Treating Feline Allergies with Immunotherapy

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Once you’ve determined your cat has allergies, what’s next? In this week’s article, we’ll talk about options to help treat your cat’s specific allergies, and not just treat the symptoms. By treating the root cause, you can help your cat start to feel better and even improve their quality of life.  Effective treatments include immunotherapy and environmental control.

Just to review, when your cat is allergic to something, it means that its immune system has become sensitive to that substance. Common allergens can include dust mites, storage mites, fleas, pollen, cleaning agents and plants.

 What is immunotherapy?

One of the best and most effective ways to treat allergies is immunotherapy. In fact, many veterinarians believe it’s the only true way to treat the condition because it targets the root causes instead of just treating the symptoms.

Immunotherapy works by gradually changing the immune system’s reaction to the allergens. It works by increasing the amounts and concentrations of the allergies with each dose administered. Immunotherapy can be given as subcutaneous injections or as oral drops.

How does the vet determine what allergies your cat has?

Determining what your cat is allergic to is best assessed through the environmental allergy panel we’ve discussed in previous articles. The blood work specifically measures the allergen specific IgE to determine which environmental components your cat is sensitive to. Just like with people, skin testing and exposure to allergens can be done in cats, but typically the blood sample is easier for your furry friend and typically more accurate.

It’s important to note that before your vet can draw a blood sample for allergy testing, your cat may need to discontinue taking certain medications including steroids. Your vet will make that determination based on medical history and symptoms. Remember to always talk to your veterinarian before discontinuing any medication.

 What happens next?

Once the allergy testing results are in, your vet will help you determine if immunotherapy is the best option and if you need to do anything environmentally to help control allergen exposure. Frequently, there will be some measure of commitment on the owner’s part to help limit allergen exposure, especially in cases of dust mites, storage mites, or even certain plants.

For example, in the case of storage mites, it’s important to remove any dry goods from cabinets and place them in air tight storage containers. It’s also important to stop feeding dry food to a cat with a high allergy to storage mites, because essentially each time they eat dry food, they are ingesting allergens! With owner commitment, some environmental allergens can be well controlled without immunotherapy depending on the nature of your cat’s allergies.

Immunotherapies are individually designed for your specific cat. Together with your vet, the allergy lab will create a mixture of allergen extracts either for injections or for oral administration.

The initial treatment consists of two vials, unless your cat is allergic to mold, which must be mixed into its own separate vial. The first vial contains a lower concentration of allergens and is given typically every four days. The second vial contains a higher concentration and the frequency of those injections will be determined by your vet based on how your cat is responding.

The first dose should always be done in your vet’s office and your cat should be monitored for 30 minutes to 1 hour following the first dose to ensure there is not a severe reaction to the immunotherapy. After the initial dosing, injections or drops can be done at home so your cat does not have to go to the vet for each administration.

It is important to remember that every cat is different and that these are just the standard guidelines. Your veterinarian will help you find the right dosage and duration of treatment for your cat.

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