New drug helps to quell dog’s persistent itch

Did you ever have an itch you just couldn’t seem to successfully scratch? An itch so intense it wouldn’t let up? Imagine not being able to air your grievance about it to anyone.

That’s basically how our boy Chase, a golden/collie-mix, must have felt the entire time we’ve had him, which has been two years now.

He has consistently chewed the bottom of his paws in order to scratch them, and we’ve never been able to determine what is causing the itch.

It was a toss-up between allergies and a bad habit that formed while he was living his former life outside in a small fenced-in area.

Because I couldn’t get his itching under control with doses of Benadryl, as prescribed by my vet, I started thinking he developed just a very bad habit of biting his feet while penned outside.

Dogs are known to develop repetitive habits when penned up or confined with no place to go other than their small area — habits such as pacing in a circle or back and forth, or even chewing at/licking their feet.

Itching can be a vicious cycle. Some irritant causes an itch. You scratch the itch, which signals the nerve endings that you have an itch, which causes you to continue to scratch, usually until you’ve scratched the site raw or caused an infection.

Finally, the vet and I decided enough is enough.

There is a new prescription medication on the market called Apoquel. Chase has just started taking it, and the change, so far, is remarkable. His biting at his feet has almost subsided, with only occasional outbreaks of chewing.

We started Chase on two pills a day for 10 days, then will go to one pill a day to help maintain his progress.

It’s a little pricey at around $50 for a 30-day supply, but it will be well worth it if we can quiet his itching and scratching.

It was to the point that he’d bite his feet so much he’d sometimes limp when he walked because he had his feet so sensitive.

It’s interesting how Apoquel works. It’s considered a revolutionary breakthrough because it targets the key itch signal in the nervous system and has minimal negative impact on the immune system.

That all means it provides a more specific way to deal with the itch signal without affecting other parts of the immune system, much like long-term steroid use would.

Of course, there are nay-sayers out there who say that because Apoquel doesn’t actually treat the underlying cause of the itch it shouldn’t be used. I say that as long as the vet can continue to diagnose the underlying cause of the itch while providing Chase with relief, it’s worth it. Plus, it’s not a steroid and doesn’t have the side effects of causing excessive thirst and peeing.

The next step now that we have Chase quieted down and not chewing his feet with the help of Apoquel will be to work with our vet to test him for various allergies, such as yeast build-up in the pads of his feet.

Once we determine what allergies are bothering him, we can then treat the source of the problem.

We’ll keep you posted on Chase’s progress.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.