An allergy forms when your dog's immune system over reacts to a foreign substance, also known an "allergen" or "antigen." There are five different types of allergies your dog may suffer from, which include inhalant (atopy), flea, food, bacterial and contact allergies. Atopy allergies are the most common (i.e. pollens) and contact allergies are the least common, which involves a local reaction on the skin to a physical contact (i.e. bedding). There are two major types of dog allergy tests to consider; blood tests and an intradermal skin test. Both can cost about the same--about £130 to £195--but each has its pros and cons.
Symptoms to Look For
Allergies are the most common medical conditions found in dogs. Almost all dogs respond to allergies with skin-related symptoms, primarily itching, scratching and licking. Usually, your dog will experience moderate to severe itching on the skin in a localised area or all over his body. Also, your dog may react with respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sneezing. Further, in some rare cases your dog may react with symptoms involving the digestive system such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
Before Allergy Testing
Before testing your dog for allergies with your veterinarian, it is important to try to rule out other potential causes for your dog's skin problems, such as flea bites, fungal or yeast infections, bacterial infections or hypothyroidism. Also, you may want to test your dog for food allergies by giving him a hypoallergenic diet for 12 weeks and gradually introduce food ingredients one at a time to test for reactions. Further, you need to make sure your veterinarian has experience in allergy testing or you might want to find a veterinary dermatologist.
According to PetEducation.com, there are two types of blood tests used to detect allergies; the RAST test (radioallergosorbent) and the ELISA test (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). Of the two, the ELISA test usually produces the most accurate results. Blood testing is more convenient than skin testing. All that is needed is a blood sample, which is then delivered to a lab. The blood sample is screened against a broad range of allergens. However, many veterinarians do not recommend blood testing because the tests are designed to test human antibodies. Thus, the results can produce many false positives. These tests usually cost from £130 to £195.
Intradermal Skin Testing
Intradermal skin testing is the most recommended dog allergy test because it is the most accurate and has a success rate of over 75 per cent. Skin testing involves giving your dog a sedative, shaving a patch of hair from his side and then giving him a series of precise injections of various allergens. After an hour or less your veterinarian will analyse the skin for any adverse reactions. If your dog shows signs of an allergy to a specific allergen, your veterinarian will create a vaccine, which you or your veterinarian will have to administer. Usually the first 30 days require a daily injection. After this period of time an injection is given 1 to 3 times a week for up to 9 to 12 months. The skin testing costs between £126 to £162 and a seven-month supply of vaccine injections costs from £42 to £120, depending on the frequency of injections.
Besides a blood or skin test, you may incur other costs in your quest to cure your dog's allergy symptoms. If you administer a food allergy elimination diet it can cost £18 to £42 per week for commercial hypoallergenic foods. You will have to administer this special diet for at least 12 weeks. Also, if your dog experiences severe allergies, he may develop skin infections, which require antibiotics that can cost from £19 to £32. Further, your veterinarian may recommend giving your dog an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as benadryl, which can cost at least £6 a packet, to help relieve your dog's allergy symptoms.
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