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Are Allergy Testing and Allergy Shots In Dogs Worth The Money?

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Skin allergies are a common challenge facing dogs today. Traditionally, steroids have been used to control the itching and hair loss associated with the condition.

However, being on steroids for too long can lead to undesirable side-effects. As a result, some veterinarians recommend allergy testing and allergy shots as an alternative. But is it worth the money?

Keep in mind that the term "allergy shot" can have several meanings. When you take your dog to your vet for an "allergy shot", that shot often consists of a steroid antiinflammatory.

However, the allergy shot I'm speaking of here is not a steroid, but an injection similar to what human allergy sufferers receive from their doctors. This allergy shot is based on testing the pet to find out what he/she is actually allergic to.

Once allergy testing is performed, an injectible medication is formulated that contains minute amounts of the substances (allergens) the pet is allergic to. This concoction is then administered via a series of injections.

Called immunotherapy, it involves a gradual increase over time in the amount of allergens administered, with the goal of desensitizing the dog's immune system to those allergens and eliminating the allergic response.

Though not effective in all instances, some veterinary dermatology specialists do report around a 70% success rate with immunotherapy. Keep in mind, though, that "success" is declared when the patient exhibits at least 50 % overall improvement in the allergic pet's condition.That means if a dog is super itchy, 50% improvement may seem like no improvement at all.

Since inhalant allergens are poor stimulators of immunity, any improvement takes some time. Owners should allow up to 12 months before making a final judgment as to the effectiveness of the treatment. In most cases, maintenance injections must be given at least monthly and be maintained for the life of the pet.

So is it worth it? It depends.

If you've got the money and can afford it, it would definitely be worth a try. Just remember, though, it usually requires a trip to a specialist. In addition, immunotherapy may not work for your particular dog; if that's the case, all of that expense would go for naught.

And even if it does work, there's going to be an ongoing monthly expenditure you're going to have to maintain for the life of your pet.

If money is tight, I'd probably forego allergy testing and immunotherapy for now. The chances for success (and failure) may not be able to justify the price, especially if you're on a thin budget. Try other avenues of treatment instead (see related articles below).


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