For some bizarre, unexplainable reason, when I was a young pup of a veterinarian, I was intrigued by skin problems, particularly allergy. Maybe it was because we were told in vet school that allergies were not curable and I love to prove people wrong. I had even considered going back to school and getting a board certification in veterinary dermatology.
Allergy patients in my practice in south Texas made up about 15% of my veterinary work. I worked with so many allergy patients that other vets in town sent their stubborn cases to me. Why not? They were frustrated. The client was frustrated and certainly the itchy dog was frustrated. I allergy tested and de-sensitized (gave antigen injections) to so many dogs that I had a refrigerator in my clinic that was used just to store clients bottles of allergy serum.
Now, that I am much older, and hopefully wiser, I no longer recommend allergy testing and de-sensitization treatment. Except for the rare occasion and then I only recommend testing. Why would I have this 180 degree change in approach to the allergic pet? Because we were wrong. We can cure allergies. It just takes the right approach and takes some time. It is certainly better than battling them for most of the pet’s life.
Let’s take a look at the typical situation with the allergy pet and how the conventional vet approaches the situation. The pet caretaker takes her young dog to the vet with symptoms that may include itching, licking, skin infection, ear infection and other symptoms. The vet does the work-up and diagnosis the dog as having allergies. Once the vet does this, he automatically remembers in the back of his mind that allergies are not curable. So, this leaves him with two options; treating symptoms or allergy testing.
Most vets will opt for treating symptoms as it is quick, gives immediate relief and in time the pet will return for more treatment. Not a bad way to generate income. I must include that the caretakers are certainly released to be getting some sleep at night and not being kept awake by the scratching dog.
Most vets don’t include allergy testing for several reasons. They usually don’t do enough to feel confident (rather send them to me and let me do it), they have not had good success with those they have done, it is not 100% beneficial and it can take up to a year to see benefits with the serum treatment.
Let me talk about the testing/de-sensitization for a bit. There are several methods for pets to be allergy tested. By far, the most common form is called antibody testing. Blood is often taken (now we can do saliva testing) and sent to the lab. The lab measures the pet’s antibody levels for regional allergies to determine if the pet’s immune system is hypersensitive to those particular allergens. Example: seasonal allergens like grasses, trees, weeds, etc. Some labs will also do antibody test for foods even though most veterinary dermatologists and immunologists say that it is not very accurate.
The other common method for allergy testing is done by the dermatologist using a patch test. The dogs hair is clipped and a small amount of allergen is injected into an area that is marked. Then, if there is a local reaction, the vet assess the reaction to determine if the dog is allergic to that allergen. It is very subjective and is only done by board certified dermatologist.
Research tells us that neither form of allergy testing is 100% effective. Specialists suggest that the antibody testing is too sensitive to be completely accurate while the patch testing is not sensitive enough. Both are considered about 85% effective and if the vet does not get a good response they usually defer to the other testing.
The latest allergy testing is done with technology called biofeedback or bioresonance. These machines are measuring energetic patterns to determine pathological energy in the pet’s energetic body. It will identify individual allergies that are causing a clinical problem. It also determines other energetic toxins that are affecting the body.
There are basically two reasons that allergy testing is done. One is to identify what the pet is allergic to in hopes of removing it from the pet. Secondly, is to desensitize the immune system if the allergens cannot be removed from the pet’s environment. I have seen many pets that had 12 or 15 environmental allergens that were clinically significant and none of them could be removed. Example: dust mites or molds. These patients needed to be desensitized by giving small amounts of the allergens in hopes of desensitizing the immune system to those allergens.
What does desensitize mean? Basically, we exhaust the immune systems over-reaction to the antigen (given by injection or oral), giving it over and over again. Sort of like our kids watching horror movies and becoming de-sensitized to the gore associated with those movies. Yuk. The problem with testing and desensitizing is that the over-active immune system continue to react to other allergens not included in the treatment. It continues to have reactions to new allergies and it becomes a perpetual battle to eliminate symptoms.
Since I no longer go the conventional route for allergy patients, what do I do? I fix the problem by fixing the damaged immune system while treating the symptoms with natural remedies instead of dangerous drugs like Apoquel, Cytopoint and steroids. On a rare occasion, I will suggest an allergy test in hopes of removing some allergens that will help reduce symptoms. I personally like the bioresonance testing for that because it looks at more than just food and environmental allergens.
It can be very frustrating for pet caretakers to have to deal with pets with harsh allergy symptoms, but it is very important to remember that treating them will never resolve the problem and the damaged immune system that does along with the allergies and the treatments will likely potentiate more serious diseases in the future.