Allergy testing your dog… The Top 5 Allergy Test Mistakes to AVOID!
Skin allergies are the most common cause of itching and rash in dogs. If so, you may have heard about or had your veterinarian recommend allergy testing for your dog. The most common types of allergy testing for dogs include skin testing (“prick” testing) or serum (blood) allergy testing. You may have also heard about alternative types of allergy tests that are easier and less expensive. Veterinary dermatologists are the allergy specialists in the dog world so when Dr. Rhodes and I recently saw advertisements for IMMUNE IQ™ on an Internet coupon site, we were intrigued. The company claims to test your pet for over 150 allergies, toxins, bacteria, viruses, molds/funguses parasites and more for only $87. Is this an accurate test or too good to be true?
As scientists- here is what we know!
1. Beware of unconventional allergy tests offering to diagnose a variety of diseases! These types of unconventional tests ARE NOT NEW and have been out there for years. On the surface, many of these tests seem plausible but they are based on unproven theories and a simplistic physiology. Of concern is both the accuracy of these tests (the scientific methodology used) and whether trace chemicals in hair or saliva are proven to actually cause disease.
2. A “Positive” reaction/result to an ingredient is not a diagnosis!
When a company provides you with the test results and reports “positive” results to a variety of allergens (or toxins, bacteria, viruses, etc.) – if the results are believable this is typically evidence only of previous exposure. We know that simple evidence of “exposure” (however that company is choosing to define it!) does not equal actual disease! This is a critical point, because you have to know what a positive test result really means.
3. Testing hair and saliva samples in pets (or humans!) is not a currently accepted methodology to determine “allergies” to foods or environmental allergens. The governing associations for veterinary dermatologists in North America and Europe (American College of Veterinary Dermatology, European College of Veterinary Dermatology) do not recommend hair and saliva testing precisely because it is unvalidated and unproven (not because of any conspiracy!).
4. Allergy testing should be performed for indoor and outdoor allergens once you and your veterinarian know this is the cause of the itching (not before!) Why? Because dogs with and without allergies can have "positive" test results. Remember- a “positive reaction” is not a diagnosis and must be interpreted along with your dog's symptoms! Allergy testing is not a "short-cut" in this work-up process.
5. The best way to diagnose food allergies is through avoidance and a strict hypoallergenic dietary trial. Unfortunately, there is no "easy" way to determine if your dog or cat has food allergies other than a strict hypoallergenic dietary trial. In order to have the maximum success with a strict hypoallergenic diet, it is recommended that you work closely with your veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist to pick the best hypoallergenic diet based on your pet’s history and current medical conditions.
What’s the final review of the IMMUNE IQ™ test from two veterinary dermatologists? Save your $87! These tests are a waste of money; divert attention from a true diagnosis of allergies (typically flea allergy, food allergy, environmental allergies or some combination of the three) resulting in a delay of conventional treatment that can offer your pet genuine relief. Sadly, most of these companies encourage a sense of distrust towards both the medical and veterinary medicine communities as a primary form of evidence. Most veterinarians I know are open to alternative medicine for treatment of a variety of conditions. However, as with other therapies we expect claims or benefits to be reliable and accurate preferably with support from peer-reviewed research based evidence.
We attempted to reach out to this company via email and phone requesting additional information on their test and any available research (published or unpublished) but have not received any follow-up.
Here are 2 scientific resources to check out: