Vet cuddling dog with food sensitivities.

Testing for Canine Food Sensitivities: What Veterinarians Need to Know

You have a patient who has stomach troubles and itchy skin that just won’t go away. You have tried everything in the book but nothing seems to make these symptoms any better. In fact, they seem to be getting worse. 

This is when you suggest trying a food sensitivity test. You understand that food sensitivities in dogs present in so many different ways, and oftentimes, the parent has no idea that the kibble they are feeding them is the culprit behind most, if not all of their symptoms. By pinpointing the specific foods that may be causing sensitivities or discomfort, you can tailor their diet to meet their unique needs. 

With so many different tests on the market, trying to identify which test is right for your patient and practice can feel like looking for the golden needle in a haystack, but it doesn’t have to be.

In this blog, we’re going to dive into the ins and outs of the different types of canine food sensitivity tests to help make your decision a little bit easier.

What is food sensitivity testing?

Food sensitivity testing for dogs is a diagnostic procedure that helps identify specific foods that may be causing adverse reactions or sensitivities in our canine companions. It involves collecting a sample, typically blood or saliva, which is then analyzed to detect any immune responses triggered by certain foods. 

By pinpointing these sensitivities, veterinarians can create tailored dietary plans that eliminate problematic ingredients and alleviate symptoms such as digestive issues, skin problems, or allergies. This testing process plays a crucial role in helping pet owners understand their dog’s unique dietary needs and make informed decisions to support their overall health and well-being.

Understanding the Different Approaches to Canine Food Sensitivity Testing

Let’s dive into what the landscape currently looks like in the food sensitivity testing space, and the pros and cons of each type of test. 

IgA testing

This type of testing method involves using either hair, saliva, or blood from the dog, which is then analyzed to measure the levels of IgA antibodies triggered by various food antigens. By detecting elevated IgA levels in response to specific foods, veterinarians can identify potential sensitivities or intolerances that may be causing adverse reactions or discomfort in dogs.

Pros: IgA testing is a straightforward and cost-effective option especially for pet parents who can’t make the trip to visit you in order to conduct the test. This testing method is often done at home and sent directly to the lab by your patient.

Cons: Because IgA testing is usually conducted by sending a sample of the dog’s hair or by having the dog chew on a rope to collect the sample, it removes the need for the patient to come in for an office visit. This removes the medical intervention from the equation as it does not require an office visit. 

On that same note, the lack of a sterile and controlled environment when collecting the sample increases the possibility of a contaminated or badly executed specimen. This increases the likelihood of receiving inaccurate results which could lead to poor medical decisions down the line for your patient.

Elimination diet

An elimination diet is a diagnostic approach commonly used in veterinary medicine to identify food sensitivities or allergies in patients. It involves removing certain ingredients or food groups from the patient’s diet that are suspected of causing adverse reactions. The purpose of an elimination diet is to observe and monitor the patient’s response when potential allergens are eliminated from their food. 

Pros: An elimination diet can be highly beneficial in diagnosing and managing food sensitivities or allergies in veterinary patients. By systematically removing potential allergens from the diet, it allows veterinarians to identify specific ingredients that may be causing adverse reactions. 

By carefully reintroducing one ingredient at a time, veterinarians can pinpoint the exact allergen and develop a customized dietary plan to address the patient’s specific needs. The thing about it is that it can be a fool proof method if it’s conducted correctly.

Cons: While an elimination diet can be a valuable tool in diagnosing food sensitivities or allergies in veterinary patients, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. Firstly, implementing an elimination diet requires strict adherence and commitment from pet parents, as any deviations or accidental exposure to allergens can affect the accuracy of the results. 

The process can be time-consuming, as it involves closely monitoring the patient’s diet and carefully reintroducing ingredients one by one. Additionally, elimination diets may not always provide definitive answers, as some patients may have multiple food sensitivities or allergies, making it challenging to identify all triggering ingredients through this method alone.

The limited ingredient choices in an elimination diet can sometimes lead to nutritional imbalances, requiring careful formulation and supervision by a veterinarian to ensure the patient’s nutritional needs are adequately met. 

IgG antibody testing.

IgG testing, also known as immunoglobulin G testing, is a diagnostic procedure used to detect food sensitivities or intolerances in veterinary patients. It involves analyzing a blood sample to measure the levels of IgG antibodies produced by the immune system in response to specific food antigens. IgG antibodies are associated with delayed immune reactions, which can manifest hours or even days after ingestion of certain foods.

Pros: IgG testing offers several benefits in diagnosing and managing food sensitivities in dogs. Firstly, it provides a comprehensive assessment by measuring IgG antibody levels against various food antigens, allowing for a broader understanding of potential sensitivities. This can help identify specific trigger foods that may be causing adverse reactions in dogs.

Additionally, IgG testing is advantageous in detecting delayed immune reactions, which can occur hours or even days after food consumption. This is crucial because delayed reactions can be challenging to identify through traditional allergy testing methods. By pinpointing these delayed sensitivities, veterinarians can create tailored dietary plans that effectively eliminate problematic ingredients and alleviate symptoms.

Cons: While IgG testing has its benefits, it’s important to consider a few potential drawbacks. IgG levels alone may not always correlate directly with clinical symptoms, making interpretation challenging. IgG testing cannot provide information about immediate hypersensitivity reactions, which are typically mediated by IgE antibodies.

So, which test is best?

There is a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right test for your patient. Is the owner someone who hates driving to your office and is unlikely to follow up with you after receiving their test results? IgA testing may be right for them, but we have to stress the importance of telling them that accurate test results are highly contingent on their ability to collect the sample in a sterile environment.

Is your patient eating homemade dog food? Are their parents extremely proactive in their nutrition and overall well being? An elimination diet could be effective in this case, but only because you can trust that your patient’s parents are going to be invested in the process.

But which test is the best universally?

When compared to IgA testing or conducting an elimination diet, IgG testing for food sensitivities in dogs offers distinct advantages. Unlike IgA testing, which focuses on mucosal immune responses, IgG testing provides a more comprehensive assessment by measuring IgG antibody levels. This broader scope enables the identification of sensitivities that may not be captured by IgA testing alone. 

Because the test requires a blood draw, this also ensures that the specimen being collected is not contaminated. 

Another benefit is that IgG testing excels in detecting delayed immune reactions, which can occur hours or even days after food consumption. In contrast, an elimination diet can be time-consuming and relies on strict adherence from pet owners, while IgG testing provides quicker and more precise results. 

With IgG testing, veterinarians can pinpoint specific trigger foods in a clinical setting, allowing for the development of targeted dietary plans without the need for lengthy elimination periods. 

Overall, IgG testing offers a more efficient and accurate approach to diagnosing and managing food sensitivities in dogs, enhancing their quality of life and improving treatment outcomes.

Peace of mind, peace of tummy.

IgG testing offers a valuable tool in diagnosing and managing food sensitivities in dogs. With its comprehensive assessment of IgG antibody levels and ability to detect delayed immune reactions, IgG testing provides a more efficient and precise approach compared to IgA testing or elimination diets.

While it’s important to consider the limitations and proper interpretation of results, IgG testing can significantly enhance treatment outcomes and improve the quality of life for dogs with food sensitivities. 

If you suspect that one of your patients may be experiencing food sensitivities, we invite you to check out our Canine Food Sensitivity Testing Kits. They are easy to use, affordable, and provide results within 48-72 hours after the lab receives your sample.