Allergy symptoms can cause many dogs ongoing discomfort that’s difficult for us pet parents to bear. And long-term symptoms can lead to other health problems. Tummy troubles from adverse food reactions can cause weight loss, dehydration, and lethargy. And dogs with allergic skin symptoms can develop serious infections from constant scratching, licking, and chewing.
No idea what’s causing your pup’s symptoms? With so many possible food or environmental suspects, it can be nearly impossible for pet parents to conclusively identify the offending allergen. But dog allergy testing may help you nail down the culprit and find possible solutions to ease his suffering.
We’ll share with you the types of veterinary and at-home dog allergy testing available, how they work, what they can potentially identify, and whether they’re worth your money and time.
At A Glance: Top At-Home Dog Allergy Tests
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What Are The Most Common Dog Allergens?
Our canine companions can develop allergies or sensitivities to a variety of substances in their food or environment. The most common food ingredients that cause problems are dairy products, chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, soy, and wheat. Common environmental triggers are fleas and dust mites, as well as molds and pollens from grasses, weeds, flowers, and trees. Dogs can also have adverse reactions to topical products such as shampoo. But keep in mind that 99% of allergy problems in dogs (and cats) are due to environmental factors.
When Should I Consider Getting My Dog Tested For Allergies?
Pups with food allergies or intolerances can exhibit any of these symptoms, but environmental factors typically don’t cause gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
- Itchy, red, moist, or scabby skin
- Constant scratching or licking
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Hair loss
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
If these symptoms are severe and ongoing, it’s in your and your dog’s best interest to test your pup for allergies — especially if you’ve tried and failed to determine the cause on your own. We recommend you schedule an initial consultation with your vet to discuss your pup’s symptoms, their frequency, and when they occur. For example, if your dog only has symptoms during warmer months, then outdoor seasonal allergens are likely to blame.
Your vet may have some suspects in mind once you share all of this information and can determine if testing is worth it based on your pup’s symptoms and your financial situation. Another course of action is for you to come to your vet visit armed with results from an at-home dog test. We’ll discuss these in more detail below and whether they’re worth considering.
How Does Dog Allergy Testing Work?
Before we get into your options of dog allergy tests and how they work, it’s important to understand some basics with terminology. The terms allergy and intolerance are often used interchangeably, but true allergies are different from intolerances. A true allergy is caused by the body’s immune system, and reactions are linked to an antibody produced by the body called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Experts say that intolerances don’t involve the immune system or IgE. But the symptoms of allergies and intolerances in dogs can be quite similar.
A veterinary skin or blood test measures IgE antibodies against different allergens to pinpoint the cause of atopic dermatitis (inhalant allergy). They can also confirm a flea allergy. However, skin and blood tests are ineffective in determining food allergies. At-home testing involves very different kinds of analysis.
Intradermal Skin Testing
In intradermal skin testing, a veterinary dermatologist injects small amounts of potential allergens under the surface of your dog’s skin. The injection sites are then monitored for a reaction. While considered the most accurate allergy test, skin testing can be expensive, requires sedation or anesthesia, and must be performed by a veterinary dermatologist.
In blood testing, your veterinarian takes a sample of your dog’s blood and measures IgE antibodies against various allergens. The higher the level of IgE, the more likely your dog has an allergy to that particular allergen. While blood testing isn’t considered quite as accurate as skin testing, it’s less expensive, doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia, and can be performed by your regular vet.
Dietary Elimination Trials
While blood and saliva tests are available for food allergies, most experts agree that they’re unreliable. So, the gold standard for suspected food allergies is a food elimination trial. This “test” requires putting your dog on a restricted diet under the guidance of your veterinarian. Most vets recommend an elimination diet trial for 8-12 weeks for skin problems and 3-4 weeks for digestive issues.
The two main approaches involve feeding your pup a novel ingredient diet or a hydrolyzed diet. A novel diet includes ingredients your dog has never eaten before. Hydrolyzed diets contain animal proteins that have been broken down (hydrolyzed) and are too small to cause an immune reaction.
If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, you can also try a limited ingredient or allergy-friendly dog food like Taste of the Wild’s Prey product line to see if that helps. Just make sure you’re feeding your pup a complete and balanced diet that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines.
At-Home “Allergy” Testing
Several companies offer at-home kits you can order online to test for “allergies” your pup could suffer from. The important thing to keep in mind is that these kits don’t test for IgE allergies. Instead, they test for intolerances to food ingredients and environmental factors. Most call their kits intolerance tests rather than allergy tests (but not all). These non-invasive testing kits analyze either your dog’s saliva or hair using different methods. We’ll explain more about how they work in our reviews below.
At-Home Test Kit Reviews
These commercially available testing kits are easy and non-invasive options that aren’t as expensive as veterinary testing. You order a kit online, collect your pup’s saliva or hair sample, mail it in, and receive results by email.
Allergy Test My Pet (Sold by EasyDNA)
The EasyDNA dog allergy test kit, also known as Allergy Test My Pet (A.T. My Pet), measures proteins in your dog’s saliva against over 120 common food and environmental allergens. (It’s not clear what kind of proteins they analyze, and saliva is not a good source to test for IgE.)
The kit comes with an easy-to-use collection syringe tube to get your dog’s saliva sample. Once you mail it in, you’ll receive a report in two to three weeks by email.
Your report will rank each substance tested, indicating a strong intolerance, mild intolerance, or no reaction. It gives you details about each substance that your dog ranks for a mild or strong intolerance. The report also includes dietary and lifestyle guidelines on supplements, topical treatments, elimination diets, and more.
An add-on Food Suggestion Report is available for $35. This includes personalized recommendations of specific food brands and recipes that could be a good alternative diet for your pup. We’ve seen many positive customer reviews about EasyDNA’s dog allergy test results and their customer support.
5Strands Pet Food & Environmental Intolerance Test
The 5Strands Pet Food & Environmental Intolerance Test has become a trendy product and has a lot of positive customer reviews. This test scans 10-15 strands of your pet’s hair using bioresonance technology, which is often used in holistic medicine. Bioresonance measures electromagnetic waves emitted from your dog’s hair. It does not test for IgE or other antibodies.
As 5Strands explains bioresonance on their website, “All particles of matter share the characteristics of both waves and particles and emit electromagnetic waves. Each person, microbe, food substance, or toxin has its own unique wavelength or frequency with individual characteristics. This includes all the cells in the body as well as substances such as pollens, toxins, viruses, bacteria, food, etc.”
This 5Strands kit tests for nearly 380 food and environmental substances that could be causing your dog’s body to be out of balance, i.e., items that could be causing sensitivity or intolerance. Results are color-coded: red for a severe intolerance, yellow for moderate, green for mild, and gray for no response. The report is a lot to take in, only because they include all 380 substances, and it’s not as detailed as EasyDNA’s report.
UCARI Intolerance Testing Kit For Pets
UCARI’s pet intolerance test is the most affordable at-home test we’ve seen. This test also uses bioresonance technology to measure the electromagnetic signals emitted from your pet’s hair sample. They compare their unique frequency against more than 350 foods, 300 environmental factors, and 100 common pet care ingredients. They also say they can detect over 400 potential nutritional imbalances in your pup. Like 5Strands, UCARI’s test doesn’t measure the body’s immune response.
Results are available within two days once they receive your pup’s hair sample. You log into your account and see a color-coded personal chart detailing your pet’s intolerances broken down into categories (food, environmental, etc.) and ranked from highest to lowest (severe, moderate, or normal). It also includes actionable advice to help ease your pet’s symptoms. However, some customers found the report confusing and hard to follow.
Are At-Home Tests Reliable?
How do at-home test kits compare to tests veterinarians perform? It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Veterinary skin and blood tests measure IgE antibodies, while at-home saliva and hair tests do not. For the most reliable results, a veterinary test is a way to go if you suspect your pup has environmental allergies. Research hasn’t proven at-home intolerance tests to be scientifically accurate. So, there’s a lot of controversy over whether saliva and hair testing is a valid method, with many experts finding them highly questionable.
Still, we’ve seen hundreds of reviews from pet parents who say at-home saliva and hair tests helped them nail down suspected allergens and alleviate their dogs’ symptoms. It’s important to note, however, that these kits shouldn’t replace a consultation with your veterinarian. We recommend that you discuss these kits’ results with your veterinarian. Your vet may suggest further blood or skin allergy testing or a food trial.
How Much Does Veterinary Allergy Testing Cost?
Veterinary allergy test pricing varies by vet and location. But in general, you can expect to pay an average of $200-$250 for a skin test and $200-$300 for a blood test. However, these prices are just for allergy tests. You’ll also likely have to pay a vet consultation and examination fee. And if your dog is getting skin testing, you’ll have to pay to see a veterinary dermatologist and for sedation or anesthesia.
An existing pet insurance policy may help you cover some of the costs of vet allergy testing, vet specialist visits, and even prescription dog food. But coverage can vary based on the pet insurance provider and your specific policy.
As a pup parent, it’s so difficult to see your pup suffering from suspected allergies. Fortunately, you have some options that could help you pin down some potential causes with select diets or at-home allergy tests if you can’t afford vet visits or expensive vet testing. We still recommend consulting your vet if your pup is showing ongoing signs of overly itchy skin or digestive issues. The causes for these conditions could be something other than allergies, so it’s important to get your vet’s input.