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Department Information – Pet Allergies


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Allergy Testing

The goal of allergy testing is to identify specific environmental allergens or insects that are contributing to allergic dermatitis in your pet.  Once these have been identified,  we may recommend treatment with immunotherapy: either by mouth (sublingual immunotherapy) or by injections.   Treatment with immunotherapy involves administering a solution containing increasing concentrations of allergen to the pet, so that over time tolerance to the allergens may occur.   This is the only treatment for allergies that has the potential to alter the course of the disease by retraining the immune system.    Several types of allergy tests are performed by veterinary dermatologists, both intradermal (injections in the skin) or in-vitro (through blood sampling).

Most veterinary dermatologists use a method of allergy testing known as intradermal skin testing. This involves the injection of very small amounts of pollens (from trees, weeds, and grasses), molds, dust, dust mites, various types of dander and insect extracts into the superficial layers of the skin. The test is administered under a light sedative/analgesic so that the patient (dog, cat, or horse) feels no discomfort.

In vitro allergy testing (blood allergy testing) may also be offered in conjunction with skin testing or as an alternative to skin testing, dependent on the patient.

An important point to understand is that neither blood testing nor intradermal skin testing is useful for identifying food allergies. Although some companies offer blood tests for food allergies, we do not promote their use, as scientific studies have demonstrated their inaccuracies. Dietary allergies or intolerance are diagnosed by placing the pet on a restricted diet for a period of time varying from 8-12 weeks depending on the patient, and then re-introducing the old diet or diet ingredients one at a time.

Ear Infections

Ear infections have many causes; some of the most common ones include environmental and food allergies, parasites, other diseases of the skin, and anatomical (breed-related) abnormalities. Most infections begin in the ear canal. If these infections are not treated properly, they may spread to the middle ear, which then requires aggressive medical and sometimes surgical treatment. The Dermatology and Allergy Department at GCVS is able to offer the most advanced services when diagnosing and treating various ear disease. These services include consultations from board-certified veterinary dermatologists and radiologists who specialize in ear disease and the diagnostic techniques used to determine the extent of the pet’s condition. We also use state-of-the-art equipment, such as a video-otoscope, which allows visualization of the entire ear canal, eardrum, and middle ear. Using the video-otoscope, we are able to collect samples, clean the ear, and apply medications. The scope also enables us to take pictures of the ear canal and eardrum, which assists in monitoring response to therapy and in explaining ear disease to our clients.

Resistant staphylococcal infections

Bacterial skin infections are a common sequelae to allergies and associated trauma to the skin from scratching.  One of the biggest frustrations in dealing with our allergic pets these days is that these infections are often associated with resistant strains of bacteria.  Infections recurring quickly after treatment and infections that don’t seem to respond well to therapy are evaluated with a culture and sensitivity to identify the causative bacteria and to select the most appropriate antibiotic.  Topical therapies are also very important in eliminating these infections. The dermatologist will work with you and your pet to develop the most appropriate treatment protocol.