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

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

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

Short- and long-term steroid side effects


Clients notice troubling side effects related to thirst in their dogs during treatment with steroids, such as1:

  • 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 their dogs on steroid treatment due to these side effects,1 and the side effects may add to owners’ disappointment with their treatment plan.

Short- and long-term steroid side effects


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.

Short- and long-term steroid side effects


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 and unusual situations

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

Short- and long-term steroid side effects


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 released by atopic dermatitis6
  • Management of allergies, such as hay fever, with antihistamines 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” 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 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 is ultimately 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 antihistamines9

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


Prescribing steroids and antihistamines first line for allergic itch can have unintended, detrimental 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

Protect the veterinarian-client bond from the start by managing itch quickly and effectively

  • Allergic dermatitis can be a lifelong condition for many dogs
  • Steroids are effective treatments; however, they cause disruptive side effects that negatively impact dogs and their owners’ quality of life. Prescribing steroids routinely for acute or chronic allergic itch is being reconsidered due to the emergence of therapies that better target the pathways that result in itch and inflammation associated with allergic conditions10
  • Newer, fast-acting treatments do more than just address a dog’s itch11
    • These treatments can help build client satisfaction, improve the lives of dogs and their owners and help them get back to enjoying life together quickly

Explore a different way to treat canine allergic itch