This topic of immunotherapy is not something that is new in human medicine nor is it new in the veterinary field. However, not many owners and even vets are acquainted with it, which is why in this article we are going to explain what immunotherapy is, how it is used and how much would an owner pay for this type of treatment.
What are allergies and can dogs get allergic?
Before we can talk about treatment, let’s talk a little bit about allergies in dogs:
Allergies are reactions of the immune system to certain materials. When the immunity is not familiar with a substance it usually puts itself in fight mode and activates a cascade in the body in order to defend itself. This is the best way vets explain allergic reactions.
Dogs can be allergic to different things, just like humans, so it does not come as a surprise when owners hear that their dog is allergic. The most common type of allergy that vets see in dogs is skin allergy. Different things could lead to an allergic reaction in dogs and here are some of the most common ones:
- flea allergy: if your dog has fleas, he may show signs of red skin, irritation, and scratching. Dogs usually react to the proteins that the fleas have and they transfer to your dog when they bite.
- environmental allergy: dogs just like us can show signs of reaction to grass, pollen, dust, or mold.
- food allergy: has it happened to you that your dog starts to feel unwell after you fed it a new food that has chicken? Or have you noticed paw chewing and digestive problems? Chances are chicken doesn’t go well with your dog.
How are allergies in dogs diagnosed?
Detecting what causes your dog to feel unwell can sometimes prove to be tricky. Because not always vets will think that it is an allergy in question. But once the vet is certain it is this, they will probably suggest the owner do an allergy test so that they can determine what the allergen is.
This can be done either with a skin test, like in humans, where you get pitched with different allergens under the skin and the doctor reads of the reaction. Or it can be done with a blood test. Once the vet knows what made your dog sick, they can discuss treatment options with you.
What is immunotherapy?
Many owners have heard about allergies and there are a lot of them who either have some type of allergy or own a dog with an allergy. No matter the situation, they know that treating it is long-term and usually requires a lot of diagnostics until the vet can determine what their dog is allergic to.
Allergic reactions can be presented in different ways but the most obvious one that owners notice is excessive scratching and skin redness. And this is when owners usually visit the vet to explain what they see in their dogs.
Immunotherapy is more modern and not an everyday approach to treating allergies. It basically means that the vet gives your dog a shot that has a small portion of the substance that your dog is allergic to – the allergen. This treatment is given on a regular basis over a longer period of time.
How is immunotherapy applied to dogs?
Usually, the immunotherapy can be given orally as a tablet or subcutaneously, as a shot. Both of them are quite safe and show good results in dogs that have suffered from different allergies. When they are given a shot, the vet could suggest that the owner apply the shot to the dog. Which in many cases saves money for the owner, since immunotherapy needs to be given in a couple of months.
The procedure itself is quite simple. The vet usually chooses the smallest needles and instructs the owner how to give the shot under the skin on the dog’s neck. Since the needle is so small, the dogs don’t even feel it most of the time and for them, it feels like an insect bite.
Does immunotherapy work for dogs?
Just as with humans, in some patients, it works and in some, it doesn’t it should not come as a surprise to owners that this treatment takes a lot of time and the first results may not be seen very soon. But owners have reported that after immunotherapy their dogs have felt much better, which means that the immunotherapy is working to some extent.
Dog owners should expect to pay between $100 and $200 for the immunotherapy shots. But the price will most certainly go up with the vet visits and the allergy testing up to $1500.