When treating dogs with allergic itch, steroids can be burdensome—even when used short term. Clients spend nearly 5 hours a week dealing with the troublesome side effects of steroids, including excessive urination. Costs to clients can involve1:

  • Housecleaning
  • Replacement bedding
  • Follow-up veterinarian visits related to side effects

These effects can result in costly out-of-pocket expenses,1 but more importantly can erode pet owners’ trust in veterinarians.

See the short- and long-term side effects of steroids

The true cost of steroids, to me, isn't how much it cost me out of pocket. It was what it was doing to her health that was most important to me.

Susan, Wilma’s owner


Clients notice troubling side effects related to thirst in their dogs during treatment with steroids1:

  • 45% drink more water
  • 33% urinate more frequently
  • Frustration when dog's thirst seems insatiable and owners must constantly refill water bowls

Dog owners have mixed feelings about starting steroid treatment due to side effects,1 and the side effects may add to owners’ disappointment with their treatment plan.

See the short- and long-term side effects of steroids

[Clients are] not happy. It has impacted their quality of life—the pets’ quality of life—and they're looking For a better solution.

Mark Hanlon, DVM

Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital, Gilbertsville, PA


In addition to thirst, increased hunger in dogs may cause disruption in the home1:

  • 24% show the desire to eat more food1
  • Increased chance of weight gain2
  • More aggressive behavior in the presence of food3

Side effects related to hunger may further exasperate clients, resulting in potential damage to the bond between pets and owners, and dissatisfaction with veterinarians.

See the short- and long-term side effects of steroids

She was starving all the time. She put weight on because of it. She just didn't seem like her puppy self.

Susan, Wilma’s owner


Steroids have the potential to increase anxiety-related behavior in dogs, leading to problems like3:

  • Lack of obedience
  • Nervousness, restlessness, fearfulness
  • Barking more, startling easily, reacting aggressively when disturbed, and avoiding people or unfamiliar situations

Coping with these issues puts stress on the pet-owner bond and can cause distrust in a veterinarian's steroid recommendation.

See the short- and long-term side effects of steroids

Even the nicest, sweetest dog can have behavior changes, and we want to make sure that no one is going to be in danger.

Heather Peikes, DVM, DACVD

All Paws Dermatology and Allergy, Bloomfield, NJ


When providing a “phone fix,” 81% of clinic teams recommend antihistamines for clients’ itchy dogs4 despite the following drawbacks:

  • Antihistamines offer little or no benefit to treating flares of canine atopic dermatitis5*
  • Antihistamines cannot regulate the proinflammatory and pruritogenic cytokines that drive atopic dermatitis6
  • Management of allergies, such as hay fever, in humans does not correlate with successful treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs

7 out of 10 clients calling for an appointment are given a “phone fix”4 that prevents proper diagnosis and treatment and is unlikely to benefit the dog.

According to the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA).

Antihistamines were 100% ineffective for her in her case. We learned that pretty much right off the bat.

Brennen, Mocha’s owner


Antihistamines can cause adverse reactions, such as7:




The use of antihistamines can have worrisome repercussions despite a widespread belief that they are harmless:

  • 49% of veterinarians prescribe antihistamines for pruritus despite their shortcomings8
  • Ineffective treatment with antihistamines may ultimately be more expensive and damaging to dogs’ skin than using effective treatment from the start
    • Failed treatment can be costly for the pet owner due to more practice visits and attempted treatments with different types of antihistamines

Addressing itch with antihistamines can be expensive for clients and for veterinarians who lose the business opportunity to effectively treat itchy dogs in person.

If other vets are still recommending antihistamines...I would urge them to consider why They're doing it.

Erica Wolbramsky, DVM

Creature Comforts, Eagleville, PA 


Prescribing steroids and antihistamines first line for allergic itch can have unintended consequences for your practice, such as9:


Prolonging pet and client suffering due to ongoing itch and treatment side effects

Lowering Perception

Lowering the perception of veterinary medicine as a result of treatment failure

Losing in-clinic pharmacy

Losing in-clinic pharmacy revenue by recommending antihistamines sold by OTC retailers

Losing patients

Losing patients and revenue due to client loss of faith

Providing effective itch relief presents a greater business opportunity for your practice

  • Itch is the #1 reason that clients bring their dogs IN for veterinary visits10

  • of clients who stop Patronizing a veterinary clinic leave the practice due to Perceived poor care11

  • Acquiring a new client is estimated to be between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one11

Prescribing steroids and antihistamines for allergic itch can increase the likelihood that clients leave the practice, resulting in lost revenue.

It's definitely going to impact the bond between you and that client and you and that patient.

Mark Hanlon, DVM

Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital, Gilbertsville, PA

True Stories of the True Cost

Discover what veterinarians and clients have experienced in their practices and homes after steroid and antihistamine treatment.

Relief at what cost?


The Cycle of Itch


Emotional Burden


Practice Impact


Drawbacks of Antihistamines


Steroid Side Effects: Part 1


Steroid Side Effects: Part 2


Explore a Different way to Treat Canine Allergic Itch