Atopic dermatitis is a hypersensitivity or over-reaction to a variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances in the environment such as plant pollens, house dust mites or mold spores. Most pets with atopic dermatitis either inhale or absorb their allergens through their skin. Allergy tests are used to identify what a pet is allergic to in their environment.
There are two types of allergy tests, the intradermal allergy test and blood testing for allergies (serologic allergy testing). In an intradermal allergy test, the fur is clipped on one side of the chest and very small amounts of common allergens are injected into the skin. This test is very precise and is only performed by Veterinary Dermatology services. Because most pets with environmental allergies become exposed to their allergens through their skin, the intradermal allergy test may also best simulate a pet's natural allergies. In a blood allergy test, a blood sample is obtained and submitted to a laboratory for testing.
If a pet is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, there are three methods of therapy. The first method of therapy involves removing the allergen from the pet’s environment. Unfortunately, this is not possible in most cases. The second method of therapy involves the use of anti-itch drugs such as anti-histamines or steroids (cortisone). Some of these anti-itch medications do not work in every pet. Other pets develop side-effects from taking certain anti-itch medications.
The third method of therapy for atopic dermatitis (environmental allergies) is allergy injections. Other names for allergy injections include desensitization, hyposensitization, allergy vaccine, or allergen-specific immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves a series of injections of diluted allergens. Over time, these injections make a pet less sensitive to their allergens and thus less allergic. Most pet owners are able to learn how to give the injections at home. When based on the results of intradermal allergy testing, immunotherapy helps manage the allergies in approximately 70-90% of pets. Most pets will respond to immunotherapy within 6-9 months, but some pets will require up to a year of immunotherapy injections before a full benefit can be noted.
The Angell Dermatology Service provides intradermal allergy testing, serologic allergy testing and custom immunotherapy formulation for allergic dogs and cats. We take a comprehensive and thorough approach to diagnosing and managing your pet’s allergies. Each immunotherapy treatment plan is tailored to your pet’s clinical signs, environment and test results and is custom-formulated by Dr. Klaus Loft of the Angell Dermatology service.
To schedule an appointment with the Angell Dermatology service, please call 617-524-5733.
Intradermal allergy testing on a dog