The Cost of Cat Allergy Relief. Are Immunotherapy Shots Worth It?

Introduction to Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are one of the most common allergies, affecting an estimated 10-15% of the population worldwide. According to research, the prevalence of cat allergies ranges between 16.8% and 49.3% based on skin prick testing (Satyaraj, 2019).

People with cat allergies experience symptoms when their immune system overreacts to proteins found in cat dander, skin flakes, urine, saliva, or hair. The most common allergen is a protein called Fel d 1 that is primarily found in cat saliva. When a cat grooms itself, the Fel d 1 particles spread over their fur and into the surrounding environment.

Common symptoms of cat allergies include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, and nasal congestion. In severe cases, some people may experience hives, eczema flare-ups, wheezing, and asthma attacks after exposure to cats. Cat allergies can significantly impact quality of life by limiting leisure activities, work potential, and pet ownership.

Overview of Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots or allergen immunotherapy, is a treatment that aims to reduce allergic reactions by gradually exposing the immune system to small amounts of the allergens causing the reaction (

The treatment works by administering increasing dosages of cat allergen extracts through injections or oral drops/tablets to help the body build up tolerance over time. After reaching a maintenance dose, the treatment is continued for 3-5 years. Immunotherapy works to modify the immune system’s response and reduce allergy symptoms over the long term (

The main types of immunotherapy for cat allergies include:

  • Allergy shots or subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) – Injections given in the doctor’s office
  • Oral immunotherapy, including sublingual drops/tablets (SLIT) – Allergen extracts administered under the tongue

Both methods help desensitize the immune system to cat allergens over time through gradual exposure (

Cost Factors for Immunotherapy

The cost of immunotherapy for cat allergies can vary greatly depending on the type of treatment, whether insurance covers any of the costs, and what diagnostic testing is required. Here are some of the main factors that contribute to the overall cost:

Allergy Testing Costs

Before starting immunotherapy, allergy testing is usually required to confirm that a cat allergy exists and how severe it is. Common allergy tests include skin prick testing, blood tests, and patch testing. According to GoodRx, skin testing costs about $60 to $300. Blood tests can range from $200 to $1,000. Patch testing costs approximately $300. So allergy testing alone can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 depending on the methods used.

Immunotherapy Administration Costs

For allergy shots, the immunotherapy itself may cost $100 per dose on average. However, administration fees from the doctor’s office often add $20 to $100 per shot on top of that. Allergy shots are usually given 1-2 times per week for 3-6 months, then once a month for 3-5 years. For sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) drops or tablets, the cost for the drops themselves ranges from $30 to $100 per month. While administration costs are minimized with SLIT, the monthly costs can add up over years of treatment.

Cost With vs. Without Insurance

Insurance coverage can significantly offset the costs of allergy testing and immunotherapy. According to GoodRx, allergy shots often cost $5 to $50 per dose with insurance. SLIT tablets may cost $30 to $75 per month with insurance. Without insurance, the patient bears the full costs which can amount to thousands of dollars over the long course of treatment.

Allergy Testing Costs

An important first step in allergy treatment is testing to identify the specific allergens triggering the cat’s symptoms. Common allergy tests for cats include:

Skin Prick Tests

Skin prick testing, also known as intradermal testing, involves injecting small amounts of suspected allergens into the skin and observing the reaction. Skin prick tests cost between $200 and $400 according to CareCredit. The test prices do not include the initial veterinary exam fee or medications.

Blood Tests

Allergy blood tests analyze a blood sample for IgE antibodies to different allergens. According to Pawlicy, these tests cost $200 to $500. As with skin tests, the initial vet exam and medications are separate expenses.

Challenge Tests

With challenge testing, the cat is exposed to suspected allergens through injection or feeding to confirm a reaction. Costs vary based on the allergens tested and method used. According to Mercury News, specialty vet exam fees range $50-$200.

Immunotherapy Administration Costs

The cost for each allergy shot typically ranges from $20-100 depending on the provider and location, with an average of around $60 per shot according to sources (, Since allergy immunotherapy treatment involves getting shots 1-2 times per week, this can add up to $240-$480 per month just for the administration fees.

The first year of allergy shots is the most expensive, as the build-up phase requires more frequent shots. After reaching a maintenance dose, patients only need shots every 2-4 weeks. At this stage, costs would range from $120-$240 per month.

Most allergists recommend staying on allergy shots for 3-5 years for optimal results. Over that timeframe, total administration costs could reach $3,600-$12,000 or more depending on the frequency of shots.

Sublingual Immunotherapy Costs

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), also known as allergy drops, is an alternative to allergy shots that can be self-administered at home. SLIT involves placing allergen extracts under the tongue to desensitize the immune system. While more convenient than injections, SLIT costs are often higher.

The average cost of SLIT is $300-$500 for the first month, which includes the initial consultation and formulation of the allergen extracts. Ongoing monthly costs range from $100-$300. Therefore, the typical annual cost of SLIT is $1,200-$3,600 depending on the provider, number of allergens treated, and frequency of dose changes (source:

In comparison, allergy shots tend to cost $100-$200 for the initial consultation and testing. Maintenance injections are $30-$100 per month. So allergy shots cost $500-$1,500 on average for the first year and $400-$1,200 per year after that (source:

The higher cost of SLIT is due to the custom preparation of allergen extracts and frequent dose changes. However, the convenience of self-administration at home can make SLIT worth the added expense for some patients.

Insurance Coverage

Most health insurance plans, including private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid, provide coverage for allergy shots, often covering 80% or more of the costs after you meet your deductible [1]. However, coverage can vary widely depending on your specific insurance plan.

For example, some plans may cover allergy testing and the allergen extract itself, but not the administration fees for the injections. Others will cover everything including the office visit co-pays associated with getting the shots. Plans with a high deductible may require you to pay out-of-pocket initially before coverage kicks in [2].

It’s important to check with your insurance provider to understand exactly what allergy shot costs are covered under your specific policy. Some key questions to ask are:
– Is there a deductible or co-pay for the testing and injections?
– What percentage of the immunotherapy extract cost is covered?
– Are office visit fees covered for administration of the shots?

Knowing the details of your insurance coverage for allergy shots can help you estimate your potential out-of-pocket costs and determine if immunotherapy is affordable for your budget.

Ways to Reduce Costs

There are some steps you can take to reduce the overall cost of cat allergy immunotherapy:

  • Shop around – Costs can vary significantly between different allergists and clinics, so get quotes from multiple providers in your area. This allows you to find the most affordable option.
  • Negotiate costs – Don’t be afraid to negotiate costs with your allergist, especially if the initial quote seems high. Many providers are willing to work with patients on pricing.
  • Look into financial assistance – Some allergists and clinics offer financial assistance programs or payment plans to help make immunotherapy more affordable. Inquire about any available options.
  • Consider sublingual immunotherapy – Sublingual allergy drops tend to cost less than allergy shots over the full course of treatment.
  • Check your insurance coverage – Make sure you understand how much of the costs your insurer will cover, as policies vary.

Taking the time to explore these different money-saving approaches can potentially reduce your overall immunotherapy costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

When considering cat allergy immunotherapy, it’s important to weigh the treatment costs against the potential benefits of symptom relief. Studies have found that immunotherapy can significantly reduce allergy symptoms, use of medication, and improve overall quality of life for people with cat allergies.

One analysis found that after three years of immunotherapy, patients had a 63% reduction in rhinitis symptoms and a 28% reduction in asthma symptoms compared to placebo. Patients also used half as much allergy medication after receiving immunotherapy [1].

While immunotherapy involves a considerable upfront investment, studies show the long-term benefits can make it worthwhile. Over 3-5 years, immunotherapy is estimated to provide a net cost savings compared to continued medication use. But more importantly, by reducing symptoms and medication usage, immunotherapy can greatly improve daily life and allow people to comfortably have pets in their homes.

For those severely impacted by cat allergies, being able to live symptom-free with pets again is a huge boost to quality of life. So while immunotherapy requires careful consideration of the costs, for many people it can be a very worthwhile investment for improving health and lifestyle.

The Bottom Line on Cost

Cat allergy immunotherapy comes with a significant investment. Generally, cat allergy shots will cost around $1,000-$4,000 per year when factoring in allergy testing, weekly administration costs, and the medication itself. Cat allergy drops often come in around $700-$2,000 per year. While it is a substantial sum, immunotherapy can provide long-term allergy relief and significantly improve quality of life for those with severe cat allergies. Many find it is worth the price to finally live comfortably with their beloved pet cats.

There are ways to reduce costs, like shopping around for the best deals on allergy tests and immunotherapy administration. Health insurance plans may cover a portion of the costs as well. Overall, while not cheap, cat allergy immunotherapy provides an effective treatment option that can be life-changing for those who truly need it.

Scroll to Top