Canine atopic dermatitis caused by allergies to things in the environment is a common problem for pets. It has been estimated that anywhere from 10% to 15% of dogs suffer from atopic dermatitis although the actual number may be higher. Signs of the disease in many dogs include itching, foot chewing, biting the skin and scratching. Many dogs also have recurrent skin and or ear infections.

New and old treatments (a combination works the best)

No single treatment is usually 100% effective at treating dog with allergies. Most need a combination of oral as well as topical therapies. Allergies in dogs can never be cured but they can be controlled. Often because of this long-term administration of treatment is necessary. Some of the treatments which are safe for long-term use include; 1) immunotherapy, 2) cyclosporine, 3) oclacitinib and 4) canine atopic dermatitis immunotherapeutic (CADI) injections.


Immunotherapy has been the gold standard of treatment both in human and veterinary medicine for many years. The process works by changing the immune system to no react again allergens rather than suppress the immune system. Immunotherapy has been shown to be the best treatment for dogs in the long term, better than any of the other treatments. The process is slow, but over time it works with the immune system and eventually may manage the itching with minimal side effects.

Onset of action: Six months to one year

Side effects: No major side effects (anaphylaxis can occur but is rare)

  • Both administration routes (subcutaneous injections and sublingual drops) are effective.

  • Because of the slow onset of action, many patients need an additional types of therapy at the onset of immunotherapy.

  • We recommend that dogs should receive immunotherapy for at least a year before stopping if it has not been effective.


  • Cyclosporine (Atopica—Elanco) treats allergy signs by suppressing IL-2, T helper cells, and T suppressor cells.

    Onset of action: Six weeks

    Side effects: Mild vomiting and diarrhea are the most common in dog however, can be mitigated by freezing the capsules or giving with food. Some (few) dogs develop plush haircoats or swollen gums.

  • Since cyclosporine does not provide immediate relief. It can be combined with a corticosteroid or Apoquel during the first few weeks of treatment.


  • Oclacitinib (Apoquel—Zoetis) treats allergy signs by blocking IL-31—the cytokine linked to the feeling of itch—and suppressing IL-2, IL-4, IL-6 and IL-13.

        Onset of action: One or two days, and some dogs improve within 30 minutes

        Side effects: very minimal however, because of the suppression of the immune system monitoring with blood profiles is required.

A twice-a-day dosage is recommended for the first two weeks and then once daily thereafter



        Lokivetmab (Cytopoint-Zoetis) is a once-a-month injection of a monoclonal antibody that targets IL-31.

        Onset of action: One or two days, but some dogs feel relief sooner

        Side effects: None

  • It is safe for puppies and dogs with other health problems.

  • Cytopoint is beneficial for dogs with owners who may not see well enough to give a pill or may forget to give it every day.