What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy or ‘allergy injections’ are a medical treatment where allergens (pollens, dust, molds, mites, etc.) to which your pet is allergic to are injected under the skin in slow increasing amounts and concentrations. Successful immunotherapy changes the immune system to be less sensitive to these allergens. Using the results of the intradermal allergy test (IDT), serum allergy test (SAT), and the detailed veterinary history of your pet, immunotherapy treatment can be formulated to contain the specific allergens identified as causing the problematic symptoms in your pet. The goal of immunotherapy is to reduce the severity of clinical signs and reduce the reliance on steroids. Initially your pet will receive injections every 3 days. The goal is to lengthen the interval between injections to every 7 days.
How Are the Immunotherapy Injections Given?
Immunotherapy injections contain small quantities of allergens that are injected underneath the skin (subcutaneously). The majority of pets do not object to these injections. Every pet’s allergy condition is unique. Therefore, the dose and interval between allergy treatment injections should be tailored according to your pet’s response. For this reason, regular re-evaluations or “recheck appointments” with Dr.Randall (especially during the first year) are essential for achieving the best results.
Is Immunotherapy Safe?
As with any injectable medication, there is a possible chance of serious allergic reaction to the injection. Such reactions are VERY rare. If you notice any unusual signs following an immunotherapy injection, such as weakness, labored or difficulty breathing, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, or hives, IMMEDIATELY contact Dr.Randall or your regular veterinarian. Your pet should always be observed for at least 30 minutes following an immunotherapy injection, in case of a reaction to the injection.
Are There Other Reactions to Watch Out For?
A small amount of redness may be seen at the injection site but should resolve within 24 hours. Call us immediately if you notice an increase in your pets itching, licking, scooting, or any decrease in over-all level of comfort. The immunotherapy should NEVER cause your pet ANY kind of increased discomfort. If any symptoms that are unusual for your pet are observed, it is always best to contact your primary veterinarian or Dr.Randall immediately.
How Soon Can I Expect to See Some Improvement In My Pet?
Every pet will respond differently to a given medication or treatment. In general, it takes six to eight months after therapy begins before significant improvement can be seen. It is recommended that immunotherapy be continued for at least twelve months before deciding whether or not it is the best way to manage your pet’s allergies. Please remember, there are ways Dr.Randall may be able to change your pet’s immunotherapy in order to gain the most control. This is why communication between you and our staff is so important.
Can My Pet Receive Other Medications While On Immunotherapy?
Regular skin and coat care, particularly bathing, is an important part of managing your pet’s allergies. Dr.Randall may also prescribe medications such as antihistamines, fatty acids, shampoos, rinses, or sprays to help keep your pet comfortable during the early stages of immunotherapy or during allergy season. These other medications and supplements work in conjunction with the immunotherapy your pet is on and are safe.
How Long Will My Pet Have to Receive Immunotherapy?
Once your pet’s allergies are controlled, he/she will receive injections usually once weekly for the rest of his/ her life. Unlike with humans, if immunotherapy is discontinued after control has been gained, the symptoms usually do return after a year and often retesting is required in order to regain control a second time.
If your pet is receiving oral immunotherapy we do not know if we can discontinue the serum after there is control for several years.
What If My Pet Is Not Improving On Immunotherapy?
Some pets may not improve following immunotherapy injections or oral serum. It is critical that you work closely with our staff to ensure the best possible results. Poor response may be secondary, often treatable, skin disease such as bacterial or yeast infection as well as flea infestation might make it seem as though your pet is not responding to the therapy. In other cases, it may be necessary to change the contents, dosage, or concentration of the immunotherapy. In selected cases, it may be beneficial to retest your pet if it is suspected your pet has developed new or additional hypersensitivities or allergies.
A Note from the Animal Allergy and Ear Clinic
Client Participation and Compliance
The key to success with Immunotherapy lies in consistency. This form of treatment will not be successful without the full participation and cooperation of the owner or caretaker. Therefore, the decision to proceed with Immunotherapy should be based on client preferences and their commitment to the treatment. At the Animal Allergy and Ear Clinic, it is our goal to first educate you on all of your options and then work with your family to decide the best form of treatment. Clients who are well informed are more likely to adhere to the Immunotherapy schedule, commit to their other concurrent therapies, and make the necessary modifications in the home environment per the prescribing veterinarians instructions. It is our mission to be as upfront in terms of program, schedule, cost, and needed compliance. For the treatment to be successful, we will provide constant guidance and encouragement.