Allergen Specific Immunotherapy for Canine Atopy

Canine atopy is considered a genetically inherited hypersensitivity to allergens either through inhalation or contact. Common triggers can be grass, pollen, trees, dust and mites. Canine atopy is typically observed between 1 to 3 years of age. Early signs may appear only seasonally but in due course the symptoms will be seen through the year. Breeds conventionally susceptible to atopy are Terriers, Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Dalmatians, Boxers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus.

Common Symptoms of Canine Atopy

  • Pruritus (Itching), usually starting on the face and paws
  • Chronic eat infections
  • Abrasions on skin/infections/hair loss due to scratching
  • Changes in skin pigmentation

Immunotherapy Treatment

  • Immunotherapy is a form of treatment which intensifies or re-establishes the ability of your dog's immune system to fight illness and sickness. Allergen-specific immunotherapy is a safe and routine remedial option for dogs displaying signs of atopy.
  • The symptoms of atopy are often found in case of other skin diseases too, so atopy is generally diagnosed only after other common causes are excluded. This will include blood tests, tests to rule out food allergy, scabies and mange.
  • Once other diagnoses are ruled out, then tests to identify the guilty allergen will be conducted.
  • Intra dermal testing is often done to establish the offending allergen. An antigen is administered subcutaneously and the injected area is then observed for signs of an allergic reaction. This method helps narrow down the search effectively and there is a high chance of conclusive identification.
  • When treatment starts, using Immunotherapy, a diluted allergen is deliberately administered to your dog over a sustained period. The injections will be more frequent in the initial phases of treatment and will gradually reduce.
  • Given enough time, usually 3 months to a year, your dog should have a substantially reduced allergic reaction to the allergen when he is exposed to it in his natural environment.
  • It is pertinent to note that the therapy requires constant monitoring and frequent follow up. It will take time before your dog starts showing significant progress during which restriction of secondary infections and other allergies is crucial.
  • A gratifying point here is that after Immunotherapy your dog will probably never relapse to symptoms as severe as he had originally.

Side Effects

  • Severe side effects to immunotherapy are rare.
  • There could be an increase in the severity of the symptoms in the initial stage of immunotherapy. This will pass as the treatment continues.

Allergen-specific immunotherapy is a recommended non steroid therapy for dogs with atopy. There is a 50 to 70% chance that your dog will show marked improvement with immunotherapy. Since canine atopy is predominantly an inherited condition, it is best not to breed an affected dog.