Dogs Life at Home Veterinary Care

The Itchy Dog, Part 2: The Roller Coaster of Emotion

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Itch can erode the bond between you and your dog. Itchy dogs are often up at night scratching and preventing others in the house from sleeping, or are banished to separate rooms of the house because their skin smells bad. This can make you desperate to try anything for relief from the itch and skin issues. Owners of itchy dogs will try up to 15 over-the-counter (OTC) options like antihistamines made for humans; putting a T-shirt on their itchy dog to cover the inflamed, irritated, itchy skin; oatmeal baths; or changing the dog’s food to grain-free.1

These solutions don’t work for allergies in the majority of dogs and only serve to keep you and your dog on an emotional roller coaster where stress and anxiety build, itch continues, and the bond between you and your dog is strained.2

Getting your itchy dog an exam with your veterinarian is the very first thing to do to start on the path of real relief. Your veterinarian has targeted medications specifically designed for allergic disease in dogs that provide fast, safe, relief. Relief from itch reduces the stress and anxiety your dog experiences because of an untreated allergic condition and provides peace of mind for you.

Staying Off the Emotional Roller Coaster of Itch: Accept That Flares are a Normal Part of the Life on an Allergic Dog

Even when the veterinarian has provided your allergic dog with relief from their itch, this frustrating cycle of itch can start all over again if an allergic trigger causes a flare of their disease. Flares are normal and to be expected for dog’s who have allergic skin disease when re-exposed to their allergic trigger(s).

  • For example: the dog who is allergic to flea bites. Flea allergy dermatitis is a life-long condition that good parasite control and anti-itch medication can manage but not cure. Every time we step out the door there is the potential for us to be stung by a bee or bitten by a mosquito, and often we never see the little bugger that got us. This is also true for a dog who is sensitive to the bite of a flea. There is no way to completely insulate them from flea bites (unless we put them in a bubble, and that’s no fun!). It is expected these allergic dogs will occasionally be exposed to flea bites and flare from time to time.
  • The same can be said about a dog with a food allergy. What if a toddler drops food, the trash tips over, food is left on the counter, or a spill happens? These small exposures can lead to an allergic flare.
  • Another unpredictable cause of allergic flare is the increase in pollen counts during various times of the year. It is virtually impossible to hide from the tree pollens that rain down each spring leaving a dust of yellow-green on every surface outside.

Meet Roscoe, the Poster Dog for the Emotional Roller Coaster

Poor Roscoe! His itch started when he was just a puppy. His itch was so severe he wore two Elizabethan Collars and two pairs of socks to prevent him from traumatizing his skin or chewing his feet raw. Instead of joining his family for fun, he was totally pre-occupied by the need to scratch. When his family tried to distract him, he could not even look at them. He was no longer connected to his family, only to the itch. The anxiety and stress that Roscoe must have felt, unable to live a day without itch and virtually disconnected from his family.

He underwent several routine diagnostic tests over a period of several months which included:

  • Routine and regular administration of a flea and tick prevention and making sure he was free of other ectoparasites like mites
  • Repeated tests to make certain he did not have any skin infection(s)
  • A prescription food was fed for 8 weeks to make sure he wasn’t allergic to an ingredient in his food.
  • Once parasites, infection, and food allergy were ruled out, Roscoe’s veterinarian determined that he had early-onset atopic dermatitis (allergy to seasonal pollens, outdoor and indoor molds, or dust mites).

Thankfully, Roscoe’s veterinarian was able to determine the cause of Roscoe’s itch and provide sustained, long-lasting allergic itch relief with Cytopoint. Cytopoint is an injection administered by the veterinarian every 4-8 weeks for treatment against allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.

Working together, Roscoe’s family and his veterinarian restored his quality of life giving him a chance to be allergy tested for pollen, mold, and dust mite allergies and finally be the important member of the family that he is today!

Tips to Reduce the Anxiety and Stress Associated with Itch and Make the Emotional Roller Coaster a Thing of the Past

  • Seek immediate help from your veterinarian if you have even the slightest concern about your dog’s skin, ears, and/or itch level. A delay may only make things worse for your dog and your bond with your dog, exacerbating stress and anxiety.
  • If your dog is allergic, stay in contact with your veterinarian and report any flares right away.
  • Proactively request relief for your itchy dog initially and throughout the work-up.
  • Ask your veterinarian if Cytopoint® can be used to relieve your dog’s intermittent flares of allergic itch due to fleas, food, or seasonal factors.
  • Allow your veterinarian to run diagnostic tests. Even if you have brought your dog to the clinic for a flare up, it is important to determine if an infection, parasites, or allergy is the reason for your dog’s excessive itching and discomfort.
  • After a thorough exam, your veterinarian can make a recommendation for itch relief to make your dog more comfortable; both immediately and throughout the time it takes to do tests to determine the underlying cause(s) of your dog’s itch.
  • Did you know? August is Itchy Pet Awareness Month! You really are not alone; there are so many itchy dogs out there that an entire month is dedicated to them!
  • With your veterinarian’s help, the stress and anxiety of itch can be a thing of the past and the bond you share with your dog will be protected.


  1. Zoetis data on file, 2018. Secret Shopper Study, C-Space 2018
  2. Olivry T, DeBoer DJ, Favrot C, Jackson HA, Mueller RS, Nuttall T, Prélaud P; International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals. Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: 2015 updated guidelines from the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA). BMC Vet Res. 2015 Aug 16; 11:210.

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.ZPC-00339

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