Treatment Of Itchy Dogs & Cats

This page lists the ways your vet can help your dog or cat stop scratching, licking and chewing their skin. Please also read our pages on effective home remedies for itchy dogs. and the causes of itching in dogs and cats.

Here’s what vets can do, starting with the simplest and often the most important.

Prevention of Self-Trauma

dog licked wound
He could only get to half the wound!

Once a dog or cat has an itchy spot, they are irresistibly attracted to it. If you don’t quickly break the itch-scratch-lick cycle the skin will get worse and worse, until it becomes infected. Ask your vet for methods suitable for your pet.

These will often be used together with the following skin treatments.

Ointments & Creams

Good for:

  • Preventing small areas of inflammation from spreading or getting infected
  • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic treatments
  • Spot-treatment to allow reduction in systemic doses

Not good for:

  • Areas with hair. Sparsely haired or clipped areas are best
  • Any area that can be licked. These often worsen if cream is used
  • Broken skin

Medicated Shampoos & Washes

Good for:

  • Every dog. All should benefit from a wash chosen carefully with your vet
  • Fungal infections (Malaseb, Sebazole), bacterial infections (Pyohex, Pyoderm S), soothing skin (Aloveen, Epi-Soothe)

Not good for:

  • Cats. Very few tolerate washing

Read more here about how often to bath your dog

Lotions & Sprays

Good for:

  • Topical treatment of haired areas
  • Treating larger areas (some are not absorbed systemically)
  • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic treatments

Not good for:

  • Treatment for longer than seven days
  • Broken skin

Prescription Skin Foods

This page explains diets for food allergy and dermatitis.

Good for:

  • Dogs with food allergies
  • Additional skin support for all itchy dogs

Not good for:

  • Pets sensitive to diet change
  • Animals with strict dietary requirements

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are essential for secondary bacterial infection called pyoderma. This is a feature of many other skin problems.

Antihistamines

Click here for antihistamine doses for dogs

Good for:

  • Some cases of allergy and hypersensitivity
  • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic cortisone
  • Treatment on a budget

Not good for:

  • Patients needing stronger or more reliable treatments

Cortisone (prednisolone, dexamethasone etc)

Good for:

  • Widespread and severe dermatitis
  • Sudden flare-ups
  • Treatment on a budget

Not good for:

  • Continuous use (intermittent use or every second day better)
  • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic cortisone
  • Animals at risk of diabetes, cushings disease, obesity, pancreatitis
  • Animals with infections

Cyclosporin (Atopica®)

Atopica was one of our first alternatives to prednisolone. We hardly use it any more (except in very specific diseases) due to the new products listed next…

  • Good for:  

Oclacitinib (Apoquel®)

Apoquel is a tablet given once a day that inhibits inflammatory messenger proteins. You can read about the pros and cons of Apoquel here.

Good for:

Not good for:

  • Treatment on a budget
  • Cats (not suitable)

Lokivetmab (Cytopoint®)

Cytopoint is a monthly injection of a monoclonal antibody against interleukin-31. It is very similar in action to Apoquel but is much longer acting.

Read more about when to use Cytopoint here.  

Allergy Testing & Referral

Adelaide vet skin specialists can be found on this page. Good for:

  • Owners keen to try to identify a cause
  • A chance of a complete cure of allergies

Not good for:

  • Treatment on a budget