Allergy Testing and Treatment

Does your pet suffer from severe allergies?

“Scratch, scratch, scratch. My pet scratches herself all day long.”

I hear this complaint on a regular basis at Bingle Veterinary Hospital. I understand. My border collie, Mimosa, used to scratch throughout the night. It doesn’t take much imagination to feel the discomfort of our scratching pets. We want to help, and most of the time, that means a trip to the veterinarian.

Scratching is symptomatic of a number of ills, all of which need to be considered, from external parasites (fleas, ticks, demodex skin mites, sarcoptic mites) to fungi such as ringworm, to skin infections, including staph. If your pet has none of these, it’s a good bet s/he suffers from allergies.

More than ten percent of all scratching pets are affected by allergies, which should be taken seriously. Itching and scratching due to allergic reactions often seem more intense than from other causes and may lead to hair loss and rashes. The resulting irritation often results in skin infections.

The good thing is that your pet’s allergies can be treated. The first step is to determine exactly what your pet is allergic to. This requires a small blood sample, which we send to a laboratory that specializes in allergy testing. When completed, the sensitive laboratory testing identifies the allergens responsible for your pet’s discomfort. Once the substances to which your pet is allergic are identified, we proceed in a couple of ways: It may be easiest and best for your pet to simply avoid these substances. For example, with food allergies, it is fairly easy to avoid feeding your pet those particular foods.

However, it is virtually impossible to keep your pet away from allergens like pollens, molds or dander. In these cases, the veterinarian can prescribe corticosteroids or antihistamines for temporary relief, but prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause severe side effects. Therefore, the most practical and clinically preferred treatment is hyposensitization. Simply put, vaccination against the identified allergens. Allergy shots given on a regular basis may take six months to a year to hyposensitize your pet.

But the good news is that in sixty percent of hyposensitized pets the allergens will be controlled without further need of steroids. An additional twenty percent may need further steroid drugs but at a significantly lower dosage.

Your pet’s allergies are treatable. She or he can live without the discomfort and health risks associated with allergic reactions and avoid the serious complications of long-term steroid use.

Dr. Robert Vaughan, II


What are the Signs of Allergies in Dogs and Cats?

The most common sign of allergy in dogs and cats is itching, manifested by scratching, rubbing, licking and chewing. The scratching and itching that are due to allergies are always more intense than normal and may lead to varying degrees of hair loss and rashes. The rashes often represent infection. In rare cases, vomiting and/or diarrhea may be present especially if the dog or cat suffers from food allergy. In some cases, allergic dogs and cats will have no other symptom except asthma. Others will show hay fever-like symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes and runny nose. In a good number of cats, skin lesions without associated itching are the only clinical signs of allergy.

Does your Dog or Cat have an Allergy?

Most people are quite familiar with the classic symptoms resulting from allergies in humans, such as sneezing, wheezing, coughing, itchy and watery eyes, along with nasal and sinus congestion. This is because about 1 out of 5 people suffer from allergies, which will rank allergies as one of the most common medical problems in humans. Similar to humans, dogs and cats suffer from allergies, with about 1 out of 10 pets being affected However, the symptoms are not quite the same as in humans.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergy is an inheritable disease that is a result of the body defense mechanism (the immune system) abnormally reacting to certain common substances in the environment. Allergic symptoms may be seasonal or year round. Normally the immune system is responsible for the body’s ability to fight off infections. When the body detects a potentially dangerous foreign substance, like bacteria or virus, the immune system is marshaled and it makes preparation to go to war against the foreign substance. One of the arsenals the immune system immediately begins to manufacture is a special type of proteins called antibodies. These antibodies are like self-guided target-specific destroyers. They travel through the blood until they find the foreign substance harmless. In the case of allergies, the immune system of a dog or cat that is allergic thinks that the dog or cat is being invaded by a foreign substance when the dog or cat is exposed to certain substances in the environment. These substances are called allergens and are usually of weeds, trees and grasses, house dust, insects, human and animal dander, molds, foods and chemicals. The allergic dog or cat then makes a special type of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE antibodies) against these substances. Whenever the pet comes in contact with these allergens the IgE antibodies attach themselves to them. When this happens a series of chemical reactions occur in the body that result in the release of mediators that cause inflammation and general discomfort observed in the allergic dog or cat is the result of these mediators.

Are Your Dog or Cat's Skin Problems Due to Allergies?

While a good number (as high as 40%) of skin irritations in dogs or cats are allergy-related, it must be emphasized that not all skin problems in pets are due to allergies. Other skin irritations may masquerade as allergic-type symptoms. This is why it is important that your pet’s skin problem be accurately diagnosed so that proper treatments can be administered. Consult with your veterinarian when your dog or cat shows signs of skin problems.

How are Allergies Diagnosed?

Finding our what are causing the allergies in a dog or cat always takes careful detective work. One method that can be used to find out what substances your pet would react to is a skin testing. It involves shaving off an area on the pet and skillfully injecting extracts from suspected allergens under the skin of the dog or cat, within a half hour, a wheat (round bump) and erythema (redding) will form on the skin from each extract to which the pet is allergic.

Alternatively, our veterinarian on staff can simply take a small amount of blood sample from your pet and send it to VARL for a complete Liquid Gold allergy blood test. The Liquid Gold allergy blood test for dogs and cats is a sensitive laboratory blood test which will identify the different allergic substances that are responsible for your pet’s allergies. THe VARL allergy blood test searches for and identifies each of those special allergy-producing antibodies (IgE antibodies) that may be present in your pet’s blood. By accurately finding and measuring the amount of allergen specific IgE antibodies present in the blood sample, the Liquid Gold allergy blood test is able to identify the different substances causing your pet’s allergies. – an essential first step on the way to getting your pet well.

What is the Treatment for Allergies?

While avoidance of the substances identifies as causing the allergies in your pet is the best form of treatment. It is not always practical. A strict flea control program and removing foods positively identified during VARL blood test from the diet can help control both flea and food allergies. Allergies due to pollens, molds, dander, etc. are almost impossible to avoid. Drugs such as corticosteriods and antihistamines can be valuable in temporarily relieving symptoms but the prolonged usage of corticosteriods can cause serve systemic side effects. The most practical and clinically preferred form of treatment when your dog or cat is diagnosed with allergies is hyposensitization. It is very safe and cost-effective. The initial cost may seem to be high, but the program will in the long run cost you less than any other form of treatment.

What kind of Allergy Testing does Bingle Vet Perform?

VARL Liquid Gold serum allergy test will help you successfully hyposensitize your allergic dogs and cats. This is the only serum allergy test that is not ELISA/RAST and a double-blinded research study has shown hyposensitization based on results of Liquid Gold testing to be better than skin testing. The secret lies in our accuracy of identifying and treating only culprit allergens – not false positives. To you, this will mean better success with hyposensitization.

Hyposensitization?

Your dog or cat can be rendered immune to a various substances detected by the Liquid Gold allergy blood test. This is achieved by vaccinating your pet against the identified substances, mush like children are vaccinated against childhood diseases. THe major difference is that allergy hyposensitization takes a longer time – up to 6 to 9 months, or longer in certain cases. Approximately 60% of pets hyposensitized will be controlled without the need for any cortisone. An additional 20% of the pets are helped by hyposensitization but may need further steroid drugs ( at much lower dosage than if not hyposensitized) during the worst of the allergy season. Successful hyposensitization is highly dependent on an accurate diagnosis and a faithful adherence to the prescribed schedule of treatment. If you suspect that your dog or cat has allergies, consult our veterinarian on staff to discuss testing and treatment options. Your best friend can live without the discomfort of allergies and the serious complications of long-term use of steroid!