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Immunotherapy for Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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    What is Immunotherapy for Dogs?

    Immunotherapy is used to treat allergic reactions in dogs. Most symptoms that occur as a result of an allergic reaction can be managed medically. However, the administration of immunotherapy is the only way to treat and address the negative reaction itself. 

    Immunotherapy administers small portions of the allergen to the dog on a regular basis over an extended period of time until the patient overcomes the reaction from the allergen. Doses of the allergen will gradually increase after several months of the treatment. 

    How Does Immunotherapy Work in Dogs?

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    Prior to the administration of immunotherapy, the allergens causing the reaction need to be identified through proper testing. These allergens are typically identified through the use of an IDT or PPT test, where common allergens are administered into the dog’s skin. If a reaction occurs following the administration, the allergen has been identified. In some cases, blood testing may be performed to identify the allergens, however, this has been found to be less accurate. 

    Once these allergens have been properly identified, immunotherapy can be prescribed. The allergens are either diluted and placed into vials or tablet form. An injection using a syringe is the most common way to administer immunotherapy. 

    Your veterinarian will demonstrate how to perform the injection, typically with a 27 gauge needle. The skin on the nape of the dog’s neck should be gently raised and folded. This way the needle can be inserted into the neck at a proper angle inserting the allergens into the skin. A new needle is necessary for each application, as well as a new injection site. In the case that your veterinarian prescribes immunotherapy in tablet form, this tablet will likely be placed under your dog’s tongue multiple times throughout the day.

    What Are the Side Effects of Immunotherapy in Dogs?

    It’s important to monitor your dog for an hour or so following the administration of immunotherapy to keep an eye out for negative reactions. A few side effects to consider when immunotherapy is prescribed include: 

    • Injection site becoming swollen or painful
    • In serious cases, anaphylaxis can occur, demonstrated by frequent panting or swallowing; contact your veterinarian right away 
    • Also in serious cases, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, hives or collapse can occur and is considered an emergency (this is also a sign that the dosage likely needs to be adjusted) 

    What is the Cost of Immunotherapy for Dogs?

    Immunotherapy is rather affordable, however, it does require ongoing administration. The cost is dependent upon the size of the dog and their dosage needed. Typically, the amount administered per month ranges from 1-3ml; 1ml can cost anywhere from $5-$10. Additionally, follow up appointments and monitoring from your veterinarian will be necessary as well as syringes. 

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    What are Corticosteroids for Dogs?

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      What are Corticosteroids for Dogs?

      Corticosteroids (a.k.a steroids or cortisone) are steroid hormones that are naturally generated in the adrenal glands. Corticosteroids are vital in the body for a variety of reasons, including stress response, immune system response, inflammatory regulation, nutrition metabolism, and blood electrolyte balance. They can be administered orally, which is the most usual and easy method for pet owners, or intravenously or subcutaneously by a veterinarian for quicker absorption.

      What Do Corticosteroids Treat in Dogs?

      Corticosteroids are routinely used to treat a wide range of ailments in dogs, but the dosage and length of therapy vary depending on the type of your dog’s ailment. Low doses are often used to treat inflammation-related conditions such as joint pain, allergies, respiratory conditions, and skin issues/dermatitis. Higher doses are often used to treat autoimmune disorders such as Lupus and Addison’s Disease.

      How Do Corticosteroids Work?

      Corticosteroids function by replicating natural hormones generated by the adrenal cortex, which decrease chemicals that activate the immune system’s inflammatory response and act as an immunosuppressant when administered in high doses.

      What Corticosteroids Are There?

      Prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone, and methylprednisolone are the most often given corticosteroids which are also synthetic corticosteroids. Corticosteroids in this form are the most commonly prescribed type and are several times more effective than the naturally occurring versions present in the body and often have a significantly longer half-life. Due to their increased potency and duration of action, synthetic corticosteroids must be used with caution to avoid serious side effects.

      What Do Corticosteroids Cost for Dogs?

      The cost of corticosteroid treatment for dogs is determined by multiple different factors, including the length of treatment, the dog’s size, the exact medication used, and how it’s administered. For example, 30 tablets of oral prednisone to take at home is only around $6-$10 from Chewy based on the dosage but it may cost around $50-$150 for an injection at the vet.

      What Are The Side Effects of Corticosteroids in Dogs?

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      Corticosteroids in dogs can cause various side effects which vary depending on whether it’s used short term or long term. Short term is often used as an allergy treatment and side effects may include:

      • Excessive panting
      • Increase lethargy
      • Increased appetite 
      • Increased thirst and urination
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Worsening skin infections 

      Long term usage is that which lasts for multiple weeks or months and side effects may include:

      • UTIs
      • Obesity as a result of increased appetite
      • Development of thin skin, thin coat, and blackheads
      • Muscle weakness as a result of metabolic breakdown of muscle tissue
      • Cushing’s disease
      • Behavior changes such as anger, aggressiveness, depression, and anxiety
      • Stunted growth in young dogs
      • Hypertension
      • Lack of healing
      • Digestive tract ulcers
      • Kidney issues
      • There is also a chance of pre-diabetic dogs developing diabetes during treatment and then reverting back to pre-diabetes once treatment is complete

      Side effects may be reduced by lowering the dosage, discontinuing treatment, or using an alternate steroid or treatment. Due to the commonality of side effects, corticosteroids are usually used just at the beginning stages of an allergic reaction while being gradually tapered off in an effort to reduce the chance of side effects. 

      If your dog is displaying any side effects of corticosteroids, you should inform your veterinarian as they may want to change treatment or lower the dosage.

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      Can You Give Your Dog Benadryl?

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        Benadryl is a home remedy that can be safe and effective in treating several ailments in dogs but you may have asked yourself you can give your dog Benadryl and if so, how much? Remember to always contact your veterinarian before administering any new medication to your dog. Read below to learn more about how Benadryl may be beneficial for your dog. 

        hand giving a corgi a red and white pill

        What is Benadryl? 

        Benadryl, generic name diphenhydramine, is an antihistamine that is used to relieve symptoms of allergies, rashes, and the common cold but does not treat underlying conditions. The medication comes in different forms including oral (tablets, chewable tablets, etc.) and topical cream spray, and gel. 

        How Does Benadryl Work? 

        Since Benadryl is an antihistamine, it counteracts histamine which is what the body produces during an allergic reaction. H-1 receptors, which are found on tiny blood arteries and smooth muscles, are blocked by Benadryl. When histamine binds to these receptors, it causes the blood vessels around the airways to enlarge, producing irritation and itching, as well as the muscles around the airways to constrict, making breathing difficult. The medication possesses drying effects on symptoms including watery eye, runny nose, sneezing, and itching. 

        Benadryl’s anti-motion sickness effect is achieved by inhibiting signals to the brain’s vomiting region. This only pertains to dogs and not humans.

        benadryl allergy medication 100 count

        What Are the Side Effects of Benadryl in Dogs?

        There are several side effects to be aware of when administering Benadryl to your dog. The most common side effects observed in dogs are: 

        • Lethargy 
        • Dry mouth/increased thirst 
        • Urinary retention 
        • Vomiting 
        • Diarrhea  
        • Lack of appetite 

        What Are the Signs of a Benadryl Overdose in Dogs?

        While there are side effects associated with Benadryl that may be commonly observed, it’s important to be knowledgeable of what the signs of a Benadryl overdose may look like. If your dog is experiencing any of the below, consult a veterinarian immediately. 

        • Abnormal heart rate or blood pressure
        • Excessive salivation
        • Seizures 
        • Tremors 
        • Trouble breathing 
        • Agitation or aggression 
        • Fever

        What is Benadryl Used to Treat in Dogs? 


        french bulldog puppy itching

        Benadryl for dogs is often used to treat itchiness that is caused by skin allergies. However, it may also be used to alleviate symptoms caused by other allergies including hives, environmental allergies, reactions to bee stings and vaccines, and other types of inflammation. Benadryl is effective in treating mild to moderate reactions. However, more serious reactions should be seen by a vet. 

        Short-term Anxiety

        The sedative effects in Benadryl may help dogs struggling with anxiety and phobias. However, it’s only a short term solution and should not be used in dogs that need anxiety medication on a regular, long-term basis. 

        Motion Sickness

        Benadryl for dogs is often used to relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. It’s especially effective if your dog needs to be transported a longer distance. The same receptors in your dog’s body that bind to histamines are associated with motion sickness, which is why Benadryl helps to reduce nausea during travel. In addition to this, the drowsiness caused by Benadryl may help to keep your dog calm during their trip. 

        When Should You Avoid Using Benadryl? 

        Benadryl should not be administered to dogs with certain existing medical conditions. In addition, inform your vet of any other medications that your dog is currently taking, as Benadryl may counteract with others. Dogs with the below medical conditions should not be administered Benadryl, including: 

        • Low blood pressure 
        • Cardiac conditions (including cardiovascular disease) 
        • Glaucoma 
        • Allergic to antihistamines 
        • Currently pregnant 
        • Neonatal dogs
        • Prostate enlargement 
        • Bladder or intestinal obstruction 

        What Is the Dosage For Benadryl For Dogs?

        According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the safe dosage is 2-4 milligrams of Benadrylper kilogram of weight, or 0.9 to 1.8 milligrams per pound. This dosage can typically be administered two to three times daily. However, Benadryl dosage can best be determined by your veterinarian. 

        Be sure that the benadryl tablets contain only diphenhydramine and no alcohol. Do not administer time-release medication, as it can break down in the stomach at a faster rate than in humans and can lead to an overdose. In addition, speak to your vet before administering liquid Benadryl, as the liquid version is not absorbed the same as a tablet. 

        Remember to contact your veterinarian before administering a new medication, including over the counter medication. You can find a new vet through our specialist directory.

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        What is Canine Atopic Dermatitis?

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          Watching your dog itch themselves raw can be distressing, especially when you can’t pinpoint the cause. A common cause of intense itching is canine atopic dermatitis which luckily, can be controlled with the right changes to diet and environment as well as medication.

          What is Canine Atopic Dermatitis?

          Canine Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that is a result of allergies leading to itchy skin and inflammation. It happens to be the second most common skin disease among dogs. 

          What Causes Canine Atopic Dermatitis?

          Atopic Dermatitis is a result of allergies in dogs. Pollen, animal dander, plants, and insects are the most common allergens that cause dog allergies, but dogs can also be sensitive to food and medications. Itching, scratching, and grooming are among the signs of allergies. Other symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, paw chewing, and skin irritation. When humans have allergies, we sneeze, have a runny nose and watery eyes but dogs react to allergies with  skin and/or gastrointestinal problems.

          In dogs, allergic dermatitis (atopy) is caused by a genetic tendency to develop allergy symptoms after repeated contact to an otherwise innocuous chemical (an “allergen”). Allergic symptoms usually appear between the ages of 1 and 3 years. Since the condition is inherited, some dogs are more likely to be afflicted with it than others.

          Common Allergens

          Staphylococcus Hypersensitivity

          Bacterial hypersensitivity occurs when a dog’s body overreacts to typical Staphylococcus (Staph) germs. Dogs with hypothyroidism, inhalant allergy, and/or flea allergy are more prone to develop hypersensitivity to microorganisms. Microbiological tests are used to identify bacterial hypersensitivity. Bacterial hypersensitivity is characterized by certain alterations in the skin’s blood vessels.

          Contact and Inhalant Allergies 

          Pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds, dust mites, and molds can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs, just as they can in people. The timing of the reaction might be used as a hint to diagnose these allergies. If so, how often does it occur? There’s a chance it’s mold or dust. Toxic pollen may be to blame if the allergic response is seasonal.

          Food Allergies

          Since their pets have eaten the same diet their whole lives, many people do not identify food allergies as the source of their dog’s scratching. As a result, this finding does not rule out the possibility of food allergies in animals. Some believe that dogs are only sensitive to bad food. Irritation caused by a particular component in dog food does not matter whether the product is costly or not. Premium foods have the benefit of avoiding common fillers that might cause allergic responses.

          Flea Allergies

          Dogs aren’t necessarily allergic to the fleas or flea bites, but their saliva. Dogs who are only 

          Exposed to fleas occasionally are more likely to be sensitive to flea saliva than those who are infected more often. The effects of the saliva from a single flea bite can last from five to seven days, so you don’t need many fleas to make your dog uncomfortable. 

          What are the Symptoms of Canine Atopic Dermatitis?

          The common clinical signs of atopic dermatitis include:

          • Compulsive licking or lick granuloma in dogs 
          • Scratching of their face, paws, ears, groin
          • Watery eyes
          • Sneezing
          • Itching
          • Scratching
          • Rubbing
          • Licking
          • A yeasty smell
          • Greasy skin
          • Redness or tough skin

          How is Canine Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosed?

          Testing for allergies is the best way to diagnose and treat dogs with moderate or severe allergies. There are a variety of testing procedures. Tests for antigen-induced antibodies in the dog’s blood are most common. Intradermal skin testing is another option. The antigen is then injected into a section of the dog’s skin that’s been shaved in a precise order, so that if the dog reacts, the antigen may be recognized. After that, the shaved region is inspected to find out if any antigens caused a reaction (this might take many hours).

          What is the Treatment for Canine Atopic Dermatitis?

          There are multiple different treatment options for treating atopic dermatitis but it will depend on both the actual cause of the allergy, the severity and what the dog reacts best too.

          Medicated Baths 

          Numerous medicinal shampoos include ingredients designed to soothe inflamed skin. Bathing your dog regularly can also help eliminate allergens from the hair coat, which can lead to skin allergy flare-ups. This includes antibacterial and antifungal agents, along with substances that allow bathing the skin on a more frequent basis without causing it to become dry. The use of a rinse thereafter also helps to prevent the skin and hair coat from drying out.


          Antihistamines can be given to dogs with little risk. Some owners have had success using antihistamines. As a rule of thumb, these medicines tend to have a varied effect on different dogs. It has been shown that antihistamines are highly effective at treating allergic skin conditions in some dogs. It has a negligible effect on other breeds of dogs. As a result, owners should try at least three different types of antihistamines before giving up. These include Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, Atarax and Zyrtec. Antihistamines, on the other hand, are generally seen to be worth a shot because of their minimal risk of adverse effects and their affordability.

          Antibiotic and Antifungal Meds

          Secondary skin infections are often treated with antibiotics. Secondary yeast infections are often treated with antifungal medicines. These should only be prescribed by a veterinarian.

          Flea Control

          Flea management is essential for dogs with an allergy to flea saliva. It’s imperative to keep flea preventative on your dog. It’s available orally and topically. It’s important to do research prior to purchasing as many brands come out with new formulas each year to battle ever adapting fleas.


          Skin health is improved by Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acid supplementation. Fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties in the natural world. Many dogs with allergies benefit from these products. The fact that they are non-toxic and have almost no adverse effects makes them worth a shot. 

          Hypoallergenic Foods

          Hypoallergenic meals include proteins and carbs that your dog has never eaten before, because allergies are the result of exposure. Tests for food allergies are the fastest and most accurate way to discover which foods your dog could or might not be allergic to. 80% of dog food allergies are caused by dairy, meat, and wheat, therefore these foods should be avoided. For example, hypoallergenic diets utilize venison, duck eggs and other non-traditional protein sources, such as duck, kangaroo, and a variety of fish. Potatoes, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and canned pumpkin are all good sources of carbohydrates.

          Diets including hydrolyzed protein are those in which the protein source has been synthesized into tiny pieces before being consumed. As a result of providing a hydrolyzed protein source, allergy-prone dogs’ immune systems are supposed to be unable to identify the protein fragments and build an immunological response, resulting in an allergic reaction to the meal. 

          A store-bought hypoallergenic diet works well for most pets with food allergies, but sometimes an animal’s allergies are so severe that a customized diet is the best alternative. Veterinarians should be consulted in order to tailor the diet in this scenario.

          Immunosuppressive Agents and Corticosteroids 

          You can reduce itchiness using cortisone products such as dexamethasone, prednisolone, and prednisone. There are adverse effects associated with these medicines, therefore they should be taken with caution while treating skin allergies. Steroids should only be used if the allergy season is brief, the dosage is minimal, or the dog is in significant pain. Increased thirst and appetite, increased urination, and behavioral changes are some of the possible side effects. Diabetic complications and a weakened immune system are possible side effects of prolonged usage. There are certain canines that can only be adequately managed with a long-term, low-dose alternate day treatment.

          “Cyclosporine,” also known as Atopica, is an anti-inflammatory drug that has been shown to be quite successful in treating skin allergies in dogs.

          Immunotherapy (Hypo-sensitization) 

          Many individuals have had tremendous success with allergy injections, but they take a long time to work. It may take six to twelve months for the condition to improve. An immunotherapy for that individual dog may be created after allergies have been identified and the dog’s treatment can begin. An injection containing a combination of these antigens can be created when the problematic antigens have been identified. They are administered over a period of weeks to months depending on the type of agent used, until the dog develops immunity to the agent. It may be necessary to give a booster shot every now and then after initial protection.

          Controlling Environment Factors

          Anti-allergy medication is most effective if you know the things your dog is allergic too. Avoiding the allergen completely is preferable than desensitizing your dog with allergy injections. By using a dehumidifier, or by adding activated charcoal on top of the soil on your houseplants, you can limit the growth of molds. For the greatest dust and pollen management, use a HEPA air cleaner. A/C can also help minimize the quantity of airborne allergens that circulate since the windows are kept closed.

          Medicine for Thyroid 

          Numerous variables, both external and internal, contribute to the maintenance of healthy skin. As well as maintaining a proper skin surface, many glands in the body produce hormones that are essential for various body functions. When the thyroid is underactive, it can affect the skin and hair coat, resulting in thinning hair and dull, brittle hair, as well as skin that is oily or dry. When it comes to determining if your dog has hypothyroidism, a blood test is the easiest and most straightforward approach.

          In order to cure hypothyroidism, thyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone, is taken daily (levothyroxine). In order to determine the efficacy of the dose and make any required changes, blood samples will need to be taken on a regular basis.


          To conclude, when it comes to managing an atopic, allergic dog, it may be difficult and irritating since it usually takes a variety of approaches to control the allergy flare-ups. To optimize the chances of healing or at least managing a seriously afflicted allergic patient, a veterinarian’s proper diagnosis, owner compliance, and follow-up treatment are critical. You can find a veterinary dermatologist near you in our specialist directory or find products to help with atopic dermatitis in our product directory!