Allergies are a common issue in our pets especially in the warmer months of the year. They lead to inflamed skin, ear infections, hair loss, and severe itching. So most, if not all of us want to give our pets relief as quickly as possible. So what’s the best way to accomplish this? Are shampoos and medications the only way to provide relief? What role can allergy testing in pets play? What options are there for allergy testing in pets?
The pathway to allergy relief: The medications
As a veterinarian, I can provide relief for most pet with allergies. A typical treatment protocol for allergies includes medications to help with the itching. This may involve a steroid either in a pill form or a long lasting injection. It can also involve shampoos to provide topical relief. Often these shampoos include ingredients such as Ketoconazole, Chlorohexidene, and Promaxine. Antibiotics may be prescribed since skin infections are common with allergies. While these options work great most times to provide relief, signs often recur as soon as these medications are completed. This can be very frustrating for owners since they have to come back in and basically start over. This is usually the time for pet owners to consider long term therapy options.
Long term therapy options for allergies
Options for long term therapy may include regular injections of steroids. This typically occurs every 2-4 weeks for those pets with chronic issues.
There is also a newer injection therapy that is an immunotherapeutic. With one injection under the skin, immunotherapy allows the body to produce antibodies that targets mediators at the cellular level responsible for itching. This injection can last as long as 60 days in some pets.
Long term oral medications
Steroids are the most common treatment prescribed for chronic allergy issues. The problem is that it has side effects especially after long-term use. Also many pet owners may administer the medication incorrectly further contributing to problems with this drug
Antihistamines such as Benadryl, Claritin, Chlorapheniramine, Hydroxyzine and Zyrtec can be helpful sometimes for chronic allergies. This is often without the same side effects seen with steroids. The problem is with severe chronic allergies these drugs are less effective.
Newer drugs: Apoquel is a newer drug that most times is just as effective as steroids without its side effects. It can be used long term to deal with chronic allergies. The main concern is what I expressed with prednisone is it being giving inconsistently therefore not providing complete relief for the pet.
Role of Allergy Testing in Pets
The main goal of allergy testing in pets is to determine if avoidance can be incorporated in therapy to provide effective relief. It can also be used for desensitization if applicable for specific allergens that your pet may be exposed to. Despite these benefits, allergy testing have been under utilized in allergy treatment. This is because sometimes it can be cost prohibitive to many pet owners.
Options for allergy testing
Allergy testing in pets: Blood test
Your pets blood serum can be used to test for sensitivity for specific allergens in the environment or food. This information can often be used to provide immunotherapy to help with desensitization.
Allergy testing in pets: Skin Prick Test
The skin prick test also know as intradermal testing is considered by some veterinarians as the gold standard to determine causes of allergies. This involves injecting a sample of common allergens under the skin and seeing if there is a response. Responses are recorded and can also be used for immunotherapy as well.
Allergy testing in pets: Food Trial
The most effective way to determine a food allergy is through a food trial. I find many pet owners who do this incorrectly. Their pets are most commonly changed to a grain-free diet and based on their pet’s response they determine that their pet has a food allergy. Even if your pets responds to the food change, it doesn’t mean they are just allergic to grains. Most allergy test will reveal a sensitivity to meat proteins as well. Alternatively if there is no response to a diet it does not mean there is not a food allergy present. For a food trial to be effective a pet will have to be placed on a strict diet that is labelled hypoallergenic for six weeks. After this trial is completed, the normal diet is started again to see if the allergies return.
Allergy testing in pets: Glacier Peaks Holistics Alternative Allergy testing in pets
Glacier Peak Holistics is a company that offers an alternative to allergy test called a Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan. This testing can help indicate possible environmental and food triggers that contribute to allergies. Though not as accurate as the serum and intradermal skin tests, I have found this helpful for avoidance therapy especially when it comes to diet.
In conclusion, is allergy testing right for your pet?
For any pet with chronic allergies I would say yes. Otherwise the only alternative may be long term medications with potential side effects. Keep in mind that allergy testing results doesn’t guarantee that your pet doesn’t have to be on medications but it will certainly minimize it. Also it can have a huge role in treatment since it can help contribute with avoidance therapy.