If you’ve ever been associated with someone with allergies, you know it can be a very confusing topic and diagnosis and treatment can be extremely frustrating. Naturally it is even more so with your pet since they can’t verbally describe symptoms (or relief) to you.
Allergy testing done by veterinarians can be highly effective in diagnosing environmental allergies but are typically less effective when dealing with food issues. There are now several at-home test kits available that use sample of hair or saliva (depending on the brand) and are mailed into a lab. From what we’ve read and heard of these tests the results are highly suspect. There have even been reports that fake hair and saliva have been submitted and not detected by the lab(s). So, we are not convinced these home test kits are of great value. Maybe someday.
Environmental allergies are probably more prevalent than food allergies and as previously mentioned vet testing is quite effective at identifying them. However, if food is suspect then a “food trial” is the most accurate test. This requires feeding a highly restricted diet for a period of 6-8 weeks to see if your dog’s allergy signs improve. Highly restricted is referring to the ingredients in the diet…INCLUDING treats. Chicken is the most common allergen and it’s not a coincidence that many dog foods use a lot of chicken. The amino acid profile is good and chicken products have been readily available and relatively inexpensive for many years.
There’s a good chance your vet would recommend a product from Hills or Royal Canin or even Purina as a “hypoallergenic” food. Many of these diets utilized a hydrolyzed protein that has been broken down in many cases by acid(s) into fragments too small to trigger an allergic reaction. That process has been used for years to make chicken feather meal usable in beef feedlot diets. We prefer to use a higher quality protein that your pet has not been familiar with to accomplish this. There are several choices from quality manufacturers like Zignature and Pure Vita that are much more price friendly and utilize a single source quality protein and work very well for these “trials”. There are also many raw options available!