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What is a pet allergy test?

Pet allergy testing helps to determine the particular substances (allergens) that cause allergic reactions in your animal. Allergy testing works by assessing your pet’s immune response to common environmental allergens for dogs and cats, including pollens, grasses, dust mites, mould spores, mite and flea bites, cat or other pet dander (dead skin cells) and food. 

Does my pet need an allergy test?

If you’re worried that your cat or dog may be suffering from an allergy, it’s a good idea to head to your vet to complete a pet allergy test kit. 

A cat or dog allergy test can be very effective in identifying the underlying cause of allergy symptoms and helping to diagnose atopic dermatitis (a skin condition typically caused by inhalation of pollen, mould spores, dust and other allergens) but is less reliable for food allergies. 

Allergy testing is carried out mainly in patients with atopic dermatitis to decide which specific pet allergens to include in immunotherapy. Before a diagnosis of atopy can be made, things like parasites, skin infection and other potential causes of itching and inflammation symptoms must be ruled out. 

The most common allergy in pets is a flea allergy. Many atopic pets may suffer from a combination of flea, environmental and food allergies. 

How does a pet allergy test work?

There are two main types of cat or dog allergy tests:

Both tests will be affected by the use of certain medications, so it is essential that we know your pet’s medical history and of any medications your pet has been taking in the 2 months prior to the allergy test. This includes shampoos and topical treatments for another medical condition – if you’re not sure what to include, have a chat with your vet team.  

Once the test results are back, we can help make an allergy treatment plan for your pet. This may include regular allergy medications in the form of tablets or injections and/or immunotherapy.

How to help pets with allergies

As a rule, a good approach to treating pets with allergies includes:

As part of testing for an allergy, your vet will likely suggest carrying out an elimination diet for your pet. This will involve feeding your pet an alternative diet (usually called a hydrolysed protein diet), which cuts out likely allergens. Then, after the dietary exclusion period, you’ll start reintroducing ‘normal’ foods – it should be obvious from these test results which (if any) foods trigger allergic reactions in your pet.

Please note that while simply avoiding known allergens may help to reduce symptoms, it’s often unlikely to completely resolve them. Therefore, an additional form of treatment (e.g. medication) is usually required too.

Once you’ve identified the cause of the allergy symptoms, you may be able to make some changes to try and cause a significant improvement in your pet’s comfort. For example, if allergens like dander or dust are identified, you may be able to clean your cat’s litter box or the dog basket more regularly to help. Additionally, switching food to help your dog’s diet can sometimes ease symptoms, but make sure you check with your vet first.

How much does a pet allergy test cost?

The test we carry out at our Animal Trust surgeries involves taking a blood sample from your pet, which is then sent away to an external laboratory for antibody testing against a range of allergens to find the root cause of the symptoms. Please check our vet prices page for the current cost of a comprehensive allergy screen blood test (testing grasses, weeds, dander, other substances and a range of indoor allergen levels). 

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Does pet insurance cover cat and dog allergy testing?

Pet insurance may help to pay for allergy testing, if it’s recommended by your vet as the best treatment (for example if your pet is suffering from itchy skin). However, all policies vary in what they cover and what exclusions are in place. We recommend checking your policy and speaking with your insurance company to check you are covered before proceeding with the tests. 

How to get a pet allergy test

If you think your pet may be suffering from allergies, bacterial infections or any other conditions, please contact your local Animal Trust clinic for a free consultation. Our vets will assess the best treatment options for your pet as an individual, which may include allergy testing. 

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