Dogs Fears & Anxieties Veterinary Care

An Itchy Dog’s Journey

Share on
Reading Time: 4 minutes

BodieBodie, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever and one of the millions of dogs suffering from allergic itch, recently saw his veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. His journey with itch, however, is just beginning.

Dogs with atopic dermatitis (allergy to environmental triggers) and their families face a lifelong challenge of managing the ups and downs of itch. Owners of itchy dogs may understandably feel frustration and fear about staying on top of their pet’s chronic medical condition. Thankfully, Bodie’s visit in August coincided with Itchy Pet Awareness Month  and his veterinarian was more prepared than ever to provide his owners with education and resources on managing allergic itch. Bodie’s veterinarian discussed with his family three key strategies to help them manage his care.

  1. Anchor Treatment

The foundation for successful management of atopic dermatitis is an anchor treatment: the primary therapy that effectively controls allergic itch and skin inflammation. When Bodie’s veterinarian saw him at his first appointment, she prioritized getting him relief right away with APOQUEL®, a prescription oral medication for allergic itch and inflammation. Bodie received his first dose of APOQUEL right in the exam room and he started feeling relief from his itch within four hours1. With Bodie finally feeling comfortable on daily APOQUEL, his veterinarian was able to work through the diagnostic process over the next few weeks before settling on a diagnosis of atopic dermatitis.

For Bodie, APOQUEL will be his anchor treatment. His veterinarian plans to maintain him on a daily dose to provide reliable control of his itch and inflammation. Another anchor treatment that Bodie’s veterinarian and owners could consider – especially if his owners have difficulty giving him pills or remembering to give his pills – is CYTOPOINT®, an injectable medication given by his veterinarian every 4-8 weeks. Bodie’s veterinarian stressed to his owners the importance of also keeping him on year-round flea control with a broad-spectrum combination product such as SIMPARICA TRIO. Supplemental therapies commonly used along with the anchor treatment for dogs with atopic dermatitis include weekly bathing and ear cleaning with medicated products as well as feeding fatty acids as part of their diet or as supplements.

  1. Preparing for the Flare

With consistent APOQUEL treatment, Bodie’s veterinarian believes she can effectively manage his itch long-term. However, dogs with atopic dermatitis are prone to experience flare-ups (“flares”) of their itch and inflammation. Periodic flares are normal and expected for dogs who have allergic skin disease when re-exposed to their allergic triggers (fleas, bacterial or yeast infection, diet changes, seasonal increases in pollen counts) that send them over their itch threshold. It is important to remember that allergic flares rarely mean the anchor treatment has failed. If Bodie experiences a flare, it is critical that his owners keep giving him his APOQUEL and work with their veterinarian to identify and eliminate the allergic triggers causing the flare. Once the triggers are managed, Bodie’s itch should once again be controlled.

  1. Tracking Itch

Bodie’s owners are thrilled that he is feeling better with APOQUEL but wonder how they should monitor his itch long term. Bodie’s veterinarian showed them two free, downloadable itch trackers (APOQUEL, CYTOPOINT) available online. An itch tracker consists of a grid on which the owner easily marks the severity “score” of their dog’s itch each day (or week) according to the descriptions. By consistently completing an itch tracker, Bodie’s owners will be able to visualize the trends in his itch level over time and share that information with his veterinarian. Together they will be able to see his continued improvement as well as to identify any abrupt increase in his itch that might indicate a flare.

Now that Bodie and his family have a reliable anchor treatment, are prepared for a flare, and can actively track his itch, they are ready to set off on their successful itch journey together.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: APOQUEL.  Do not use APOQUEL in dogs less than 12 months of age or those with serious infections. APOQUEL may increase the chances of developing serious infections and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to get worse. APOQUEL has not been tested in dogs receiving some medications including some commonly used to treat skin conditions such as corticosteroids and cyclosporines. Do not use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. Most common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. APOQUEL has been used safely with many common medications including parasiticides, antibiotics and vaccines.

See full Prescribing Information at

CYTOPOINT has been shown to be effective for the treatment of dogs against allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.

Important Safety Information: SIMPARICA TRIO. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures. SIMPARICA TRIO contains sarolaner, a member of the isoxazoline class, which has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures in dogs with or without a history of neurologic disorders. The safe use of SIMPARICA TRIO has not been evaluated in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. The most frequently reported adverse reactions in clinical trials were vomiting and diarrhea.

See full Prescribing Information at


  1. Gadeyne C, et al. Efficacy of oclacitinib (Apoquel®) compared with prednisolone for the control of pruritus and clinical signs associated with allergic dermatitis in client-owned dogs in Australia. Vet Dermatol. 2014 Dec;25(6):512–e86.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Zoetis Petcare. INSERT NUMBER WHEN PROVIDED

Recent Articles

View and Search All Available Content >