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BMC Vet Res. 2017 Aug 30;13(1):275. doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-1142-0.

Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (4): can we diagnose adverse food reactions in dogs and cats with in vivo or in vitro tests?

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Medizinische Kleintierklinik, Centre for Clinical Veterinary Medicine, LMU Munich, Veterinaerstrasse 13, 80539, Munich, Germany.
Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 1060 William Moore Drive, Raleigh, NC, 27607, USA.



The gold standard to diagnose adverse food reactions (AFRs) in the dog and cat is currently an elimination diet with subsequent provocation trials. However, those trials are inconvenient and client compliance can be low. Our objective was to systematically review the literature to evaluate in vivo and in vitro tests used to diagnose AFR in small animals.


We searched three databases (CAB Abstracts, MEDLINE and Web of Science) for pertinent references on September 16, 2016. Among 71, 544 and 41 articles found in the CAB Abstract, MEDLINE and Web of Science databases, respectively, we selected 22 articles and abstracts from conference proceedings that reported data usable for evaluation of tests for AFR. Serum tests for food-specific IgE and IgG, intradermal testing with food antigens, lymphocyte proliferation tests, fecal food-specific IgE, patch, gastroscopic, and colonoscopic testing were evaluated.


Testing for serum food-specific IgE and IgG showed low repeatability and, in dogs, a highly variable accuracy. In cats, the accuracy of testing for food-specific IgE was low. Lymphocyte proliferation tests were more frequently positive and more accurate in animals with AFR, but, as they are more difficult to perform, they remain currently a research tool. All other reported tests were only evaluated by individual studies with small numbers of animals. Negative patch test reactions have a very high negative predictability in dogs and could enable a choice of ingredients for the elimination diet in selected patients. Gastroscopic and colonoscopic testing as well as food-specific fecal IgE or food-specific serum IgG measurements appear less useful. Currently, the best diagnostic procedure to identify AFRs in small animals remains an elimination diet with subsequent provocation trials.


Atopic; Canine; Feline; Food allergy; Gastroenteritis; IgE; In vitro; Serum test

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