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November 29, 2009

Needle-Free Allergy Treatment for Dogs

By: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine

The thought of having to give their dog injections at home scares some dog owners away from “allergy shot” treatments. Instead, they may opt for drugs that relieve the symptoms without addressing the underlying problem, and which can sometimes cause side-effects.

But now, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine can offer oral “allergy drops” as an alternative to conventional “allergy shots”.

“It’s needle-free treatment that addresses environmental allergens such as pollen, dust or mold with no side effects,” says Dr. Douglas DeBoer, a veterinary dermatologist at the school. “The drops are drug-free and very safe.”

He explains that and allergy is a disease where the immune system overreacts to certain environmental substances. To remedy the problem, it is ideal to reverse this underlying cause. This involves testing to determine exactly what an animal is allergic to, and then treating the pet with extracts of those same things, which modifies the immune system so it reacts normally.

Until recently, that has involved giving animals shots. But thanks to funding from the Morris Family Foundation in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the School of Veterinary Medicine has been able to conduct a trial of allergy drops in dogs.

The Morris’ are physician allergists who were pioneers in the development of drops for treatment of allergies in people. Though controversial at first, the drops have proven effective in many human studies and are commonly used in Europe, with increasing use and interest in the U.S. When a friend wondered if the drops would work in dogs as well, the Morris family sponsored a study at the school’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to find out.

“Our initial pilot clinical trial found that drops were effective in about two out of three allergic dogs,” Dr. DeBoer says. “Now we’d like to do a wider trial.”

He encourages dog owners who would like to try the new allergy drops to ask their veterinarian about a referral to the school.

“It’s a novel treatment for pets. We’d like to treat more dogs, so we gain a better understanding of how best to use it,” Dr. DeBoer says.

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