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Cats can develop allergies just like humans. Although there is no cure for allergies in cats, allergies can be treated and managed in two ways. The first of these is treating the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The second is to increase the cat’s tolerance to an allergen by introducing the allergen in small amounts into the cat’s system. This is known as allergen-specific immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is usually carried out via injection, but may also be administered orally. (Oral allergy treatment is known as sublingual immunotherapy.) Rather than covering the ways in which allergic reactions can be treated, this guide will dicuss how immunotherapy works to increase a cat’s tolerance to an allergen.
The immunotherapy procedure generally remains the same despite which allergen the cat is being treated for. Cats receiving immunotherapeutic injections will need to attend weekly appointments for the therapy to be effective.
Immunotherapy is typically very effective in cats with allergies. Studies show that allergen-specific immunotherapy has a roughly 73% success rate. This means that the cats were either completely freed from allergy symptoms or the severity of the symptoms had greatly improved. Cats that only showed a mild improvement also required additional therapy, such as topical treatments, to alleviate their symptoms. Cats that have suffered from an allergy for several years prior to receiving allergen-specific immunotherapy – at least six years – may not benefit as much from immunotherapy as cats that have been diagnosed and treated within two years.
The efficacy of sublingual immunotherapy is approximately 60%. While this seems to suggest that it is less effective than allergen-specific immunotherapy, it is important to note that sublingual immunotherapy may be a better option for cats that do not respond well to allergen-specific immunotherapy.
Due to the nature of immunotherapy, cats will not need to recover. There is a very small chance – approximately 2% -- that cats receiving immunotherapy will suffer from an anaphylactic reaction following the administration of immunotherapy. For cats, there is an increased risk of anaphylactic reaction with allergen-specific immunotherapy compared to sublingual immunotherapy.
The cost of immunotherapy will vary based on standards of living and additional costs incurred. The average cost of immunotherapy is approximately $600 per year, or approximately $50 per month.
Sublingual immunotherapy may be recommended for cats that did not respond well to allergen-specific immunotherapy. Although painless, sublingual immunotherapy may be more difficult for owners to administer due to the location and frequency of dosing. It is important to note that allergy drops cannot be administered to the cat’s food – they must be placed under the tongue.
While the goal of immunotherapy is to reduce the severity of allergic reactions, it is up to owners to ensure their cats do not come into contact with an allergen once their cat’s allergy has been identified. Immunotherapy may be used in addition to other treatment methods based on the cat’s symptoms.
It may not be possible to prevent the development of allergies. However, once an allergen has been identified, owners should prevent their cats from coming into contact with the allergen in order to avoid a reaction.
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