Health & Wellness

What you need to know about dog allergies and Cytopoint

Find out if it’s right for your pup

All pup parents have lived through this scenario: it’s 4:00 AM and you’ve been woken up by your dog’s incessant itching. It’s a bummer both for you and your poor itchy pup. 

If your dog suffers from chronic itching, there may be relief on the horizon — a new treatment called Cytopoint has been approved in the US. Our on-staff vet Dr. Aliya McCullough shares how to know if Cytopoint is right for your dog and what to expect.

Why do dogs get itchy?

Dogs who suffer from skin allergies are miserable, plain and simple. It should definitely be a priority for their human companion to take care of. While the exact cause of their itchiness is hard to pin down, seasonal allergies affect an estimated 10% of all dogs. 

Genetics are also thought to play a major role in determining if your dog suffers from recurrent itching and scratching. Canine atopy — the red, burning, itchy skin that accompanies pollen, mold, dust mite, or other environmental allergens — is one of the leading reasons pet parents rush their dog to the vet. 

Most dogs experience worse symptoms over time, leading to pain and discomfort, skin infections and just a general poor quality of life. Itchy dogs don’t sleep well, constantly lick and chew and lose interest in play and interaction. If your dog is showing any of these signs, it’s time to get them some relief.

What are conventional allergy treatments?

Treatment has traditionally tried to reduce exposure to allergens (good luck) and a wide variety of anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, bathing techniques, foods and allergy shots for dogs. 

For serious cases, vets often turn to corticosteroids, potent drugs that carry side effects and risks that you likely want to reserve for severe symptoms. Regardless of treatment combinations and clever formulations, skin allergies in dogs have been a big challenge for vets.

What is Cytopoint?

Enter: Cytopoint, from the pet pharmaceutical company Zoetis. Cytopoint isn’t a drug; it’s a biological therapy. It contains engineered antibodies, the cells the body uses to fight injections, to target and neutralize a signal protein that induces itching. 

Translation: Cytopoint blocks your dog’s brain from signaling that there is something to itch, preventing excessive scratching.

This is important because it’s the incessant scratching that damages the skin and leads to issues (and keeps your dog up all night chewing). If the scratching stops, the skin can heal.

The manufacturer has shown a single Cytopoint injection in the skin can relieve itching in dogs for 4 to 8 weeks. The treatment begins working within a day, and research shows skin healing starts within a week.

The safety studies submitted for FDA approval showed no side effects other than occasional discomfort where they got their shot. Even more exciting, Cytopoint doesn’t suppress the immune system, alter hormones or potentially damage the liver the way corticosteroids could.

What are the side effects?

The manufacturer claims Cytopoint is similar to treating itchy skin with steroids without the potentially dangerous side effects. The treatment is naturally broken down and recycled by the body, avoiding excretion by the kidneys and liver like most medications, especially steroids. 

If your dog suffers from itchiness, it’s worth asking your vet about this new treatment prior to allergy season. In clinical trials, about 70 to 80% of pet parents reported less itching and scratching, especially during the first 4 weeks. It could be a game changer.

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Dr. Aliya McCullough

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Pet Health

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Cytopoint

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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