Do Allergy Shots For Dogs Work?

Joanne Keenan
allergy shots for dogs

It’s easy to spot a dog with allergies … lots of itching, scratching and licking. It can be a sensitivity or an allergy … usually food related, seasonal or environmental. Allergy shots for dogs, also known as immunotherapy … might be an option to bring relief to environmental allergies. 

There are natural options to help an allergic dog, like changing his diet and adding supplements, but allergy shots may be an option some dog owners prefer. 

First, let’s examine some of the causes of allergies and whether immunotherapy allergy shots for dogs could help.

Causes of Allergies In dogs

Here are some common causes of allergies in dogs.

Environmental allergies in dogs can be airborne particles from dust, mold, pollen, or grasses, plants, insects or animals. If there’s a reaction when they come in contact with his skin, it’s known as atopic dermatitis. 

The change of seasons and new plant growth often trigger seasonal allergies. 

Flea Allergy Dermatitis 
Dogs can be allergic to flea saliva and it doesn’t take much to cause a reaction.

Food allergies are an immediate reaction to a food or food ingredient, and include symptoms such as wheezing, skin eruptions, itching or swelling. This is because the immune system creates antibodies to trigger allergic reactions. Food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common than allergies. Sensitivity reactions can be delayed (a few days to a few weeks) … and are also an immune system response.

Immunotherapy is a series of allergy shots that might bring relief to your dog if he suffers from environmental allergies. 

Environmental Allergy Shots For Dogs 

Immunotherapy allergy shots for dogs are used only for environmental allergies in dogs. They “retrain” the immune system to stop overreacting to allergens. This is a series of allergy shots made specifically for each dog and given over 12 months or longer. Immunotherapy is based on your dog’s individual immune system, with the goal of eliminating the allergic reaction over time.

Immunotherapy allergy shots work by gradually exposing your dog to small amounts of the allergen over time, which helps to desensitize the dog's immune system to the allergen. This can reduce or eliminate the allergic response to improve quality of life and ultimately eliminate the need for medication.

Types Of Allergy Medications For Dogs

There are conventional allergy drugs that reduce allergy symptoms but actually suppress your dog’s immune reaction. They can weaken the immune system and can cause long-term damage. These drugs might help with allergy symptoms but they don’t eliminate the allergies or what causes them.

Prednisone (a steroid), Atopica (cyclosporine) and Apoquel or Cytopoint are given as allergy drugs but they weaken and destroy the immune system, especially when used as a long-term treatment. Some deaths have also been reported.

How Do Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs Work?

Immunotherapy for dogs is a lot like human allergy shots. Immunotherapy is biological and based on skin testing to identify allergens, and then an individual serum can be prepared for each dog. 

Your dog is exposed to small, controlled doses of the allergen that trigger the allergic reaction. Over time, your dog's immune system becomes less reactive to the allergen and can build up a tolerance to it, reducing the severity of the allergic response.

The injections are given on a regular schedule, usually starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the amount of the allergen over time. This allows the dog's immune system to adapt and become less sensitive to the allergen.

Immunotherapy is not a quick fix and requires a long-term commitment to have the shots given regularly. The shots can be as frequent as several times a week and this can be extended over months and up to a year or more. It may take months to see if the immunotherapy is effective for your dog.

Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs Pros And Cons

Immunotherapy requires a substantial time commitment and cost. However, it eliminates the need for dangerous medications.

Here are some pros and cons of immunotherapy:

Pros Of Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs

  • It might help dogs that haven’t had success with other treatments.
  • It’s not a medication.
  • It’s been successful for many dogs.  
  • Dog owners can give their own injections.
  • It doesn’t damage the immune system like suppressive drugs.

Cons Of Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs

  • Immunotherapy doesn’t repair the immune system.
  • Immunotherapy doesn’t eliminate allergies.
  • Costs can be $1,000 to $2,000 or more.
  • Treatment can take a year or more.
  • It might not work.
  • Immunotherapy might be needed for the life of your dog.
  • The cause of the allergies will remain unknown.  
  • It can’t be used for food or flea allergies.

Side Effects Of Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs

You might wonder if allergy shots are safe for dogs. Like anything injected into your dog, there could be a reaction. Here’s what you might see:

  • Injection site swelling
  • Excessive panting
  • Swallowing and licking lips
  • Digestive gurgling
  • Itching
  • Listlessness or lethargy

A reaction can mean the treatment protocol might need to be adjusted. 

There is less than a 1% chance of a serious reaction, but if it happens, your dog needs emergency vet treatment. These are signs that need immediate attention:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the snout or face
  • Diarrhea or vomiting 
  • Collapse

How Much Are Allergy Shots For Dogs?

A veterinary specialist is needed to do skin testing and blood work that could cost $1,000 to $1,200. The cost of serum and supplies so you can give the shots yourself could be $300 to $400 for the first few months. You will need regular follow-up visits to get adjustments to the concentration of the serum … and this will be ongoing for at least a year.  

Do Immunotherapy Allergy Shots For Dogs Work?

Immunotherapy for dogs works in only about half the cases, with a moderate response in a quarter of cases. Unfortunately, there are some dogs who aren’t helped at all. It’s a long process and it could be as much as a year before you see a reduction in your dog’s allergic reactions. So it can be an expensive gamble! 

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© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.