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Allergic dermatitis is the number one reason why owners bring their dogs to the veterinarian, yet many pet owners are not aware that their pets can get allergies, and don’t realize that there is an underlying medical issue that’s causing their dog to itch. With August being the peak of allergy season, Zoetis Petcare is proud to have launched the inaugural Itchy Pet Awareness Month to bring attention to how itching can negatively impact a pet – and owner’s – quality of life. As veterinary professionals, it’s our job to protect that pet-owner bond, provide itch relief through effective treatment and get life back to normal as soon as possible. We hope Itchy Pet Awareness Month helps do just this. 

Itchy Pet

Veterinarians need to get dog owners past the thought that constant or even intermittent itching or scratching is their dog “just being their dog” – because if left untreated, itch can begin to impact the day-to-day lives of dogs and owners, and may progress to become something more serious that could be increasingly difficult to manage. I strongly encourage veterinarians to discuss general skin and coat health at wellness exams, and when there is any indication of pruritic behavior, make it a point for active discussion and investigation; don’t let the early subtle signs go unattended. 

To ensure the appointment is as efficient as possible, it’s important that every member of the veterinary team knows their specific and unique role for the patient visit, from the first phone call to the check out after the appointment. Remember that pet owners don’t want to answer the same questions over and over, so consider these tips on how the larger team can be used to add depth to the visit, to better inform the veterinarian, resulting in a work-up with the best possible outcomes. 

Receptionists are often the first point of contact for our clients. Receptionists should reassure the pet owner that they have done the right thing by coming for an exam, and have the pet owner complete an intake form to help the team understand the cause of itch. 

Technicians have a responsibility to review the intake form with the pet owner and gather a more detailed history including signs of allergic itch beyond scratching. Start the conversation about skin health to help identify itchy dog behavior. Technicians can also connect with the pet owner to gain clarity on how the itch is affecting them and their dog. Ask questions like, “Is the itch getting in the way of normal activities and your time with your dog?”

Technicians also have an opportunity to educate pet owners on the value of the diagnostic work-up and what to expect. They may also assist the veterinarian in diagnostics and provide the pet owner with positive reinforcement of work-up findings.

Veterinarians engage the pet owner in a deeper discussion of history and stress the importance and value of a full diagnostic workup to understand the cause of the issue and to identify specific treatments for long-term solutions. They can further reassure the pet owner that the entire team is committed to providing their pet with relief from the itch.

Even during wellness visits, it’s important to not ignore those mild early signs – redness of the ear canals or between the toes, or the dog that scratches or chews on itself in the exam room. When discussing pruritic behavior, as soon as it is obvious that the problem has persisted for several weeks, or is recurrent, we need to impress upon the pet owner the importance and value of a diagnostic workup, to understand the cause of the issue and to identify specific treatments for long-term solutions. If we don’t complete a full diagnostic workup, then we are left with fire engine medicine: short-term solutions that can put pet owners and dogs on an emotional rollercoaster.

Oftentimes, allergies cannot be cured. However, pet owners need to know that there are great treatment options, like APOQUEL® (oclacitinib tablet) or CYTOPOINT®, that veterinarians can provide that are specifically designated to relieve their dog’s itch and inflammation. These treatments go beyond at-home treatments like lotions, shampoos and antihistamines that may not provide the much-needed relief to their dog. Relief of itch is so important to maintain a positive quality of life for the pet and their owner.

This allergy season, clinics can implement activities to impress upon owners the importance of finding effective treatment for their itchy dog. By visiting www.ScienceofStrongerBonds.com/Resources, you can download helpful resources for your practice to help spread the message on recognizing and treating allergic itch effectively. 


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 cyclosporine. 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. For more information, please see the full Prescribing Information at //www.apoqueldogs.com/apoquel_pi.pdf.

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

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Andy Hillier is from South Africa where he went to veterinary school. He spent 8 years in small animal practice in South Africa and Australia before going to the University of Florida to complete a residency in dermatology. He was on faculty at Ohio State University for 17 years, becoming a full professor and head of the Dermatology and Otology Service before joining Zoetis in May 2013 as a senior veterinary specialist. He now serves as the Veterinary Specialty Operations and Veterinary Medical Lead – Dermatology for Zoetis Petcare.