has an issue. In that case, focus on the higher listed results for potential problems and restrict that food from the diet.
How accurate are the results?
From all the research I have compiled on this topic, the scientific opinion is that the tests are highly inaccurate. Different results will likely be given if the same dog is tested twice. Notably, these tests have yet to be validated, and veterinary medicine has limited regulatory oversight. An elimination diet is the only true allergy test that can produce definitive results.
Allergies vs. Sensitivities
Most dogs and cats are not actually allergic to foods. Instead, they may have intolerances or sensitivities. The same is true for humans. Think about a person with a peanut allergy. They have a severe reaction that could potentially be life-threatening if they eat peanuts. This differs from someone sensitive to dairy, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort but is not life-threatening. When your pet has symptoms such as itching, redness, hot spots, loose stool, or yeasty ears, he or she most likely has a food sensitivity instead of a true allergy.
According to Dr. Conor Brady, the most common sensitivities for dogs are wheat, chicken, and beef. Wheat, in the form of gluten, is incredibly difficult for dogs to break down and digest because dogs are carnivores (cats too!) However, chicken and beef in raw form may not cause any issues as they are minimally processed and typically easier for many pets to digest. Although, most dogs are fed kibble diets, in which the proteins have been overly processed and extruded. This ultra-processing causes the protein structure to change and become incredibly difficult to digest. Ultimately this can lead to gut inflammation, which yields allergy symptoms.
Other Factors to Consider About Allergy Symptoms
Even if your pet has environmental allergies — seasonal or otherwise — diet changes can help to reduce symptoms because a healthy gut can help reduce the inflammatory response.
Your pet’s overall wellness and microbiome are affected by several factors, including medications and antibiotics that can kill beneficial gut bacteria, leading to digestive issues and a weakened immune system. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the potential effects of medications and antibiotics on a pet’s microbiome and overall health when making dietary and healthcare decisions.
True allergies in people and pets are rare. If your pet has what seems like an environmental or food allergy, it is likely an intolerance or sensitivity. The best way to help is to try to determine the underlying cause, which can be difficult. An elimination diet with daily probiotics and digestive enzymes can help balance the gut to reduce inflammation and adverse reactions. We also recommend including fresh food in every pet’s diet, even when kibble-fed. Studies have shown that if even 20% of the diet is fresh food, there is a significant reduction in inflammatory responses.
Every pet is unique and may have specific nutritional needs or health concerns that require professional advice. While this article provides helpful information, it is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. Additionally, we encourage you to contact us for guidance on creating personalized pet nutrition plans. Our knowledgeable team is happy to assist in any way we can to ensure your pet’s health and well-being.
*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.