Are Allergy Injections Good for Your Dog?

Injections can be used to treat outdoor and indoor environmental allergies, but not food allergies.
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An allergic reaction occurs when a dog's immune system overreacts to a normal environmental substance, such as pollen or dust. Dogs can have allergies just like humans, the difference being that their reaction to allergens is always in the skin. Treatments like allergy injections can safely alleviate your pup's allergy symptoms, helping to keep him happy and healthy.

How Allergy Injections Work

Allergy injections, known as hyposensitization therapy, introduces the allergen into the dog's system in increasingly stronger doses. Whatever environmental agent irritates your dog is injected into the bloodstream so his body can build up a tolerance to it. By gradually increasing the dose, the dog can build a stronger tolerance for the allergen. Shots are given to the dog regularly, with doses varying in number and frequency depending on the dog. Sometimes the pet owner gives the shots at home instead of taking him to the veterinarian each time. Allergy injections are not used to treat food allergies.

Pros of Allergy Injections

Hyposensitization therapy is effective for most dogs when they are properly dosed, making it the top allergy treatment choice for many veterinarians and pet owners. Allergy injections also are preferred over other treatments because they rely on the body's own immune system to remedy the problem, not a lifelong course of drugs. If a dog is able to build up a tolerance to environmental allergens on his own, he will not need ongoing medication that is often expensive and may cause other health problems with continued use. Even if injections are needed throughout the dog's life, they are considered much safer for the dog because they do not bring with them the many unwanted side effects accompanying other allergy treatments like steroids.

Cons of Allergy Injections

Hyposensitization takes a long time to work and doesn't relieve any symptoms the dog is experiencing at the time of injection. If your pup is chewing his feet or scratching incessantly, he will need another treatment to deal with the immediate problem. Patience is needed when trying to treat a dog's allergies with hyposensitization therapy. It can take six months to one year of regular injections before your dog shows marked improvement in his allergy symptoms. Also, building up your dog's immunity can greatly lessen his allergic reactions to environmental irritants, but does not eliminate them, so in most cases temporary treatment is needed during flare-ups.

Alternatives to Allergy Injections

Steroids are one of the most common treatments for allergies in dogs. They work by suppressing the immune system as a whole. Steroids are popular because they alleviate symptoms within a few days, are reasonably affordable and are easy to administer, however they can cause short-term and long-term negative side effects, such as excessive thirst and liver damage. Also, allergy symptoms can return with even greater force if the steroids are discontinued. Highly specified immune blockers are available to treat dog allergies, such as cyclosporine. Medications like these are safer than steroids and have proven their effectiveness in most dogs, but are more expensive than other allergy treatments. They can be used on their own or in conjunction with injections to alleviate allergy symptoms within a few weeks of starting the medication. Dietary supplements such as anti-inflammatory fish oil are used along with injections to alleviate symptoms.