Once your primary veterinarian has asked for a specialist consultation, we will contact you to arrange an appointment for an initial examination for your pet. This comprehensive examination often takes an hour. Our dermatologists will determine if your dog, cat or horse will benefit from allergy/skin testing, video-otoscopy, skin biopsies, LASER surgery or other procedures. To save time and travel for you and your pet, we can do diagnostic testing the same day as an extended initial visit - please ask our receptionist to make necessary arrangements if you are interested.
Allergy testing will be scheduled if one of our veterinary dermatologists or your family veterinarian believes your pet has environmental allergies. The purpose of testing is to determine specific environmental allergens that your pet is reacting to, in order to formulate a treatment (allergy immunotherapy/allergy shots).
Intradermal allergy testing involves testing your pet to see if they are allergic to allergens in the environment. During the test, small quantities of allergen extracts are injected into your pet’s skin and then monitored to see whether a small “hive-like” reaction occurs at the injection site. Your pet will be sedated for the test and a patch of hair on their side will be shaved so the reactions can be seen.
The test does not include food allergens. Skin and blood testing for food allergies are inaccurate. We recommend completing a strict elimination diet. This will help to accurately determine whether a food allergy is present and which dietary items are causing allergic symptoms.
When most people say “environmental allergies”, our minds jump to pollen allergies, which only occur Spring, Summer and Fall. However, our pets can also react to mold spores (Spring “Thaw” and Fall “Leaves”; as well as year-round indoor), insects (Summer and Fall) and indoor allergens such as dust mites (present year-round). Your pet can have environmental allergies if they are itchy year round. Our allergy test looks for positive reactions to multiple types of tree pollens, grass pollens, weed pollens, mold spores, insects, dander and dust mites.
Environmental allergy testing: An allergy test can be performed to identify environmental allergens. Both a skin test (intradermal allergy test) and blood test (serum allergy test) would ideally be performed to identify environmental allergens. The skin test requires the patient to be off of certain medication prior to the test. This test requires us to sedate the patient and shave a patch on the side of their chest. The results from the intradermal allergy test are available during the appointment. The results from the VARL serum allergy test can take 2 to 4 weeks to be reported. Based on the results of these tests, allergen-specific allergy serum (immunotherapy) can be formulated.
Patients referred for intradermal skin testing will need to have the following medications withdrawn prior to testing:
Long-acting injectable corticosteroids (Depo-medrol®) - 8-12 weeks
Oral corticosteroids (Prednisone, dexamethasone, Vanectyl-P®) - 4 weeks
Topical corticosteroids (including ear medications containing a steroid) - 2 weeks
Antihistamines (Benadryl®, Reactine®, Claritin®, Hydroxyzine, etc.) - 2 weeks
Amitriptyline (Elavil®), Fatty acids, Pentoxifylline, Cyclosporine (Atopica®) - 2 weeks
In the 2 weeks prior to allergy testing, you are able to continue the following:
Bathing using non-steroidal shampoos & cool water up to once daily
Antibiotics/anti-yeast medications to address bacterial/yeast infections
Cyclosporine ONLY if the patient has never received it in the past
Apoquel or Cytopoint anti-itch medications
Isoxazoline trials (e.g. Bravecto, Credilio, Nexgard, Simparica) to eliminate ectoparasites
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about a medication your pet is currently taking.
You should not feed your pet the morning of the allergy testing appointment. No food should be given after midnight the night prior.
If your pet has diabetes or another medical condition requiring specific feeding times, please contact our office for advice regarding fasting.
Pets under one year of age are not routinely tested as their immune system will not have been exposed to every season.
You can have your pet wear a T-shirt and/or bathe more frequently. Bathe with cool water to help relieve itchiness. Any secondary bacterial/yeast infections can be treated to improve your pet’s comfort.
Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots or allergy drops) will be formulated based on your pet’s positive reactions. Typically allergy injections will be started within 2-4 weeks after testing. Approximately 70-90% of pet's respond positively within 6-12 months of starting immunotherapy.
Allergen immunotherapy is the only therapy that directly addresses your pet’s allergies to environmental allergens such as grasses, trees, weed pollens, molds, and house dust mites. It is the safest and most effective long-term therapy.
Immunotherapy can be given via an injection just under your pet’s skin (subcutaneous injection) or it can be given as drops into your pet’s mouth. There are differences in the schedules between the injections and the drops – these can be discussed at your appointment with the veterinary dermatologist.
Your pet will not need to stay with us overnight as long as there are no complications with sedation. They will be able to go home after the test but may be sleepy or slightly unsteady on their feet. They may require supervision for a few hours after the test.