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Allergy Testing for Pets: What to Expect & When It's Necessary

If your pet has developed an allergy, specific tests can help us identify the underlying condition causing your pet's symptoms. Today, our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist discusses what's involved in allergy testing for pets, and when it's necessary.

What is allergy testing for pets?

Two primary forms of diagnostic allergy testing – intradermal allergy tests and serum allergy tests – can help us determine the exact cause of your pet's allergy symptoms. After identifying your pet's unique sensitivities, we can create a customized treatment plan to address your pet's allergy symptoms. 

The type of allergy testing your vet recommends will depend on the symptoms your pet is displaying and numerous other factors. 

What types of allergies can a cat or dog have?

Allergies can cause your cat or dog to react to normal substances their environment. These substances are called allergens and include animal hair, molds, pollens, fleas, foods, dust, and many more. 

Allergens cause reactions through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the skin. Animals who are allergic to allergens have IgE antibodies to specific allergens. These antibodies cause biochemical changes in the body, which produce symptoms of allergies. 

How can I tell if my pet has allergies?

Allergy symptoms in pets can vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, a dog in anaphylactic shock will experience a drop in blood pressure followed by shock, which is not the same for a cat with a skin condition. 

In general, some of the most common signs of allergies in pets include:

  • Severely itchy, red skin 
  • Inflammation 
  • Feet licking or chewing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, ears, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Rubbing the face
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Respiratory distress (more common in cats)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

While food allergies can cause skin problems, they may also cause vomiting and diarrhea. Severe allergies can may lead to bacterial skin infections and large open sores. 

Note that some of these symptoms are also signs of many other health conditions. Make an appointment with your primary vet for an accurate diagnosis.

Why should I have my pet tested for allergies?

As you can tell from the list above, allergy symptoms can make your pet extremely uncomfortable. If their skin is itchy, they may scratch, leaving the skin irritated and inflamed. 

If your dog or cat has a skin condition that won't go away or flares up at certain times of the year, your veterinary dermatologist may recommend bringing them in for an allergy test. 

Fortunately, allergy testing may be able to prevent or stop symptoms from recurring. By determining the allergen that's causing your pet's allergic reaction, we can provide targeted, effective treatment. 

When should I have my cat or dog tested for allergies?

Your vet or veterinary dermatologist may recommend allergy testing after they've performed a full physical exam for your cat or dog, and only once they've eliminated other potential causes for your pet's symptoms. 

Important factors to consider when testing for allergies include:


Allergy testing for cats sand dogs should be done after they turn one year old. If a cat or dog is tested before they reach one year old, this can result in an increased risk of both false negative and false (temporarily) positive results. 

Additionally, cats and dogs less than a year old still have immature immune systems. Therefore, the results of allergy tests may change if they are tested before and after they turn 12 or 18 months old, when we may be able to identify more sensitivities.

Cats and dogs under one year may not have been exposed to a full calendar year of allergens, which means more sensitivities may develop as your pet interacts with more substances and potential allergens. 


If your pet's clinical allergy symptoms are seasonal, testing should be performed during the time of year where symptoms are present to avoid false negative results. For example, if your cat or dog is allergic to pollen, we would recommend testing in spring or summer. 

Use of Anti-Allergy Medications

Some medications may affect the results of allergy testing. If you're wondering if the medications your pet takes may fall into this category, contact Animal Friends Dermatology to find out before your upcoming appointment. 

Here are just some medications that should be avoided when preparing your pet for allergy testing: 

  • Cortisone-Type Pills – Itch pills, prednisone, steroids, etc. should be stopped at least two weeks before testing
  • Cortisone-Type Lotions, Ointments, Ear Drops, Sprays, or Eye Drops – Hydrocortisone, Cortaid, Panolog, and many others must be stopped at least two weeks before testing. 
  • Antihistamine Pills – Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, hydroxyzine, and many others must be stopped at least seven days before testing

Medications that do not negatively affect allergy testing include heartworm pills, antibiotics, seizure medications, flea control products, thyroid pills, cyclosporine (Atopica), Cytopoint, or Apoquel. 

How do vets test for allergies in cats and dogs?

The two types of diagnostic allergy testing for pets include intradermal allergy testing and serum allergy testing. Your veterinary dermatologist will recommend which allergy tests your cat or dog should have based on symptoms and several other factors. 

Intradermal Allergy Testing

The gold standard in allergy testing for environmental allergies is intradermal testing (also referred to as skin testing). A sedative is administered to relax your dog or cat, a specific area of fur is shaved, and multiple allergens common to Orange Park are injected into the skin. After 20 minutes, the test site is examined again to determine which allergens caused a red, raised reaction.

Serum Allergy Testing

Serum allergy testing for pets entails obtaining a small sample of their blood for diagnostic purposes. The serum from your cat or dog will be tested for sensitivity to a variety of potential allergens, including pollen from trees, grasses, weeds, and shrubs, as well as fungi, house dust and mites, and a variety of potential food ingredients found in commercial dog food preparations.

How can you treat my pet's allergies?

Once your pet's allergy tests are complete, our veterinary dermatologist will recommend appropriate strategies to avoid the allergen. Pollen, dust, and mold allergies may be treated with allergy shots (also referred to as immunotherapy or desensitization), which can help to decrease the immune system's overactive response to these substances. 

If your cat or dog is diagnosed with a skin condition or other issue as a result of allergy testing, we may also recommend other treatment options, such as special shampoos or conditioners, prescription medications, an ear flush, or changes to your four-legged companion's environment, as part of their individualized treatment plan. 

Followup care is important to the success of any treatments and to make adjustments as required.  

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have more questions about allergy testing for pets? Contact us. We will be happy to address any inquiries or concerns you may have. 

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