Frequently Asked Questions

Nutriscan, the novel patented salivary-based food sensitivity and intolerance test offers a reliable and clinically predictive alternative to food elimination trials, serum-based food allergy testing, and skin patch testing. Two completed, double-blinded clinical trial studies validated the test and affirmed its clinical utility.

1. Q: What is Nutriscan?
A: Nutriscan is the only clinically predictable veterinary diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses which identifies the commonly seen food intolerances and sensitivities in saliva. It is patented worldwide.

2. Q: Does Nutriscan test for “allergies”
A: No; it tests for food sensitivities and intolerances which are common, and not for true food allergies which are rare.

3. Q: Is it different from other tests for food sensitivities/allergies
A: Yes; Nutriscan is unique, and quite different than serum-based tests for food reactions, food elimination trials, or skin patch testing with foods.

4. Q: How has Nutriscan been clinically validated ?
A: Yes; in two double-blinded trials, one in Europe and the other in USA.
5. Q: Has the Nutriscan test been published in peer-reviewed literature ?
A: Yes; Dodds WJ. Food Intolerance: Diagnostic testing & dietary management. J Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2014; 36:36-42, Summer Issue.

6. Q: How many Nutriscan tests have been performed to date?
A: We have tested more than 17,000 canine samples with Nutriscan by the spring of 2017, and since starting cats at the end of September 2013, we have tested over 750.

7. Q. What is the NutriScan test?
A. Nutriscan is the only clinically predictable diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses to identify the commonly seen food intolerances and sensitivities in saliva. It is not a test for the rarely seen true allergies to foods. The Nutriscan test is patent protected in the United States and internationally.

This test measures antibodies to certain foods in dog saliva. High antibody levels indicate that the dog has a food sensitivity and intolerance to that food or foods. It is not a DNA test or a cheek/gum swab test.

By contrast, cheek or gum swabs alone do not generate sufficient biological fluid to quantitatively determine specific food reactivities. Simple positive or negative results, for instance from tissue swabs, do not provide information about the specificity or sensitivity of the assays used. Therefore, selection of foods based upon this type of information is medically and scientifically unreliable.

8. Q. Does the test work in species other than dogs?
A. The initial Nutriscan test was only for dogs. It has since been expanded to cats, and horses. Each species requires species-specific reagents to run the assay.

9. Q. Does this test apply to healthy pets as well as those with known or suspected food reactivity?
A. Yes, because saliva testing can reveal the latent or pre-clinical form of food sensitivity, it can be used to predict a developing or latent food reaction.

10. Q. How does this test differ from other food “allergy” tests on serum or feces?
A. Food allergy tests measure antibodies to IgG and IgE in serum or feces. These are typically more acute allergic reactions to foods, whereas NutriScan measures IgA and IgM antibodies on the bowel’s mucosal surface, and thus more directly correlates to symptoms of bowel (GI tract) disease.

11. Q. How does this test differ from other food “allergy” skin testing ?
A. Skin testing used to be considered the “gold standard” of allergy testing. Aside from being unsightly and requiring that a large patch of skin be shaved, these tests are costly and do not always identify the true source of allergic reactions.

12. Q. Why is salivary food sensitivity and intolerance testing more predictive than other food allergy testing ?
A. Saliva testing can reveal the latent or pre-clinical form of food sensitivity, as antibodies to food ingredients appear in saliva before the clinical or bowel biopsy diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease or “leaky gut syndrome” is made.

13. Q. When do these food sensitivities typically appear once an offending food is eaten?
A. Food sensitivities are usually seen from as early as 2 hrs and up to 72 hrs after eating, so it can be difficult to connect symptoms with a food or foods eaten several days previously. There is a very high correlation between delayed food sensitivity and the amount and frequency of the food consumed.

14. Q. What foods are tested?
A. This test was expanded in early 2012 to include two different panels each having 12 food antigens, for a total of 24 foods. There is Panel #1 = beef, chicken, corn, duck, lamb, cow’s milk, pork, soy, turkey, venison, wheat, and white fish. The second panel = barley, hen’s egg, lentil, millet, oatmeal, peanuts, potato, quinoa, rabbit, rice, salmon and sweet potato. [Horses have a completely different set of 24 foods being tested.]

15. Q. Should my pet be fasted or not eat before collecting the saliva?
Water is perfectly fine to give.

16. Q. How much saliva is needed?
A. The test requires 2 mL of saliva so it can be run in duplicate. It is important to collect enough saliva.

17. Q. Must the dental cotton rope be wet with saliva?
A. Yes, about half of the length of the rope should be wet with saliva.

18. Q. What can I do if my pet won’t salivate?
A. You can place a piece of tempting food in front of the pet’s nose to stimulate salivation, but don’t let him actually eat the treat.

19. Q. Does it matter if there are some food particles on the rope?
A. Please try to minimize this contamination. .

20. Q. Does the sample need to be frozen or specially packed for shipping to Hemopet?
A. No, room temperature is fine.

21. Q. How long can the sample be stored before shipping or being assayed ?
A. Salivary antigens are stable for up to 30 days after collection, and the rope can be re-hydrated with a small measured amount of saline, if needed.

22. Q. What does the test measure?
A. Two types of antibodies (anti-IgA and anti-IgM) against different purified food antigen extracts are measured

23. Q. How is NutriScan reported?
A. Results are quantified in Units per ml of saliva.

24. Q. What do the Units of food reactivity represent?
A. The antibody levels present in the custom-made immunoassay plates are measured by optical density readings and these are converted to Units per ml of reaction.

25. Q. What is a negative reaction in dogs?
A. Negative reactions measure less than 10 Units per ml of saliva.

26. Q. What are weak and moderately high food reactions in dogs?
A. Those between 10.00-11.49 Units per ml are considered weak reactions; those from 11.50 to 14.99 are moderately high reactions. Strong reactions are 15.00 Units per ml or higher.

27. Q. What do the weak reactions mean?
A. The clinical significance of the weak reactions is unclear, but in dogs with established clinical signs of food sensitivity, it would be prudent to avoid foods reacting close to the 11.50 Units per ml level.

28. Q. How often should I repeat the test ?
A. We suggest repeat testing every 12 months in healthy pets, and every 4-6 months in food reactive pets.

29. Q. If my pet tests reactive to beef, will he react to bison or buffalo ?
A. He could, so we advise avoiding these meats and milk products.

30. Q. If my pet tests reactive to lamb, will he react to goat?
A. He could, so we advise avoiding this meat, milk products and cheese.

31. Q. If my pet tests reactive to cow’s milk, will he react to goat or sheep milk?
A. He could, so we advise avoiding them, and cheeses from them.

32. Q. If my pet tests reactive to cow’s milk, will he likely react to cheese made from milk?
A. He could, although not all cheese is made from the whey fraction of milk.

33. Q. If my pet tests reactive to hen’s eggs, will he likely react to chicken ?
A. Possibly, although eggs are a protected food source, and so he may not react to chicken.

34. Q. What did the initial clinical trials with this test panel reveal ?
A. Clinical trials included 566 dogs; each was tested with 6 primary food antigens for anti-IgA and anti-IgM in saliva and anti-IgG in serum.

  • 62% (352 of the 566) of the dogs tested showed weak, moderate or strong food reactivity to at least one food allergen.
  • 71% of the dogs tested showed weak, moderate or strong food reactivity to beef.
  • 71% of the dogs tested showed weak, moderate or strong food reactivity to wheat.
  • 70% of the dogs tested showed moderate or strong food reactivity to cow’s milk.
  • 57% of the dogs tested showed weak, moderate or strong food reactivity to corn.
  • Fewer dogs showed food reactivity to soy (25%) and very few to egg (3%).
  • Only one dog of 121 control dogs showed a mild anti-IgG reaction in serum, and only to wheat.

35. Q. Why did we start salivary food sensitivity and intolerance testing with only 6 food antigens?
A. We began with the so-called 6 primary food antigens, including the glutens present in the most commonly fed pet foods and treats. Note that barley, rye, oats, kamut and spelt are also glutens. If there is a food sensitivity or intolerance, it is very likely going to include one or more of these antigens.

36. Q. Are more needed?
A. Other food testing on serum or swabs includes up to 200 foods, but these tests have not produced predictable clinical outcomes in humans or pets. Nutriscan’s saliva test is patented in the United States and internationally, and provides reliable, cost-effective quantitative results, which should give important information for feeding your pet.

37. Q. What testing should I do?
A. The choice is yours: But above all, you should know: we test for the antibodies critical to determining food sensitivity and intolerance, namely, IgA and IgM—in saliva, not in serum or swabs. No one else does this. Our focused salivary testing using the clinically relevant antibodies provides scientifically proven, novel veterinary diagnostics.