Just as humans, pets can suffer from allergies. While allergic responses in people tend to be much more severe, if your pet is suffering from an allergy you can be assured that they’re dealing with a great deal of discomfort. Immunotherapy can allow your pet to live allergy free and as a result be much more comfortable.
The basic principle behind immunotherapy is to introduce your pet to an allergen gradually to reduce sensitivity to that allergen. Initially your pet will be introduced to very small amounts of the allergen. Over time the amount increases very slowly to allow your pet’s body to become accustomed to the allergen and to not treat it as a foreign invader. Essentially, the immune response begins when the immune system recognizes an invader. Your pet’s system will attack that invader so that it cannot cause illness. In an allergic response, the immune system falsely recognizes its own cells as invaders and causes a reaction.
Process of Immunotherapy
Once you and your veterinarian have decided to try immunotherapy for your pet there is a particular process that is typically followed. Firstly, your veterinarian will develop a very specific treatment plan that involves introducing gradually stronger dilutions of an allergen to your pet’s system. Treatment vials are formulated with various degrees of dilution of allergen that can be injected into your pet. Your veterinarian will show you how to use the treatment vials and syringes so that you can perform the treatments at home. In addition, it is highly recommended that you keep a treatment diary. You’ll want to record when the treatment was delivered, the strength of the dilution, and your pet’s reactions to each dilution.
Usually your veterinarian will deliver at least the first, if not the first few injections so that you get an idea of what the process involves. Starting with the weakest dilution in the treatment plan, injections will be given at regular intervals with a gradual increase in the amount of allergen to which your pet is exposed. You will be sent home with a few supplies including the treatment vials and syringes. You’ll need to immediately refrigerate the treatment vials so they can be properly preserved.
Dose schedules will vary depending on the allergen and the size of your pet. Typically, several doses of each dilution will be given before progressing to the next level. Injections are given on a regular schedule but should only be given if you have at least 1 hour to observe your pet’s response to the allergen. In addition, your pet should be given plenty of time to rest after the injection and any rigorous activity should be avoided. Also, it is highly recommended that you give the injection during your veterinarian’s office hours. In cases where a negative reaction is observed, it may be necessary to take your pet to the vet.
Finally, if you notice that your pet is having a negative reaction to a particular dilution then you should discontinue injections. Any reaction, regardless of how mild, might indicate that the doses are too strong.