Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Allergies in Dogs Diagnosis

General Diagnostic Tests and Principles

The following sub-section of dog allergies diagnosis will look how allergies in dogs are diagnosed. Determining the underlying reason for a dog’s symptoms will typically involve a veterinarian carrying out a physical examination of the dog, considering background information provided by the owner and then possibly undertaking various skin, blood and other diagnostic tests e.g. endoscopes, scans.

In some cases, a likely diagnosis will be formulated based on the pattern of symptoms observed e.g. seasonal symptoms may indicate an allergy to pollen and not food, whereas non-seasonal symptoms may suggest an indoor environmental allergen or a food allergy. Furthermore, a general indication of the type of allergy may be based on the location of the symptoms e.g. flea allergies are typically associated with the hind region of a dog. The process of arriving at a probable conclusion will also involve the vet, through a mixture of experience and possible diagnostic tests, eliminating conditions of a non-allergy nature that may produce some or all of the symptoms observed e.g. certain liver conditions or bacterial infections.

If an initial course of treatment proves unsuccessful e.g. having used medicated shampoos or antihistamines, or the symptoms are particularly severe, the veterinarian may refer the owner to see a specialist. For example, the services of a veterinarian dermatologist (akin to a dermatologist/allergist for people) can be called upon when a dog has persistent skin problems such as chronic inflammation, reddening and itchiness. The specialist may carry out further tests, give immunological injections (allergy shots) or if a food allergy is suspected, request that the dog owner implements an elimination diet in conjunction with the keeping of an accurate allergy diary/journal.

Although the term elimination diet is synonymous with food allergies, its underlying principle (i.e. excluding the suspected allergen and observing the outcome over a given period of time) may be applicable to other allergies. Given the possible issues surrounding allergy testing e.g. false positives or negatives etc., a process of elimination will help highlight whether a given action taken (based on diagnostic test results) actually yields tangible benefits in the ‘real world’.

Finally, it is important to realize that both diagnosis of the allergen and subsequent treatment undertaken may require considerable patience and persistence from the owner (vet and dog included!). You may have to venture down many a blind alley before success is achieved. Ultimately, overcoming the problem may involve taking an holistic approach that aims to boost the animal’s immune system, reduce stress levels and improve both its physical and emotional well-being e.g. more interacting, playing, praising and walking it etc.

Unfortunately, in a minority of cases, even with accurate diagnosis and the application of the best treatments available, the outcome may prove less than satisfactory. Expensive ongoing treatment may be the only viable option to minimize or suppress the allergy symptoms and even then, on rare occasions, the veterinarian may advise that the most humane approach is to have the dog put to sleep.

Subsequent articles concerning how allergies in dogs are diagnosed will elaborate on the principles outlined above. Though parallels exist with humans concerning the types of test available, their implementation can differ and this will be discussed where appropriate.

Allergies in Dogs Diagnosis
Elimination Diet (Food Trial) and Hypoallergenic Dog Food Elimination Diet (Food Trial) and Hypoallergenic Dog Food
An elimination diet (food trial) can help identify a food allergy and this article explains Provocative Testing and the pros/cons of homemade vs. commercial hypoallergenic food.

Coming Soon
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