Dogs Life at Home Veterinary Care

The Itchy Dog, Part 5: Tips to Reduce the Stress Associated with Your Dog’s Itch

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You are not alone if your dog is itchy with skin or ear problems!  It is the number one reason pet owners like you seek help from a veterinarian.1 In fact, 7.5 million dogs were treated by veterinarians last year for skin and ear problems.2 Did you know that August was Itchy Pet Awareness Month? There are so many itchy dogs out there that an entire month was dedicated to them! Here are helpful hints if you are living with an itchy dog.

Getting Started

  • 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 the stress that may be caused by your dog’s skin condition.3 Still not sure? Take this itch quiz and find out if your dog’s itch could be a medical condition that requires veterinary care.
  • Your dog will need a through physical exam by the veterinarian. When the skin is inflamed and/or infected, your dog may feel sensitive to the touch.
  • When you go to the veterinary office, bring along some tasty treats to give to the clinic staff so they can distract your pet while being examined. This will help your pet focus on the food rather than the possible discomfort of being touched.
  • During the appointment for the exam/consultation, talk to your veterinarian about starting therapy to get relief fast. APOQUEL® (oclacitinib tablet) is one choice. It is an oral medication that provides rapid relief for allergic itch and inflammation and starts working within four hours. If you or your veterinarian feel your pet is just too uncomfortable to be touched, APOQUEL® can be started, and the dog returned the next day with the proper pre-visit medications to make the visit more comfortable.
  • Allow your veterinarian to run diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests help your veterinarian determine if an infection, parasites, or allergy is the reason for your dog’s excessive itching and discomfort.

The Bond

  • Ongoing itch and inflammation create that uncomfortable sensation in the skin which may create stress3 for your pet, interrupting daily activities and interactions with others.
  • Having an itchy dog can really affect the bond you have with your dog. Perhaps you don’t want your itchy dog up on the couch or sleeping in bed with you or you are too embarrassed to take your dog on a walk. That feels disappointing and frustrating and not how you want it to be.
  • Sleep cycles may be interrupted, for your dog and for you. The lack of uninterrupted sleep, and especially REM sleep, may result in changes in daily activities and interactions at home. Furthermore, if you’re awake at night you may feel tired the next day. That can make you and your pet miserable.
  • Irritability can increase, and unpleasant interactions may occur.
  • For your dog, if they are unwilling to be touched you may feel at a loss to comfort them.
  • In severe cases, itchy dogs may need an Elizabethan collar which can be bothersome and a traumatizing experience. This is another reason we advocate for early intervention.

More Ways You Can Help

  • Controlling the itch is going to get you and your pet back to normal, sharing activities together.
  • Remember, over-the-counter remedies like antihistamines, which can cause drowsiness, rarely provide adequate relief for most dogs.4  Your veterinarian can prescribe a safe and effective treatment to help stop the allergic itch at its source, so your dog can get relief.
  • Put the treat into treatment at home! Consider the behavior of your dog when discussing therapy options with your veterinarian. Does your dog express fear or anxiety when taking oral medications?  Here is how you can overcome the problem: Condition your dog by first sharing a small treat, then a second treat hiding the medication, finally receiving a reward with a third treat to celebrate.  APOQUEL® given at home may be the best option for those patients who fear injections, travel or visits to the veterinary clinic, and are still learning how to overcome those fears.
  • Your veterinarian may be able to further reduce your dog’s anxiety and stress of oral medications by giving a CYTOPOINT® injection to avoid problems surrounding medication time all together. CYTOPOINT® is an injection administered by the veterinarian every 4-8 weeks for treatment against allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. CYTOPOINT® is an excellent choice of therapy to reduce the burden of having to give daily medication at home.  Use a distraction technique like a special yummy treat when your dog receives the CYTOPOINT® injection.
  • Be aware that physical interactions like petting and hugging may be difficult and uncomfortable for your dog. Although we all want to console our pets, during a medical situation, such as an uncomfortable and itchy skin infection, sometimes the best interactions are ones that are hands off. Instead of physical touch, you can show your dog love with a favorite treat, walks if allowed and even games if feeling well enough. But really this emphasizes how important it is to get control of the skin disease and find long term solutions, so you and your best friend do not have to keep worrying about recurring and ongoing skin problems.
  • For some conditions a bathing regime may be needed at home and we know many dogs are not fans of bath time! Using food smeared on the bathtub wall will facilitate compliance. Consider working with a Fear Free certified pet professional; they play a critical role in creating a happier, healthier, Fear Free life for pets.  Visit for references.

Final Thoughts

  • Together, with your veterinarian, any possible stress from itch can be mitigated and the bond you share with your dog can be protected.
  • Ask your veterinarian if APOQUEL® can be used to relieve your dog’s flare of allergic itch due to fleas, food, or seasonal factors.
  • 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
  • Remember you are not alone! Your veterinarian can provide real relief for your dog’s itchy skin. Your dog deserves comfort. You deserve peace of mind.
  • August was Itchy Pet Awareness Month. Learn more about canine itch at and see your veterinarian for a skin health exam.

APOQUEL® Indication

Control of pruritus (itching) associated with allergic dermatitis and control of atopic dermatitis in dogs at least 12 months of age.

Important Safety Information

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.

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


  2. Data on File. Vetstreet/Covetrus Pruritus Projection Trend. March 2019. Zoetis Inc
  3. Park SH, Kim SA, Shin NS, Hwang CY. Elevated cortisol content in dog hair with atopic dermatitis. Jpn J Vet Res. 2016 May;64(2):123-9
  4.  Olivry T, DeBoer DJ, Favrot C, Jackson HA, Mueller RS, Nuttall T, Prélaud P; International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals BMC Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: 2015 updated guidelines from the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA). 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-00406

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