What should you expect if you're referred to a veterinary dermatologist for intradermal skin allergy testing? Here, our Gaithersburg veterinarians explain what to expect during a consultation.
When your pet comes for their initial consultation, you will first meet one of our technicians from our dermatology department. The technician will record your pet’s medical history and gather any other pertinent information for the doctor. Questions that you may be asked are:
- How long has your pet suffered from allergies?
- What medications is your pet currently taking?
- Has your pet been off of steroids and antihistamines for at least two weeks? (required for intradermal skin testing to be accurate)
After your technician has collected all of the necessary information, the dermatologist will enter the exam room and consult with you. If intradermal skin testing is deemed necessary, it can usually be done on the same day.
Intradermal Skin Testing
Intradermal skin testing is used to determine which environmental allergies (weeds, trees, molds, fleas, etc.) your pet may have. (Please keep in mind that there is no reliable way to test for food allergies.) During the test, 60 different allergens are injected beneath the skin's subcutaneous layer. A welt/hive will form if there is a reaction. The dermatologist will rate the reaction from 1 to 4, with 4 being the best.
You are welcome to wait in our lobby or leave to run an errand or get something to eat once you have given consent for your pet to be allergy tested. Whichever option you select, we usually advise owners to allow at least an hour for testing.
Because the series of injections can be painful, your pet will be given a mild sedative to help alleviate any anxiety and keep them from moving during the test. This is accomplished through an injection and can be reversed before your pet departs.
Following the completion of the skin testing by our dermatologist, an allergy serum will be created based on the results. Each serum is tailored to the specific needs of the patient. No two patients will have the same allergy serum. Our allergen extracts are obtained from the same reputable companies that obtain most human extracts.
My Pet Has Been Diagnosed With Allergies – Now What?
You will be given an allergy workbook during your discharge appointment. This will include a step-by-step guide to administering injections, as well as frequently asked questions and other information. The dermatology technician will perform an injection demonstration with you so that you are confident in administering allergy injections to your pet at home. You will be instructed on when and how to give, as well as any reactions to be on the lookout for.
Your pet's serum will be prepared in our office, and injections can begin the same day. A build-up phase is required, similar to immunotherapy in humans, until the full, most effective dose is achieved. The build-up dose takes one month for dogs and six weeks for cats.
The best part about allergy immunotherapy is that the serum your pet will receive is not a medication! It is simply an allergen extract that aids the body in changing its immune response to the allergens. While many drugs approved to treat allergies have the potential for side effects, immunotherapy is the safest, long-term option for allergy management.