The Importance of Allergy Testing for Pets
What is the purpose of biochip-based allergen testing for pets? Should my pet be tested?

The goal of the biochip-based allergen test is to scan for and identify the 72 most common allergens affecting our pets. These include allergens which are inhaled (including dust, pollen, and animal dander) and ingested (including various types of meat, seafood, fruits and nuts, seasonings, eggs, and dairy products). The test gives veterinarians and pet owners an efficient method for identifying allergens which can then be actively avoided in order to alleviate a pet’s allergy symptoms.

How were the different allergens selected for inclusion in the test?

Allergens found in the air and in food were chosen based on the prevalence of various allergies as well as research on biodiversity (such as vegetation distribution and cultivation ratios) and common pet food formulas. All of this information was compiled into a database with the help of experienced veterinarians. The allergens included in the test are estimated to cover over 90% of the most common allergens affecting pets in Asia.

What are total IgE and specific IgE? How are the two related?

Specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E) is the IgE produced in response to a specific allergen. Total IgE is the sum of the levels of all specific IgE. A high total IgE level indicates that there is a higher risk of allergic reactions occurring. However, this does not identify the specific IgE causing the allergic reaction. Other factors, such as a parasitic infection, can also increase total IgE levels.

What form of IgE does the allergy test look for?

IgE comes in two forms: "bound" and "free". The bound form of IgE has already undergone binding with a mast cell and can easily trigger an allergic reaction. The free form of IgE circulates throughout the bloodstream. EBS tests for free IgE to evaluate the likelihood and proportion of free IgE binding with mast cells.

Is specific IgE found in the bloodstream for all allergies?

Not always. Some allergic symptoms, such as atopic dermatitis, may be caused by temporary binding between IgG and mast cells resulting from excess specific IgG. Allergic symptoms may also be the result of a weakened immune function due to a compromised T-cell system. In addition, some studies have shown that other factors—including emotional state, ambient temperature, and environmental stressors—can also trigger allergic reactions.

How accurate is the serological allergy test?

A clinical study conducted at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of NTU College of Bioresources and Agriculture comparing serological and intradermal skin tests found that the serological test yielded high sensitivity and specificity of up to 90%.

Interpreting the Allergy Test Results and Determining Response Measures
What do the "levels" in the allergy test results signify?

Test result levels indicate the concentration of specific IgE in the blood. In principle, the stronger the positive response, the higher the risk of an allergic reaction. This also means that contact with the substance in question should be avoided as much as possible in order to prevent triggering an allergic reaction.

Do individual pets with the same IgE level always have the same symptoms? If not, what causes the differences?

There is no absolute direct correlation between the IgE level and the severity or frequency of allergic reactions. These differences stem from the pathophysiology of allergic responses. Of the various types of immune cells found in living organisms, mast cells are the ones that play a major role in determining allergic response. IgE must first bind with its IgE receptor and form a cross reaction with the allergen before it releases any histamines. Therefore, the degree of affinity and number of IgE receptors on the surface of the mast cell are both factors in determining the expression and severity of allergic symptoms.
Thus, differences between individual pets may be the result of a number of situations. When there is a high concentration of IgE in the bloodstream, but no allergen present, binding is not possible and no allergic reaction occurs. In addition, if the expression of IgE receptors for dogs and cats is low, or there is a mutation of the IgE receptor, this decreases the affinity between the IgE and its receptor, making it difficult for binding to occur. In such circumstances, even if both the allergen and specific IgE are present, there will be no reaction with the mast cells.

What should pet owners or veterinarians do in the event of a positive test result?

A positive test result indicates that a specific allergen poses a higher risk of triggering an allergic reaction. A stronger positive result indicates a greater binding reaction between the antigen and antibody. Although the severity of allergic reactions may not be directly related to the intensity/level of test response, a higher intensity/level usually indicates a greater risk of allergic reactions for the pet. We recommend that pet owners prevent their pets from coming into contact with the identified allergen in order to prevent severe allergic reactions.

Does avoiding allergens actually reduce allergic reactions?

Research conducted in 2004 studied the effects of environmental cleanliness on 60 dogs allergic to dust mites. The results showed that preventing contact with dust mites significantly reduced allergic reactions in 48% of the dogs tested. When combined with medication, this successfully reduced the clinical symptoms of allergic reactions in up to 85% of the dogs tested. This highlights the importance of identifying allergens so that they can be avoided.

The Allergy Testing Procedure for Pets
How is the blood sample collected? How large does the sample have to be? What are the follow-up steps?

A veterinarian will use a syringe or other blood collection device to draw 1–2ml of blood. The sample is then centrifuged or left undisturbed for 1 to 2 hours in order for separation to occur. At least 0.2 ml of serum/plasma is drawn from the top layer and then sent for testing via refrigerated shipping.

What is the proper method for sending a sample?

Submitted samples should be clearly marked with the sample's record number (identification number of the hospital/clinic), hospital/clinic's contact address and telephone number, date of sample collection, pet owner's name, and the pet's name and gender. For samples being shipped from abroad (outside of Taiwan), the sender should clearly identify the country of origin and provide an email address for further contact. Samples submitted from within Taiwan should be sent via refrigerated shipping to ensure that the antibodies in the sample are not catabolized or denatured, which can cause erroneous test results.

How should overseas samples be shipped?

EBS uses the FDA-approved 903 Protein Saver Card for blood serum transport in accordance with international regulations. The serum is simply dabbed onto the card and send via expedited shipping to the central laboratory in Taiwan.

Other Questions
What are the differences between techniques used for the ELISA platform and the biochip method? What are the advantages of choosing the biochip method?

The sensitivity and signal intensity of the ELISA platform are limited by technology, materials, and equipment. Generally speaking, ELISA has a smaller linear range, making it more difficult to make finer distinctions between response intensity. For this reason, the test results are generally bisectioned using a specific value as the cutoff point. Any number higher than this is considered a positive response. For current products on the marketplace, a negative response is between 0–149, a borderline response is between 150–199, and a positive response is between 200–399. However, the entire range is between 0 and 400, and a positive response is simply any value higher than 200, making it impossible to tell the relative differences between response intensities. In addition, some laboratories use parameters to amplify the response signal. The background value and deviation is then also increased, leading to inaccurate results.
The biochip test uses fluorescent markers to identify the antibodies. This provides the following advantages:

1.High degree of sensitivity
2.The rating curve is based on a geometric progression, which means that the difference between each level becomes larger as the levels go up. Higher intensities of fluorescence are needed as levels increase, and indicate the corresponding concentration of IgE in the dog's bloodstream.
3.The report makes it easy to avoid the allergens identified by listing the allergens in order of priority. This provides a better and more reliable reference than the ELISA platform.

4.The advantages outlined above are even more apparent in testing for food allergies. Biochip testing is superior to the ELISA platform, which more frequently yields dozens of positive results and makes it difficult for pet owners and veterinarians to know where to start.

Why should my pet undergo a serological test if food allergies can be determined through elimination trials

While it is true that food allergies can be determined through elimination trials, they come with a major drawback: if a pet owner does not meticulously record their pet's symptoms in response to dietary changes, no practical results can be obtained. In addition, changing a single dietary item requires an observation period of 1 to 2 months, during which time changes in the environment, weather, climate, and/or emotional state may affect the accuracy of test results. Test results may even be affected by whether or not you give your pet treats! This is why serological testing for potential allergens is the most efficient method for quickly identifying the causes of your pet's allergies in its environment and diet.

Doctors say that the intradermal skin test is the gold standard for allergy testing. What are the differences between biochip-based allergy tests for pets and the conventional intradermal skin test?

The intradermal skin test is actually considered to be a potentially risky procedure. For example, a test subject may suffer from anaphylaxis (allergic shock), which is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. The risk of such a condition occurring is low, however, making it a difficult decision to choose whether to assume this risk.
In addition, the test involves injecting a small amount of allergen under the skin and then determining the results based on the amount of redness and swelling at the injection site. This means that the pet must have a patch of its fur shaved off, and tranquilizers may also need to be administered. This is quite an inconvenience! Moreover, some studies also indicate that intradermal skin tests have a higher frequency of false negatives when used to test for food allergies. In comparison, serological testing is simple, fast, safe, and effective. Once a blood sample is submitted for testing by the veterinarian, a clinical report is delivered in approximately 1 week. Pet owners also benefit from the professional expertise of the EBS team of veterinarians.

Why does the test yield different results at different times?

The concentration of IgE in the bloodstream may decrease along with dietary changes, long-term avoidance of allergens, and/or use of medication. In addition, the test may identify new allergies as the test subject comes into contact with new allergens. Therefore, it is recommended that pets highly prone to allergic reactions undergo testing every six months to one year. This will ensure that the pet is monitored for changes in allergens and thus prevent more allergic reactions.

Can current use of medication affect the accuracy of test results?

Yes. If you currently administer oral steroids to your pet, this can block the production of IgE at its source, which has a greater effect on internal IgE concentration. We highly recommend discontinuing use of the medication for at least two weeks prior to undergoing the test; anti-histamines, on the other hand, have little effect on test results and do not need to be discontinued. Be sure to inform your veterinarian if your pet is currently taking any other medication.