In our previous article on pet allergies we explained how allergies work and what the typical first steps of treatment are. Unfortunately, changes in food and symptomatic treatment may only get you so far depending on the severity and kind of allergic reaction in your pet. This article will cover the next step in treating allergies in pets—namely, allergy testing.
Allergy Testing and Allergy Shots: How They Can Help Your Animal
Allergy tests can be done either for food or environmental allergies. As discussed in our previous article doctors will usually target food allergies first simply because they are much easier to treat. For food allergies Doctor Gary Richter recommends a test called Nutriscan which uses saliva to test for food sensitivities. After administering the test, your veterinarian gets back a list of food ingredients that are allergens for your pet. If there is something on this list that can easily be removed from their diet, this is the ideal result.
Environmental allergy testing is the next option and tests for allergens that might be air borne in your pet’s environment. This type of test can either be done using an animal’s blood or through a technique called intradermal testing, which means pricking their skin with different allergens to see how the pet reacts. Research doesn’t point to one test being better than the other as each yields accurate results. Since an owner cannot usually prevent a pet’s exposure to environmental allergies (even ones that they know about), the practical outcome for environmental testing is to begin the pet on an allergy desensitization protocol.
Once the doctors know what a dog or cat is allergic to, they can start them on a regimen of allergy shots or oral drops. These shots or drops work by slowly exposing an animal to small amounts of allergens with the aim of desensitizing their immune systems over time. At best, this process takes months to yield results, so patience is definitely an asset during a trial of shots or drops. While many pets will show improvement, some will unfortunately not improve. As Doctor Richter says, “We all have some experience with allergies, either with ourselves or someone close to us, and these are rarely things you are going to fix completely. Allergies are usually a lifelong affair”. In these cases, it may be that the best option is to begin the pet on a steroid to see if it helps control their symptoms.
If you are wondering why the doctors at Montclair Veterinary Hospital don’t just begin with allergy testing, the answer is that it is fairly expensive and takes a while to yield positive results; as such, it usually makes sense to begin with faster, more affordable avenues of treatment. When there isn’t a quick and easy fix, allergy shots and/or steroids or even immunosuppressants are generally the next best steps to take.
The doctors at Montclair know that there isn’t one defined way to treat a pet’s allergies, and so they are happy to explore and discuss the pros and cons of all possible treatment modalities with their patients. It can be a long process, but the good news is that there are many, many different avenues to take to help your loved ones get relief from their overactive immune systems.
We hope these articles have been helpful and informative. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments, or if there are any other more complex veterinary topics that you would like to see us cover!