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This is the definitive guide to dog food allergy testing.
If your dog is scratching incessantly, showing intolerance to his food, or has ongoing gastrointestinal issues, it could be time to get him checked for canine food allergies, also known as adverse food reactions (AFRs). But, is there a food allergy test for dogs?
Yes, it is possible to test your dog for food allergies and sensitivities from the comfort of your home with an at-home dog food allergy test kit.
Today we cover everything about dog food allergy testing, from the cost and accuracy to the best dog food allergy test kits and how they work.
We also share dog food allergy test alternatives and tips to help you identify the foods triggering your dog’s allergies. Let’s get started!
- What Is Dog Food Allergy Testing?
- Dog Food Allergy Test Types
- How Do At-Home Dog Food Allergy Tests Work?
- What Causes Dog Food Allergies?
- Why Test Your Dog For Food Allergies?
- Best Dog Food Allergy Test Kits (Reviews By Category)
- Gold Standard For Dog Food Allergy Testing
- How Accurate Are Dog Allergy Tests?
- Common Dog Food Allergies
- Dog Food Allergy Symptoms
- Breeds Prone to Food Allergies
- Best Medicine For Dog Food Allergies
- Food Allergy Testing Alternatives
Top Dog Food Allergy Tests
Here is a glance at our top 3 picks for the best dog allergy test.
What Is Dog Food Allergy Testing?
Dog food allergy testing is a process that can be done at home or by your veterinarian to determine if your dog has an allergy to certain ingredients (allergens). There are four main types of dog allergy testing methods: hair test, saliva test, skin test, and blood test (also known as a RAST test, or radioallergosorbent test).
Dog Food Allergy Test Types
Here is how these four different types of food allergy tests work.
|Saliva||Hair||Blood (RAST test)||Skin (Intradermal Skin)|
|Where to Take||At-Home||At-Home||Veterinarian||Veterinarian|
|Best Test||EasyDNA Dog Allergy Test||5Strands||N/A||N/A|
Dog Food Allergy Saliva Test. It measures antibodies in your dog’s saliva for the most common food allergens.
Dog Food Allergy Hair Test. It works off the DNA factors of the hair. You usually need to collect 10 to 15 strands of dog hair.
Dog Food Allergy Blood Test. (RAST test or Serum IgE test). It looks for immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the blood for certain foods or allergens.
Dog Food Allergy Skin Test. Veterinary dermatologists perform it. It requires your dog to be anesthetized, have his hair shaved, and prick the skin. Once this is done, the dermatologist injects small amounts of potential allergens. If there is no reaction, it’s unlikely your pup is allergic to the food. A typical reaction shows up as a small hive with swelling and redness if the test is positive,
How Do At Home Dog Food Allergy Test Kits Work?
At-home dog allergy test kits are only available as hair and saliva tests. These tests collect hair strands or saliva samples from your dog. Once the samples are collected, you will need to mail them to the company’s lab for analysis. A report should be made available to you in 2 weeks by email.
These test kits should not be a substitute for visiting a qualified veterinarian or diagnosing allergies in dogs. Instead, you should discuss the results with your vet. Based on the results, they can help formulate a new dietary approach, suggest other allergy tests to complement the results, and develop a program to prevent the ingestion or exposure of potential food allergens that may cause harm to your dog.
*These tests provide a quick and painless experience as opposed to blood and skin allergy tests.
What Types of Food Allergies Are Tested? What Can You Expect?
These kits test for sensitivity or intolerance to food that develops over time, rather than IgE (Immunoglobulin E) food allergies, which are caused by the body’s immune system. IgE allergic reactions occur within minutes of ingestion or exposure to the allergen and are diagnosed through a blood test or skin prick test by veterinarians.
At-home pet food intolerance kits test dogs for a wide variety of ingredients and foods your pet may be intolerant or potentially allergic to, including:
- Food ingredients and preservatives
- Common ingredients in dog treats
- Raw food intolerances
- Minerals and metal
- Nutritional imbalances due to allergies
These tests kits give you an extensive list of potential allergens (between 100 to 355) that could be making your dog miserable.
Note: Your dog should not be on allergy medications for two weeks before doing any allergy test. Please do not give your pet any food after 10:00 p.m. on the night before testing. Water is fine and can be given until you or your vet performs the test.
Dog Food Intolerance Vs Dog Allergies: The Difference & How These Tests Can Help?
A food intolerance (or sensitivity) response occurs in the digestive system. It occurs when your dog can’t properly break down certain foods. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, sensitivity to food additives, or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods.
In contrast, a dog food allergic reaction involves the immune system. For instance, if your dog is allergic to any ingredient in the diet (usually a protein), your dog’s immune system identifies that ingredient as a threat. It reacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
How Can Dog Food Intolerances Tests Help Deal With Dog Allergies?
Because food intolerances can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as food allergies, dog owners often confuse the two.
Dogs that foods that trigger intolerances can leave them feeling miserable. However, if they have a true food allergy, their body’s reaction to this food could be life-threatening. Testing your pup for food intolerances can help you clarify whether they have an allergy or intolerance. This can help your vet determine the proper treatment and make any necessary dietary adjustments.
Testing your dog for allergies and intolerances is useful because food intolerances and food allergies can occur in dogs of any breed and at any age. The longer your dog is exposed to a particular food or brand, the more likely a dog is to develop food allergies or intolerances.3 This is the number one reason why feeding your dog the same thing for many months and years is not advised.
Knowing what foods your dog can’t tolerate can help you buy a safe formula and remove those ingredients from his diet that could otherwise cause more severe problems down the road or even turn into allergies.
Dog Food Allergy Test Cost
How much is a dog food allergy test?
If you choose to perform a blood or skin dog allergy test, which requires vet visitation, one allergy test alone can cost anywhere from $275 to 350.1.
There would also be additional expenses like the cost of the office visits, medications, and any other tests needed before or in conjunction with the allergy test. According to Petplan pet insurance, the entire bill may be over $1000. Claims data from this pet insurance company show that one insured pet exceeded $5,000 in allergy-related care.2
On the other hand, at-home dog allergy tests are far less expensive, typically priced between $88 to $212.
What Causes Dog Food Allergies?
Just like humans, dogs develop allergies to certain food over time.
Dogs’ food allergies are predominantly caused by proteins, especially dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or gluten (from wheat). While proteins are the most common source of allergens, virtually any food ingredient can produce an allergy. Substances like additives, colorants, and preservatives can also be responsible.
There is ongoing research to identify what makes the immune system more likely to express that trait during early puppyhood. Puppies treated with antibiotics can be more susceptible to health problems like allergies later in life because antibiotics change the environment inside the gut, which is the largest immune organ in a dog’s body.
Susan Wynn, an internationally known expert on holistic pet care and former president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, recommends that young puppies be on canine probiotics up to six months to one year of age and give them a diet that’s fairly high in variety.4
Most Common Dog Food Allergies
What is the most common dog food allergy?
These are the top dog food allergens (allergies) according to BMC Veterinary Research from most-reported to least-reported.
|Dog Food Allergen||Percentage of Dogs With Reported Reaction|
Source: BMC Veterinary Research.5
Why Test Your Dog For Food Allergies?
According to CNN, 10% of all dogs are affected by allergies.6 PetMD says allergies are common in dogs. About 1-2% of all dogs have a food allergy which accounts for 10% of all allergies in dogs. And as many as 25% of dogs with skin problems have a food allergy.4,7
Neglecting food allergies can lead to serious health complications. The AKC notes that true dog food allergies cause an immune response that can result in symptoms ranging from skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness) to gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhea). It’s rare, but a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can also occur, similar to severe peanut allergies in humans.8
Moreover, secondary skin infections, other allergies, worsened symptoms, behavioral changes, lack of energy, and a poor quality of life could follow suit.
Dr. Justin Shmalberg, DVM at Nom Nom, says, “usually animals don’t die from a food allergy, but it does affect their quality of life. If they’re itching all the time, it can feel like having a thousand mosquito bites. While that’s not as catastrophic as organ failure, it can be pretty hard on the dog.”
Because food allergies and sensitivities typically cause itchy skin, your dog’s constant scratching, biting, and licking of the affected area could open up his skin to yeast, bacterial, or other secondary infections.
In worse cases, excessive licking can turn into a condition known as lick Granuloma, also known as acral lick dermatitis. This problem occurs when a dog licks at one spot for hours every day, eventually creating a wound at the site. The wound stimulates further licking, and the dog falls into a cycle of self-trauma, inflammation, and infection.1
Dog food allergy testing or food intolerance dog tests may help you identify the food culprit that’s triggering your dog’s allergies or sensitivities. Then you can remove the allergen(s) from your dog’s diet or single out potentially harmful ingredients before feeding to your dog.
Information from dog allergy tests serves you and your veterinarian develop an allergy treatment plan that avoids food allergens.
Dog Food Allergy Test Reviews
If you are looking for the best dog food allergy test, 5Strands Pet Intolerance Test is our top pick for the best at-home dog food allergy test.
We based our rankings on several factors, including testing accuracy, the information you get with your results, customer reviews, pricing, and more.
Best Home Food Allergy Test Kit (Pet Food Intolerance Test Reviews)
5Strands Pet Food Intolerance Test is your best choice for dog food allergy testing kits.
It tests for 275 food ingredients and preservatives. It’s priced at $88. It utilizes a hair sample collection method (10-15 strands) and Bioresonance technology to identify temporary imbalances causing symptoms such as upset stomach, headaches, bloating, itching, and other common allergy symptoms. Once you mail in your dog’s hair sample, you’ll receive a report in two to three weeks.
The test also provides you with an easy-to-understand report. The results will help guide you in an elimination diet and create a safer dietary and nutritional plan for your dog.
Other Food Allergy Tests For Dogs
- Pet Treat Intolerance Test – This home allergy test for 104 common ingredients found in dog treats.
- Pet Nutrition Test – Tests for 45 food-derived nutritional imbalances.
- Pet Raw Food Intolerance Test – Tests over 300+ meats, seafood, bones, fruits, veggies, oils, and grains.
- Pet Metals & Minerals Test – Test for the ability to process and eliminate metals and minerals.
There is a Pet Deluxe Package that includes four different types of dog allergy testing: food allergies, environmental, nutrition, and metal and mineral.
5Strands Coupon Code
Looking for a 5Strands discount code? Our readers get 10% off their total order by suing CanineBible at checkout. Click here to get started.
Read our best dog allergy test reviews for more food allergy testing kits.
A Look At 5 Strands Allergy Test
Watch our friends at 5Strands explain how a dog allergy test works. They also give you great insights about dog allergies and what to do if your dog tests positive.
Pet Food & Environmental Intolerance Testing Kit
If you want to test for dog food allergies and environmental allergies, they offer the Pet Standard Package pet allergy test kit, which tests for 275 food ingredients and 105 environmental allergens.
Gold Standard Dog Food Allergy Testing: Eliminations Diet
While dog food allergy testing (hair, saliva, blood, or skin test) is recommended, it is not the gold standard according to the literature and veterinarians.9,11
The “gold standard” or best method for diagnosing food allergies in dogs is the dietary elimination trial. Brennen McKenzie, MSc, MA, VMD, cVMA states the recommended process for diagnosing food allergies and other AFRs in dogs involves feeding a limited ingredient novel-protein diet or a hydrolyzed protein diet for an extended period, followed by challenge trials involving single-food proteins.9
Conducting an elimination diet involves taking your dog off all the foods (and treats) and putting them on food he has never eaten before. Following a dog’s improvement, we re-introduce the old foods. If they experience a reaction, which usually takes a few days to a few weeks, then we know they have a food allergy. The elimination diet should be done under the care of a vet or nutritionist. Learn more about it here.
A dog allergy test should only aid with the elimination diet process but not for diagnosing allergies. The elimination diet process is quite cumbersome and time-consuming, so many pet owners turn to simpler methods such as hair, blood, skin, and saliva testing.
Not all the specific adverse food reactions (AFR) tests on the market have been evaluated. We will explain more details in the next section.
Are Dog Food Allergy Tests Accurate?
Do dog food allergy tests work? The accuracy of dog food allergy tests (AFR tests) is highly debatable and is currently under research. According to veterinarians, research, and anecdotal evidence, here is what you need to know.
Dr. Cailin Heinze is, a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist and the Chief Academic Officer of the Mark Morris Institute, says:
“While I’ve had many pet owners and veterinarians report that they see a resolution of allergy signs after avoiding ingredients for which the pet has tested positive on blood or saliva tests, I’ve had just as many that report improvement despite being fed positive ingredients.” 11
The University of Wisconsin Veterinary Care reports that neither skin testing nor blood testing is consistently better. Sometimes a blood test may reveal more in one dog than a skin test and vice versa. So, it’s hard to tell which test is the best for each dog. According to their data, they can only pinpoint the allergy in about 75% of dogs and cats.12
None of the currently available tests are 100% accurate, meaning that non-allergic dogs test negative and only allergic dogs test positive.9 It’s often needed to do two (if not more) different tests to cross-reference results and get the most information about a pet’s allergy or sensitivity.12
Recent studies have shown low to medium-high inaccuracy rates for all dog allergy tests. It’s also demonstrated that blood, saliva, hair, and skin testing are not very useful in diagnosing food allergies in these species.9
Results from the studies that sought to validate test accuracy yielded the following:
Some tests “diagnosed” plain water and stuffed animal “fur” as having food allergies.13 Another study showed blood and saliva tests performed on 30 healthy dogs with no history of gastrointestinal or dermatologic symptoms yielded false positives, mistakenly classifying many normal dogs as having AFR.14 A different study revealed that saliva tests for food-specific IgA and IgM and the ELISA serum test for food-specific IgE were not reliable for diagnosing dogs’ allergies.15 Lastly, another study for skin-testing with selected allergenic food extracts was not helpful in identifying food-sensitive dogs.16
At-home dog allergy tests results are only to be used to guide you through the food elimination process. Your veterinarian should analyze your results, and you must get approval before making any dietary manipulations in your pet’s diet.
Anecdotal evidence shows varying results for dog parents who have tried at-home food intolerance tests. From our research and customer satisfaction analysis, most dog owners (65% of users) purchased these kits seemed to benefit from the results.
However, you should use the information above to decide before purchasing one of these tests. And, as always, consult with your vet first.
If food allergy or other AFR is suspected in your dog, until there is more evidence that a dog allergy test can accurately and usefully identify AFR, a diet elimination trial is a gold standard for ruling out canine food allergies.
Dog Food Allergy Symptoms
Almost 40% of dogs develop cutaneous manifestations of adverse food reactions by one year.
Most dogs with food allergies appear to be pruritic (intense itching). The most often reported cutaneous manifestations of an AFR are recurrent bacterial, yeast skin infections, otitis external, and Atopic Dermatitis, which can all happen in the same dog.17
Aside from itchy skin and skin issues, dogs with food allergies can also experience digestive disturbances such as chronic vomiting, gas, or diarrhea. Other symptoms can also occur, including hyperactivity, weight loss, lack of energy, excessive living in affected areas, and aggression.
One study showed that non-allergic dogs have around 1.5 bowel movements per day, whereas some dogs with food allergies may have 3 or more per day. So, more potty time than usual could be another symptom to look out for.
- Gastrointestinal and digestive issues
- Skin issues (Itching, hot spots, skin rashes, scaly and oily skin & a gamut of skin reactions)
- Itchy rear end
- Mucus in stool
- Straining to pass stool
- Abdominal pain
- Swollen face
- Ear or paw infections
In general, diarrhea and other GI symptoms are more likely to result from food sensitivity than allergies. According to Shmalberg, only 10 to 30 percent of dogs with confirmed food allergies have gastrointestinal or GI symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.
Typically, puppies younger than age one don’t experience environmental or other allergies. If your dog has both skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, it could be food allergies.
Last but not least, these are the body parts often involved in itching related to food allergies, according to one study.
- Ears (involved 80% of the time)
- Paws (61%)
- Inner thigh/belly (53%)
- Eye or front leg area (33%).
Breeds Prone to Food Allergies
Some dog breeds are more prone to develop food allergies. If your dog is on this list, it’s wise to take extra precautions for his diet.
Dr. Wynn says in her experience that German Shepherds, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels are the most commonly affected dog breeds.
Out of 22 research papers on AFR, four breeds (German shepherd dogs, West Highland white terriers, Labrador, and golden retrievers) accounted for about 40% of affected dogs.18
While dog food allergies are multi-factorial, there is a genetic predisposition factor in dogs’ development.
Here are the top 10 breeds most frequently Googled along with the term “food allergies” or “dog food allergies,” which may indicate these breeds are typically experiencing food allergy issues. It also supports Wynn and the research about breeds prone to allergies.
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Shih Tzus
- Westies (aka West Highland White Terriers)
- Yorkies (aka Yorkshire Terriers)
What Is The Best Medicine For Dog Food Allergies?
Food allergies can wreak havoc on a dog’s body if not addressed. If your pup is currently struggling with food allergies, you’re likely wondering what you can give Fido for relief. Our experts show you the safest and most effective allergy treatments to help your dog in our best allergy medicine for dogs article.
Are Dog Food Allergy Test Kits Worth It? Alternatives
If you’re one of the thousands of dog owners who can’t find the right food for their dogs or have an itchy pup at home due to allergies, there are multiple things you can do to find a solution.
The best place to start is the elimination diet. Even though this can be a tedious process, it’s the recommended approach to diagnosing food allergies in canines.
Dog allergy testing can prove useful by shedding light on potentially harmful ingredients, but you should take the results with a grain of salt and always consult your vet.
Because dog food allergies develop over time to pretty much any protein or carbohydrate ingredient, it’s best to provide a diet with some variety so they get a natural rotation. This will help maintain good gut health.
Multiple food alternatives can help manage (or not cause) food allergies in dogs. The most widely known choice is hypoallergenic diets, also known as hydrolyzed dog food. Most require a prescription from your veterinarian.
Other options include vegan dog food, raw dog food, and homemade dog food. Dog parents have seen great success with these options, so we encourage you to learn more about them. Treats can also be the culprit of your dog’s food allergies. Vegan dog treats and freeze-dried dog treats are great alternatives for allergic dogs.
Your veterinarian can discuss the best choices for your pet based on testing results.
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