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Immunotherapy

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Allergic diseases, which are considered chronic and progressive, require a lifetime strategy of continuous symptom control. Using steroids and other medications may reduce the allergy symptoms but can also cause serious side effects that may decrease the quality and length of your pet’s life. During the past few decades, the allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) has been the preferred veterinary medical treatment for allergies that helps to avoid these complications. This treatment is based on building up resistance to the specific allergen by exposing patients to increasing amounts of the same allergen. The formulation of ASIT depends on the identification of the offending allergen through serological or skin allergy testing. ASIT helps modify and boost the immune system by improving clinical signs, at times even halting the progression of the disease, better than traditional pharmaceutical treatments. ASIT is available as subcutaneous injections or sublingual drops. The drops may be preferable to owners who are less comfortable using needles. Pet Preferred Diagnostics offers sublingual allergen-specific immunotherapy as a powerful tool that can significantly improve the lives of allergic pets.

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Safety of sublingual immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), or “sublingual drops," are now successfully replacing traditional subcutaneous immunotherapy in veterinary medicine thanks to their easy and safe administration. This technique is helpful for pets that do not respond to injection with allergen extract and reduces the risk of anaphylactic shock to exclude even mild adverse reaction. SLIT is formulated with 50% glycerin, which increases the extract’s stability and uptake through the oral mucosa, administering the allergen extract under the pet’s tongue. Because of the slightly sweet taste of glycerin, many dogs associate these drops with a treat. SLIT is very well tolerated by pets and is a safer treatment than subcutaneous injections. It is also more convenient for home administration. Mild, dose-dependent adverse local reactions to SLIT sometimes occur locally in the mouth and throat. However, a pet should remain under observation for about 30 minutes following the administration of the first few doses of SLIT. This will help avoid unexpected negative effects. Systemic reactions to sublingual drops are rare, but if any adverse symptoms continue, the dose schedule should be altered to help manage side effects. Sublingual immunotherapy is extremely safe for patients who had previously experienced serious systemic adverse effects associated with subcutaneous immunotherapy.

Efficacy of SLIT

It has been shown that 50% of dogs respond better to sublingual therapy than subcutaneous injections. About 78% of the pet owners expressed satisfaction with SLIT. Among dogs that previously failed subcutaneous injections, 60% showed significant improvement with sublingual treatment. Studies have revealed that clinically SLIT performed similarly or better than subcutaneous immunotherapy. Sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to improve the symptoms of allergic diseases even after discontinuation of active treatment. Although further observations are needed, previous veterinarian experience with sublingual immunotherapy for specific allergens has demonstrated an 80% success rate in reducing allergy symptoms with this treatment.

Duration of treatment and doses

SLIT requires repetitive administration of specific allergen extracts that are prescribed to patients based on their allergy test results, clinical history, and allergen exposure history. Sublingual immunotherapy provides protection against life-threatening allergic symptoms associated with regular exposure to the allergens. The therapy protocol starts with a build-up phase, during which the amount or concentration of specific allergens is gradually increased until an effective daily maintenance dose is reached. This usually takes from 10 to 21 days. The effectiveness of the maintenance dose depends on the pet’s response to the build-up phase dosage and individual allergen sensitivity. The maintenance dose is continued on a regular basis until the symptoms improve. The formulation, dosage, and concentrations are customized for each patient. 

Although most patients have demonstrated noticeable improvement within the first 1–6 months of therapy, it is recommended that they continue treatment for at least 10-12 months. After this time, if the patient is stable, the treatment can be discontinued. If the symptoms are still not sufficiently improved, immunotherapy can become a potential long-term management option.

The typical duration of sublingual immunotherapy has not been established yet. However, at least one year of a SLIT treatment is highly recommended.

While ASIT does not usually provide quick results, it is largely effective in the longer term.

SLIT will be formulated for each individual patient based on that patient's allergy test results. It must be prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Pet Preferred Diagnostics will process the order immediately after receiving the prescription. SLIT solution will be sent directly to the patient's address indicated in the prescription form.

Drops administration

SLIT is administered via a pump dispenser directly under and around the tongue.

The plastic safety clip should be removed to depress the pump until the first dose is released.

The dispenser pump must be primed before the first use.

SLIT cannot be taken with food or drink, and cannot be swallowed by the pet.

It is important that patients do not eat or drink at least 10 minutes after receiving each dose.

The SLIT bottle should be stored at room temperature.

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