Why allergy test?

Allergy skin testing determines what things in the environment are causing your pet to be itchy.  From the results of the test, allergy injections can be formulated to desensitize to what the pet is allergic to.   Avoidance of allergens would be ideal, but unfortunately most allergens in the environment are airborne and cannot be avoided.  Examples of common allergens include pollens, dusts, and molds.

Some pets are not good candidates for allergy testing and allergy shots.  We will discuss if this is a good option for your pet at your appointment.

Process for dogs

We will gather a history, perform a physical exam, and samples may be taken from the skin to determine if there is an infection.  If your dog is a good candidate for skin testing and shots, then we will have your pet lay on a table or on the floor.  A square patch will be shaved on the side of the chest, and a very small amount of allergens (things your pet may be allergic to, like pollens) will be injected in the skin.  Sometimes dogs need sedation for this procedure, as they are having multiple injections.  Then the doctor will monitor the injection sites to look for reactions.  If your pet is allergic to an allergen, then the location it was injected will turn red and swell slightly.  The reactions are recorded and we go over the reactions with the owner.  The testing takes about 30 minutes to perform.  Some pets are a little itchy at their testing sites afterwards.  The reactions fade in 15-60 minutes.

Allergy Intradermal Testing Dog

Here is the process of intradermal allergy testing (skin testing) in a dog.

Allergy Skin Testing Procedure Dog

These are allergy test results in a Chihuahua.  You can see 5 strong reactions on the top row, all were to indoor allergens, which make sense because his allergies were year round.

Process for cats

The process is similar for cats, only they typically need a little stronger sedation.  Cats are different than dogs in their response to allergy testing and shots, we can discuss if your cat should be skin tested or not at your appointment.

Allergy Shots

Allergy injections (hyposensitization) are a long-term treatment that changes your pet’s immunity to allergens.  The treatment vials contain a purified combination of these problem allergens.  The concentration of the injections is slowly increased over time to de-sensitize your pet to these allergens.  Allergy shots are one of the most effective options for the treatment of allergies that does not involve suppression of the immune system.   This option is effective for treating allergies from pollen, molds, house dust, and other common airborne substances, but is not recommended for food allergies.  Food allergies are determined with diet trials, then avoiding the offending ingredients.

Allergy injections take between 3-12 months to reach maximal effectiveness.  If the injections are not helping your pet after 12 months, then they are discontinued.  Allergy hyposensitization is helpful in about 70% of dogs.  When the injections control the allergy symptoms, it may be possible to extend the time between doses, but allergy injections will be necessary life-long.  Injections need to be given year round even if the pet’s symptoms are seasonal.

Pet Dermatology Clinic staff will guide you through the process of administering injections, how to track the progress, and how to care for your pet in other ways, including oral medications, topical treatments, baths, and appropriate diets.  Click here for a video on how to give your pet an allergy shot.  Success depends on finding what works best for your pet.  Many pets do not follow the dosage schedule exactly.  This should not be a stressful process for your pet—or you.  Remember, we are available to help you if you are unable to give the injections yourself.