There’s an epidemic of allergies in dogs causing them to itch, scratch and lick in response to a litany of things … usually food related, seasonal or environmental. Many dog owners turn to allergy shots for dogs as a solution … but are they?
There are natural methods like a change in diet, supplements and natural remedies that can be valuable ways to eliminate or manage allergies in dogs. Let’s look a little deeper to see if allergy shots for dogs are as helpful. First, what are some causes of allergies in dogs?
Common Allergies In Dogs
There are various causes of allergies that can cause skin symptoms or digestive or respiratory issues.
Environmental Allergies In Dogs
Environmental dog allergies can be airborne particles in places likeyour home, car, backyard, neighborhood or park. These can be inhaled allergens like dust, mold, pollen, or grasses, plants, insects or animal particles. If your dog reacts when they touch his skin it’s called atopic dermatitis.
This is when your dog is only itchy at certain times of the year, usually during a change of seasons and plant growth.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
This is a common cause of skin allergies when your dog reacts to flea saliva. Dogs with this allergy get very itchy and have a reaction to just a few flea bites. As well as treating the allergy and symptoms, you need to treat your home and yard to eliminate the fleas.
Food Allergies In Dogs
Food allergies in dogs are common and can be a reaction to certain proteins … but dogs can become allergic to any food ingredient. Dogs can develop allergies or sensitivities to food they’ve eaten many times before. Allergies are when the immune system creates antibodies to trigger allergic reactions. Signs would be wheezing, skin eruptions, itching or swelling … usually within minutes.
True food allergies are rare. But food sensitivities and intolerances are 15 times more common than allergies … and have a delayed reaction, from 7 to 28 days or so. Both reactions stem from a malfunctioning immune system. It’s a lengthy process to isolate the food causing the allergy or sensitivity while building the immune system.
It takes time, but you can remove or avoid the allergens that affect your dog … like fleas or his food. But if your dog has a seasonal allergy or is allergic to something in his environment that can’t be changed. If you’re considering allergy shots for dogs, here’s what you need to know.
Types Of Allergy Shots For Dogs
Conventional allergy treatments include oral or injectable allergy medicines that suppress your dog’s immune reaction. And often they can cause long-term damage and additional illness from years of use that weakens the immune system. These drugs might control the symptoms but they don’t change the root cause of your dog’s allergies.
Most allergy drugs like prednisone (a steroid often given for allergies), Atopica (cyclosporine) and Apoquel or Cytopoint weaken and destroy the immune system and have even resulted in death. Cytopoint is an injectable allergy drug that’s a temporary fix with harmful side effects.
But true allergy shots for dogs retrain the immune system to stop it overreacting to allergens. This kind of treatment is known as immunotherapy. It’s a series of allergy shots for dogs made specifically for each dog and given over a period of a year or more. Unlike suppressive drugs that address symptoms, immunotherapy works with your dog’s individual immune system, with the goal of eliminating the allergy over time.
What Are Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs?
Immunotherapy is a year-long treatment for environmental allergies in dogs. It’s a biological therapy that works by retraining the immune system’s response to allergens. This starts with skin testing to identify allergens so an individual serum can be prepared for each dog.
Injections, known as immune-modulating allergy shots, introduce the serum in small concentrations, with a gradually increasing dose so your dog builds tolerance. The frequency of shots vary, but usually they’re given on alternate days then decreased to once or twice a week. It could take months to see whether immunotherapy works for your dog to relieve his symptoms. There have also been trials giving the serum to dogs by mouth instead of injection with successful results.
Immunotherapy for dogs is a lot like human allergy shots for dogs. Allergy testing is done so a serum can be developed, whether for human or dog use. And it’s given the same way over a long period of time.
Pros And Cons Of Immunotherapy For Dogs
Immunotherapy for dogs can be a last resort, mainly due to the cost and time commitment. But for anyone wanting to avoid dangerous medications, immunotherapy can be a viable option. Here are some pros and cons of allergy shots for dogs.
Pros Of Immunotherapy For Dogs
- It can be effective for dogs that haven’t responded to other treatments.
- It’s a biological treatment not a medication.
- Up to 75% of dogs respond well to immunotherapy.
- Dog owners can learn how to give injections at home.
- It’s a better choice than steroids or drugs like Atopica, Apoquel or Cytopoint that can permanently weaken the immune system.
Cons Of Immunotherapy For Dogs
- Immunotherapy doesn’t repair the immune system.
- Immunotherapy might control allergies, but it doesn’t cure them.
- It requires a year-long commitment costing $1,000 to $2,000 or more.
- After a year, if allergies return, a different approach might be needed.
- After a year, if shots are working, you might need to continue them for the life of your dog.
- There is no diagnosis of allergies or their cause.
- It only works on environmental allergies, not food or flea allergies.
Side Effects of Immunotherapy For Dogs
Any time you introduce something to your dog’s body, you need to watch for reactions like these:
- Swelling at the injection site
- Excessive panting
- Frequent swallowing
- Loud stomach or digestive gurgling
If there’s a reaction, tell your vet and she will determine if the protocol needs adjusting.
Serious reactions to immunotherapy are rare … less than 1%. This is what could happen:
- Swelling of the snout or face
- Diarrhea or vomiting
These are serious allergic reactions … and your dog needs urgent treatment.
How Much Are Allergy Shots For Dogs?
A veterinary dermatologist will need to do skin testing and possible blood testing. These initial visits and testing usually cost $1,000 to $1,200. It will cost $300 to $400 for a 4-6 month supply of serum and syringes so you can give the shots yourself. Keep in mind, you’ll need return visits to change the concentration of the serum, and you’ll be continuing this for at least a year. You may pay more in different locations – and if you visit a clinic for each shot.
Does Immunotherapy For Dogs Work?
Immunotherapy for dogs can work well in 50% of cases, and 25% have a mediocre response. There are some dogs it doesn’t help at all. Immunotherapy isn’t an immediate solution. Be aware that, even if successful, immunotherapy takes weeks to months to work, so it may be a year before your dog’s itching and allergies subside.