The Scoop on Allergy Testing in Pets
Feb 25, 2017 09:07PM
● By Sarah Urban
Veterinarians are seeing an ever growing trend of environmental allergies and food sensitivities in their patients these days. Animals can be allergic to lots of things in their world, which can include environmental allergies such as dust mites, pollens, molds, grasses, trees, perfumes and parasites.
Environmental allergies can be seen seasonally or chronically year-round. Food sensitivities can occur with food pets ingest that include ingredients such as proteins, carbohydrates, food additives, molds, preservatives and dyes. They can even be sensitive to the ingredients in supplements, heartworm preventative pills and pet-friendly toothpaste. At times, environmental allergies and food sensitivities can have severe clinical signs in patients such as vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems, skin infections and even enlarged lymph nodes.
Diagnosing food sensitivities and environmental allergies is not easy, because the clinical signs are incredibly variable and pets respond differently to all the therapies available. Many pets that have food sensitivity also have concurrent environmental allergies, thickening the plot. Traditionally, antihistamines, steroids and immune modulating therapies are used for environmental allergies. If a pet can’t seem to stop scratching, a blood allergy test may be recommended. Specific allergens are identified in the blood and an allergy shot can be formulated to help the pet.
Typically, testing for food sensitivity includes a food trial where a novel protein and/or carbohydrate is strictly fed for eight to 12 weeks. The question becomes whether the animal could be sensitive or cross-react to that novel protein or carbohydrate—thus no change or worsening of clinical signs of the current sensitivity to food.
NutriScan is a clinically predictable diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses that identifies the commonly seen food sensitivities from saliva. The body produces the antibody IgE to fight off a food allergy and reacts immediately and violently (anaphylaxis). These types of true allergies are rare. In contrast, the body produces antibodies IgA and IgM to combat food sensitivity and intolerance, which is more common and causes long-term reaction. This sensitivity is a response to a particular food or compound found in a range of foods, and is often exhibited through dysfunction in the skin or gut. NutriScan measures the levels of the antibodies to IgA and IgM in saliva. Based on results, an accurate elimination diet can be prescribed for the patient.
A holistic veterinarian may use homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic, western or eastern herbal medicine, and custom diet formulation to bring balance back to an animal’s immune system, lessening clinical signs and initializing self-healing.
Dr. Sarah Urban, D.V.M., is currently practicing and seeing new patients at Always Helpful Veterinary Services in Nottingham, Pa. She is certified in canine rehabilitation, mixed animal acupuncture, veterinary spinal manipulation therapy, postural rehabilitation and veterinary food therapy. She is currently completing her master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine through the Chi Institute, in Reddick, Florida