Skip to Main Content
  • Comprehensive Veterinary Dermatology in Orange Park
Ask About Financing

The Role of Immunotherapy for Pets With Chronic Conditions

Have you noticed your pet itching, sneezing, or licking their fur more than usual? Similar to humans, cats and dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies that can trigger chronic health conditions. In this post, our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist explains how immunotherapy can play an important role in providing relief of chronic health conditions in pets. 

Seasonal Allergies in Cats & Dogs 

Much like humans, cats and dogs can be allergic to various substances in the air and in their environment. These substances are called allergens. For pets sensitive to these airborne allergens, they can experience signs of allergies. 

Many cats and dogs experience allergies throughout the year, depending on the specific trigger that's causing the allergic response. 

While many substances may be to blame, the most common seasonal allergens are:

  • Grass pollens
  • Tree pollens (like ash, cedar, and oak) 
  • Weed pollens (like rageweed)
  • Grass pollens
  • Dust mites 
  • Mold spores
  • Mildew 
  • Human and animal dander (shed skin cells)

Your pet's skin is their first line of defense against the foreign substances listed above. If your dog's skin is unable to block these allergens properly, their immune system will react. 

Once allergens enter your dog's body, their overactive immune system becomes inflamed, which often leads to itching, scratching, and other symptoms. 

While some pets' seasonal allergies flare up once or twice throughout the year, others have year-round allergies. Some allergies can develop into chronic health issues. 

These health issues may include various skin conditions (which we'll delve into below) that can affect your cat's health and quality of life. 

However, there is hope for your pet in the form of allergy testing and immunotherapy. 

Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Pets 

While humans often experience respiratory symptoms of allergies, dogs and cats often suffer from symptoms that affect their skin. If your four-legged companion is scratching excessively, they likely have itchy, irritated skin. Here are a few more symptoms you should watch for in your kitty or pup:

  • Red, infected, scaly, flaky, or inflamed skin 
  • Rashes on the skin 
  • Scratching, biting, and/or chewing their skin or coat 
  • Excessive shedding '
  • Hair loss 
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose 
  • Licking their anal glands or scooting across the floor 
  • Compulsive paw licking in dogs
  • Chronic ear infections or red, waxy ears (common in dogs who are prone to ear problems in the first place) 
  • Respiratory issues, such as coughing, difficulty breathing, or wheezing (more common in cats) 

As you might imagine, these symptoms can cause significant discomfort for your pet and affect their quality of life. They can also lead to chronic, painful health conditions. While these allergies cannot be cured, your veterinary dermatologist can test your pet for specific allergies and provide immunotherapy to help prevent and manage chronic symptoms. 

In some cases, allergies can become more severe as a pet matures, so it's important to work with your primary vet and veterinary dermatologist to address symptoms as they develop. 

What to Expect During a Dermatology Exam 

Booking an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist is a good first step to identify and treat seasonal allergies. Our veterinary dermatologist will perform a complete physical exam and preliminary dermatology exam to get a complete picture of your pet's health and diagnose their specific condition.

They'll check your cat or dog's general physical condition and demeanor, along with their weight. They will then examine their face, head, coat and skin for the symptoms listed above. 

The veterinary dermatologist will review their findings with you and recommend any additional diagnostic tests that may be required. 

How Vets Test for Allergies in Cats & Dogs 

Having a veterinary dermatologist perform an intradermal or serum allergy test is the best way to identify the source of some allergens. These will help your vet make an accurate diagnosis and plan treatment. 

Intradermal Allergy Testing

The gold standard in allergy testing for environmental allergies is intradermal testing (also referred to as skin testing). A sedative is administered to relax your dog or cat, a specific area of fur is shaved, and multiple allergens common to Orange Park are injected into the skin. After 20 minutes, the test site is examined again to determine which allergens caused a red, raised reaction.

Serum Allergy Testing

Serum allergy testing for pets entails obtaining a small sample of their blood for diagnostic purposes. The serum from your cat or dog will be tested for sensitivity to a variety of potential allergens, including pollen from trees, grasses, weeds, and shrubs, as well as fungi, house dust and mites, and a variety of potential food ingredients found in commercial dog food preparations.

How Immunotherapy Can Help Manage Allergy Symptoms 

Using the results from allergy testing, your veterinary dermatologist may recommend allergy-specific immunotherapy (also known as an allergy serum or shot) to help decrease your cat or dog's reaction to a specific allergen such as pollen, dust, or mold. 

Allergy-specific immunotherapy is often administered in the form of injections or oral drops at home. These small, routine doses of the allergen build up your pet's immunity to an allergen over time. Doses are gradually increased over time. 

Keep in mind that response is not immediate, and it may take a year or more for your pet to respond to the serum fully. While immunotherapy is typically a lifelong measure (some pets can discontinue treatment after a few years), this treatment can help your pet remain as healthy as possible and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your cat or dog has a chronic health condition due to allergies? Contact us. We can perform a dermatological exam, diagnose potential issues, and provide treatment.

New Patients Welcome

Animal Friends Dermatology is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(904) 215-9293 Contact