A couple weeks ago, I mentioned we tested Coop’s fur for intolerances, and many of you were curious, so I thought I’d do a full, in-depth review. Grab a cuppa, settle in, and let’s talk all things dogs with allergies! (BTW, this all applies to cats, too, but we’re super thankful we haven’t had any problems with Newt or Ripley!)
Quick disclaimers: This is for information purposes only. I’m not a vet, a vet tech, a health care provider, nada. I’m a writer with a dog. This is simply our experience that I’m sharing in the hopes that it helps anyone else. Next, this site uses affiliate links, so if you purchase something from one of those links, we might make a small commission. That helps keep this site running, and we’re grateful for your support in this way.
First, let’s clear up a couple common questions:
Do dogs have allergies?
Yep. They sure do. And I recently read an article that said many pet owners don’t realize that their dogs (and cats, too!) suffer from both seasonal and food allergies. Many dogs–dogs like Cooper–suffer from both. With dogs like that, it can be nearly impossible to pinpoint the causes of the various symptoms because they fluctuate throughout the year. So, for example, when we did Cooper’s elimination diet all those years ago to see if we could find food issues, we couldn’t control for his environmental allergies that happened simultaneously. That said, the elimination diet clearly indicated we needed to take chicken out of his diet, but many of his other symptoms stayed the same.
Dogs with allergies have all kinds of symptoms, even unexpected ones like GI distress. If your dog is experiencing an allergy or an intolerance, chances are you’ll see things like itchy skin, respiratory problems like a runny nose or sneezing, and–yep–diarrhea.
Can you cure your dog’s allergies?
This is a question I’ve gotten a number of times over the years. Sadly, you can’t “cure” your pup’s allergies, at least not with what’s available to us today, but there are thankfully a TON of options for managing them. Some ways to manage your dog’s allergies: reduce exposure to the allergen (WAY easier with food than environmental, of course), find treatments that work (OTC options like Benadryl or Zyrtec might work or prescriptions like Apoquel or Cytopoint), holistic management techniques like using supplements, and even allergy shots (like people who are allergic to dogs but love ’em anyway get!).
But here’s the thing: You have to know what your dog’s allergic to in order to adequately manage his allergies.
OK, so then what? Well, you need to figure out what those allergies are!
How to test for dog allergies
Just like with people, you have a bunch of options for testing your dog for allergies. You can do an elimination diet, like we did with Cooper, to figure out food allergies and intolerances. It’s a real challenge to keep your dog from contaminating the elimination diet, though, because there are sandwiches everywhere. And candy wrappers. And chicken bones. And on and on. It was nearly impossible to get through 30 days without contaminating the study.
Elimination diets don’t include environmental, either. There are two other very different forms of dog allergy testing: blood vs skin. From my research, it seems that blood tests aren’t preferred anymore, but it’s totally possible to run the blood tests if, say, a dog can’t be sedated (as needed for a skin test). The skin tests require sedation, and you have to stop your pet’s medication for several weeks before the test AND conduct the test during heavy allergy season. (You can learn more about those test here... I just wanted to give a quick overview.)
But, there’s another, easier way…
Why I like the Affordable Pet Test
This is the test we recently completed for Coop, and it was a game changer. Before I get into the results end, here’s how it works: You go to the website, and order the intolerance test for dogs (there are versions for cats and horses, too). You can either request a kit or download the paperwork and save some money. You get 10-15 strands of your dog’s fur–they prefer it with the root, and honestly? with Coop, I just sat on the couch and gave him a good scratching, scooped up the loose hair, and stuck it in the envelope. It’s entirely noninvasive because who doesn’t have plenty of pet hair lying around? (If you have multiple pets, make sure you’re not sending a mixture… get fresh hair like I did.)
The other thing I really, really like? It’s essentially an at-home dog allergy test. Cooper experiences intense anxiety at the vet. With this, we were legit snuggled on the couch as I collected his sample. Any chance I get to diminish his stress, I take it!
Finally, as far as dog allergy test kits, this one has a super quick turnaround time. I think we got our results in five or six days.
What does the Affordable Pet Test test for?
In those 10-15 strands, your dog is tested for 300 of the most common food and environmental intolerances. This includes all the major proteins, most grains, fruits, vegetables, the most common trees and grasses, as well as fabrics and materials. (You can see the full list here.) What were Cooper’s results?
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, his food list showed intolerances to A TON of food additives, things like food dyes (blech), and unexpected things like crab and molasses. His environmental allergies were frustrating because his number one is literally the grass in our backyard. The results are tiered, set up like a stoplight. Red items mean they recommend you stop. Yellow means slow exposure; cut them out if possible. Green items are “proceed with caution,” maybe cut them out for a while, then add one in to see what happens.
In Cooper’s, for instance, spinach was a red item. We gave him spinach often. We stopped immediately. Mussels were another red item. His joint supplement contained mussels. We swapped that out, too. His environmental are a lot harder: grass and dust and both red items, for instance. We can work on the dust. The grass? Not so much, though we’ve made it a habit to wipe him down when we come back inside.
That’s the great thing about having these results. We can make these small, tiny swaps that make his life so much better.
(That’s actually why we switched his food a couple months ago. Read all about that here.)
How much does the Affordable Pet Test cost?
As of this writing, the test for dogs and cats is $144. Not cheap, though when we calculated the cost of an office visit + sedation for a skin test or lab fees for a blood test, and of course all the associate costs of medications and treatment for un-diagnosed allergies… it’s actually a bargain. Coop is a perfect example. He’s been eating one food for a super long time. Turns out, one ingredient in that food was on his intolerance list. Insert SMH emoji here! We’ve been to the vet countless times for GI issues, and there’s no way to know for sure, but it could be because of overexposure to that ingredient.
To paraphrase the incomparable Maya Angelou, we now know better, so we’re doing better.
And that’s always our goal, right? To figure out what’s best for our pets and then do it! From our experience with Affordable Pet Test, honestly, I think we did the best we possibly could for Coop, and now we’ve been able to make changes and adjustments to our routines to help him thrive. His health and happiness are ALWAYS our first priority, and I’m super relieved we’re now in this space because of his hair test.
OK! So, I covered a lot of ground in this post, but I’m sure you still have questions! Ask ’em in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer, or I’ll reach out to the company for more info.
Does your pet have allergies, either food or environmental? Have you noticed any specific intolerances? Have you thought about testing your pet’s hair for intolerances? Would you consider it?