A reasonable number of the UK’s dogs suffer from allergies of some form, and these are not always acute and obvious enough to cause a major problem for your or your dog. In fact, allergies in dogs go underreported and underdiagnosed a lot of the time when they are very mild or don’t generate a lot of obvious symptoms-much as a person might technically suffer from hayfever, but if the only effect it has on them is the occasional sneeze, they are unlikely to be too bothered by it.
However, allergies of any type can make your dog ill and miserable, and very acute allergies can even pose life threatening too, as well as having a generalised systemic effect on the dog that can lower their immune defences and general health.
All of this means that getting allergies under control by means of either eliminating the allergen or controlling your dog’s reactions to it if this is not possible is important-and in order to do this, you have to find out what the allergen or trigger is in the first place!
Getting to the bottom of your dog’s allergy by means of finding out what is causing the problem is not always a simple process, however, and it can take a lot of time, work and potentially, money to find out for sure.
In order to find the cause of your dog’s allergy and so, get it under control, there are several different approaches that your vet might wish to take, and sometimes, more than one of these will be necessary.
In this article we will look at the four core approaches that your vet may use to diagnose your dog’s allergies, their main indications, and how they work. Read on to learn more.
Elimination trials are one of the less costly ways to rule in and out potential allergens that your dog may be facing, but a lot of the work involved in this will fall to the owner, rather than the vet.
Elimination trials involve removing the presence of potential allergenic triggers and then observing the results-does the dog improve, worsen, or stay the same? Elimination trials are often useful when the potential allergenic trigger is likely to be a food-based ingredient, because this is something that you can theoretically have total control over.
Elimination trials are less likely to prove effective in the case of environmental allergens such as grass or pollen, because the dog owner cannot eradicate them from the environment.
Exposure testing is something that will be performed by your vet, and it is generally referred to in a clinical sense as intradermal testing or irritant testing. This type of test is generally indicated in the case of suspected inhalant or environmental allergens, where the dog owner cannot eradicate them from the dog’s environment.
In order to perform exposure testing, your vet will single out a range of common allergens (such as the pollen of various common allergenic plants and other substances) and dilute them down to the lowest possible active level, before injecting them one by one just under the surface of the dog’s skin in set areas that are externally marked out.
The dog will then be monitored over the course of several hours, in order to see if a localised reaction occurs, thereby ruling in or out each substance This might take several sessions to complete, as your vet is unlikely to want to introduce a range of different allergens all at the same time in case of adverse reactions.
Blood tests are potentially the least invasive and fastest method of diagnosing certain types of allergens in dogs (and people) but they are not effective at producing a definitive result in the case of food allergies or contact allergies. However, for cases or inhalant allergies, blood testing is almost always recommended at some point.
There are several different types of blood tests that your vet may choose to perform, although the most common one used in the UK is called ELISA testing, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay testing. All this requires is a small vial of blood from the dog in question, which can then be examined for the presence or absence of antibodies within the blood that indicate a specific allergy.
Some allergies can be diagnosed or at least narrowed down by means of the study of clinical symptoms alone. This means keeping detailed records of your dog’s reactions, flare-ups and the symptoms that they present with, alongside of the other pertinent factors such as what your dog ate, where you went, how high the pollen count was, what your dog came into contact with, and various other things.
The study of clinical symptoms is usually an essential part of diagnosing a specific allergy in order to narrow down the potential culprits and leave certain suggestions viable for testing-however, the study of clinical symptoms is rarely enough on its own to give a definitive diagnosis of a specific allergenic trigger.