Allergy tests and your pet

Just like us, pets can also experience allergies. Spring pollen, irritating shampoos, and even food allergies can be a problem for pets. Fortunately, allergy tests can often identify the cause of your pet’s reaction.

How is it done?

Your pet can be screened for a list of environmental allergens with a simple blood test. The sample is sent to a laboratory where tests will determine the cause and severity of your pet’s allergy.

How does it help?

The best treatment for an allergy is to avoid contact with the offending substance. However, this is not always possible. In many cases, intermittent treatment is necessary. Steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, special shampoos, or supplements may be used to treat allergies. However, if used for too long, steroids can have adverse side effects.

Antibiotics and antihistamines can be a considerable expense. Allergy-positive pets may benefit from desensitizing vaccines specially formulated for your pet. The goal is to control your pet’s allergy and minimize the need for additional medication.

How successful is it?

Dogs and cats, like people, are individuals. No two dogs or cats are exactly alike and neither are their allergies. Therefore, some patients will respond better than others. Allergy shots are not a quick cure for your pet’s allergies. Rather, they are safer and, in many cases, cheaper than alternative treatment methods.

What is the treatment process?

The initial blood test is taken at a normal veterinary appointment. When the treatment vials are tested by a laboratory, an injection regimen is started. If your pet develops clinical symptoms of his allergy during treatment, they can be controlled through the use of antibiotics or shampoos. The use of steroids during desensitization is avoided. Your Greencross veterinarian will administer the injections during scheduled, one-on-one visits. Talk to your local Greencross veterinarians if you are concerned about allergies in your pet.


Something to which the immune system develops an allergy; they are usually proteins in things like pollen, dust mites, and some moulds. Antibody: A specialized protein called immunoglobulin (Ig). There are many subtypes, including those that are responsible for allergic reactions, IgE. Gold standard: For the purpose of our discussion: a diagnostic test that is considered to be the most reliable.

When evaluating the usefulness or reliability of a new or different test, that test is compared to the “gold standard” test. Hyposensitization Injections – Another name for allergy shots or allergy shots. These injections reduce the patient’s sensitivity to allergens. IgE: The allergic antibody; type E immunoglobulin.

Allergy testing is done to determine which allergens may be responsible for a pet’s allergy symptoms. Allergy tests do this by looking for the presence of specific allergy-type antibodies (IgE) to common allergens. Two areas of the body are commonly tested for the presence of specific IgE: the skin and also the blood.

The intradermal allergy test (or allergy skin test) is considered the gold standard of allergy testing. It is very similar to the allergy skin test that is done on humans. In pets, it consists of injecting small amounts of allergens in an organized way into the skin. When a pet produces IgE that is specific to the injected allergen during testing, the IgE produced by the pet causes the skin to redden and swell exactly where the allergen was injected.

A scoring system is used to differentiate positive from negative injection sites. Training and experience are needed to test injections correctly. Skin allergy tests, like blood allergy tests, are reliable only for non-food allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and mould.

Does your dog or cat scratch and groom itself too much?

Dog and cat allergy symptoms are distressing for your pet. Skin allergies are one of the most common skin conditions we see in dogs and cats and can have a negative impact on your pet’s life. Atopic dermatitis is a reaction to environmental aeroallergens such as pollen from grasses, weeds, trees, mould spores, and house dust mites.

What are the common symptoms of cat allergies?

  • Belly and sides too trimmed
  • excessive hair loss
  • Itchy crusty rash
  • Itchy, moist, red raised lesions in the groin or armpit region
  • Severe scratching of the head, ears, and neck
  • Greasy and dishevelled coat
  • Changing diet doesn’t make any difference.

What are common dog allergy symptoms?

  • Itching, most commonly around the nose, eyes, ear flaps, armpits, groin, and legs (especially if the itching affects the feet, face, ears, buttocks, legs, or areas that come in contact with the ground when the dog lies down)
  • Recurring skin or ear infections
  • Inflamed skin prone to secondary infections with bacteria and yeast (as a result of chewing, licking, rubbing, and scratching)
  • If your dog becomes “smelly” within a few days of being washed
  • If symptoms started or get worse in hot weather
  • If your dog gets itchy after touching grass
  • If your dog is itchy after being washed
  • If your dog has persistently oily skin
  • If a diet change makes no difference

How do we diagnose atopic skin disease?

We identify allergies by intradermal allergy testing. This involves cutting a strand of hair from one side and pricking the skin with a small amount of purified allergen extract. If the skin swells thirty minutes after the injection, it means that an allergy has been detected. Another way to identify allergens is to perform blood serology tests. Using the results of intradermal and blood tests provides a more accurate allergy profile for your pet and a better outcome with immunotherapy.

*Please note: Intradermal allergy testing is affected by a number of medications, including antihistamines and corticosteroids (cortisone tablets, injections, lotions, eye and ear drops). It is important that your pet is taken off treatment prior to testing. Talk to our technicians about medication withdrawal times for your dog and cat.

How do we treat atopic dermatitis?

The best treatment for allergies is usually immunotherapy (desensitization) or avoiding allergy triggers. Immunotherapy involves creating a vaccine for your pet. Once we have identified what your pet is allergic to, we formulate an allergy vaccine (immunotherapy) that contains the allergens your pet has reacted to. As the vaccine starts to work, there will be fewer allergic signs like infections and itching. We prefer to use immunotherapy over medication, as it minimizes subsequent reactions.