Ever wonder if your dog has an allergy? Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell. Dogs and cats can experience allergies like people. Symptoms of allergies in dogs are similar to those of a virus or other illness, and the only way to know for sure is through testing. Fortunately, allergy test kits are available to help determine the allergen's source.
Understanding Food Allergies in Dogs
"Food allergy is one of the five most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs."
Dogs can be born with the allergen or develop a sensitivity as they age. Also, the condition is common to all breeds. However, some studies show the Shar-Pei and Poodle have the most significant risk of developing food allergies.
Symptoms of Dog Food Allergies
Your pup could show several signs, including ones you wouldn't think of, that they're experiencing a food allergy. The two most typical symptoms include itchy skin and diarrhea. Also, the skin might cause changes in your pup's coat, such as hot spots, skin lesions, and bald patches. According to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, approximately 10-15% of animals with food allergies present with dermatologic signs. Other responses include vomiting, weight loss, hyperactivity, and loss of energy. Additionally, some dogs show signs of aggression.
Most Common Dog Food Allergies
Similar to people, there are foods that your dog's more sensitive to. The most common are dairy products and chicken. However, other triggers include wheat, beef, soy, pork, and lamb. As the list shows, the majority of pet food allergies are related to protein. Finding a protein source that meets your pet's nutritional needs can be difficult with most commercial foods. It might be necessary to seek your pet's veterinarian's help in developing a meal plan if your dog is allergic to one or more major protein groups.
Veterinary Office Testing
A RAST test, also known as a radioallergosorbent blood test, is a simple screening available at your vet's office. You can make a separate appointment, or they'll complete it during a wellness routine. It checks for antibodies that relate to specific food allergens. If your pup has high levels, it indicates they have a sensitivity or allergy to the particular food.
Skin or intradermal testing is a common way to check for food allergies. However, this screening is much more invasive than the other procedures. It requires shaving a large area of your dog's body and injecting potential allergens under their skin. The procedure occurs under monitored anesthesia.
Additionally, only veterinary dermatologists can administer the test, making it much more expensive than other screening methods. Another downside to these allergy tests is they can't be administered to pregnant or breastfeeding dogs. Also, you must stop all antihistamines they're taking before the test. However, on a good note, you'll have the results from any of these procedures in less than four weeks. In fact, a skin test offers answers in as little as 20 minutes.
Over-the-Counter Dog Allergy Test Kit
You can try a store-bought testing kit that checks for hundreds of allergens. These screenings may be cheaper than blood testing at your veterinarian and more manageable than the elimination trial. The home screening kit uses saliva and hair samples that are sent to an independent laboratory. Results from these tests vary from two to four weeks. Many kits also screen for environmental triggers, too. Also, some of the kits are safe for cats and dogs. So, if your cat is having problems and it works for your dog, you have a baseline to start for your cat.
Choosing a Dog Food Allergy Elimination Trial
The most comprehensive screening for food allergies is an elimination trial, which is often referred to as the gold standard in food allergy testing for dogs. These are long and complex procedures that require much work from pet owners. Specifically, these last at least four weeks and can go as long as four months.
Treating Dog Food Allergies
Unfortunately, the only way to stop the symptoms associated with the allergen is to avoid the food. In addition to staying away from triggers, your dog may need medication for severe responses. Another consideration is future allergens. It's common for pets with existing food allergies to develop more as they age. This outcome can be very frustrating for dogs and their parents.
Dog food allergy tests are available. Additionally, several options are possible for food allergy screenings. Sensitivity to certain foods, including dairy products, chicken, beef, pork, and other meats, are common in all ages and dog breeds. The screenings vary by price, the number of allergens tested, and duration. Speak with your veterinarian before deciding whether to purchase an allergy test kit online or at your local pet shop. They might want you to start with blood testing in the office. However, if these screenings don't offer the results to resolve your pet's symptoms, further procedures might be necessary. Although it's a lengthy and complex process, your dog may benefit from an allergy elimination trial if the dog food allergy test is inconclusive.