Immunotherapy for Human Allergies to Pets

Allergies to pets are quite common and affect over 10% of people. To date allergies cannot be completely cured, but immunotherapy is considered the best management therapy. The immunotherapy aims at training the immune system, making it less sensitive when it is faced with the allergens. Over 75% of patients getting the immunotherapy shots respond well to the treatment.

Allergies to Pets

Pets produce dander, which is shed recurrently. Dander is actually composed of dead skin cells and a few proteins. The culprit allergen in pet dander is a glycoprotein. If it weren’t for this glycoprotein, people would not be allergic to pets. Hair doesn’t cause allergies. However, if the hair is filled with dust, pollens or other substances from the environment that can cause allergies in people, the hair can trigger sneezing and other allergic reactions.

The reason people are allergic to pet dander is due to an immune system that overreacts when meeting the allergens and will secret histamines. The histamines are the substances that will cause symptoms such as itchy skin, sneezing, rashes or runny nose and watery eyes.


The immunotherapy is an allergy management option that will involve administering periodical injections. The injections contain a concentrated amount of the culprit glycoprotein that is causing the allergies. Testing the patient should be done to establish if he is indeed allergic to pet dander or other environmental factors. If the tests show the patient is allergic to several other allergens, these will be included in the injections.

The injections will target the immune system and are meant to train it to be more resistant to the pet glycoprotein or other environmental factors.

The immunotherapy will be started with more frequent injections that contain smaller quantities of the allergen substance. As the therapy advances and the patient starts building up immunity to the allergens, the amount of allergens will be increased. The injections will be administered once every month or even less frequently.

The Efficiency of Allergy Shots

The allergy shots are efficient in about 75% of people that get the treatment. Over 75% of people have shown improvement and develop fewer allergic reactions after 1 to 2 years of allergy shots. Some patients that get the injections for 3 to 5 years may develop immunity to the allergens and may display only insignificant allergy symptoms.

Disadvantages of Allergy Shots

The main disadvantage of allergy shots is that it may not work in all patients.

Another minus of the allergy shots is that it takes up to 6 months for the patient to see improvement and during this time, alternative treatments must be administered.

Alternative Treatments

If the allergy shots are not effective or if the patient needs an alternative treatment until the immunotherapy starts being effective, there are a few options:

  • Antihistamines, which can be taken regularly to stop the production of histamines, consequently reducing the allergic symptoms
  • Steroids, which will inhibit the activity of the immune system.