How itchy is your dog, really?

By Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD

Scratching, biting, chewing, rubbing, and excessive licking can all be signs of itch (pruritus) in dogs. A number of methods have been developed to try to quantify itching, but these are most useful in research settings.  One method is to take videos of kenneled dogs, then track all itching behavior seen over a period of time.  Another idea that I have published research itchy-dogon is the use of sophisticated motion sensors attached to dogs’ collars. The most widely used method is to ask the dog’s guardian to rate the level of itch severity on a linear scale.

Why might measuring itch be important, you ask? I think of it like this: would you start a weight loss program without knowing how much you weigh or put a pet on a diet without recording a body condition score?

Excessive itching has a negative impact on dogs’ quality of life.  Surprisingly, most veterinary medical record standards do not require us to record itch severity, although it is one of the most common presenting complaints. A meaningful measure of itch severity that dog owners could share with their veterinarian would be a great step forward in helping pet owners participate in the management of their itchy dogs. As a veterinarian that consults primarily on itchy dogs, I would love to have more accurate information about itch severity in my patients.

Be on the lookout for a product coming out this summer…

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About skinvet

Jon Plant, DVM, is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, founder of SkinVet Clinic and developer of RESPIT, regionally-specific immunotheray for atopic dermatitis of dogs and cats. He is a member of the International Committee on Atopic Diseases of Animals, the past President of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association and the Dermatology Section Editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association.
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