April 24, 2024
Canine Atopic Dermatitis Treatment Drugs

Managing Canine Atopic Dermatitis Overview of Prescription Medications and Integrative Therapies

Canine atopic dermatitis, commonly known as dog allergies, is a chronic skin condition affecting many dogs. It can severely impact the quality of life for both the affected dogs as well as their owners. Atopic dermatitis occurs when a dog’s immune system overreacts to typically harmless environmental substances like pollen, house dust mites, and certain molds. This results in redness, itching, and inflammation of the skin. While lifestyle and environmental modifications play an important role in managing the condition, medications are also often needed to successfully treat canine atopic dermatitis. Here is an overview of some of the most common prescription drugs used to treat allergies and flare-ups in dogs.


Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that are very effective at providing quick relief from symptoms like itching and skin inflammation associated with atopic dermatitis. Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments are commonly prescribed to apply directly on the affected skin areas. Medicated shampoos containing corticosteroids can also help soothe inflamed skin when bathing the dog. For more severe or widespread cases, oral corticosteroids may be given short-term under veterinary supervision. However, long-term oral steroids can have undesirable side effects and are not recommended for maintenance therapy. Topical formulations are preferred for intermittent flares.


Apoquel (oclacitinib maleate) is an Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor approved as an oral medication specifically for treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs. It works by blocking inflammatory pathways in the skin. Apoquel has become a very popular long-term treatment option as it provides lasting itch relief for many dogs without significant side effects seen with steroids. The medication needs to be given daily, but is well-tolerated by most patients. Some occasional gastrointestinal upset may occur. Apoquel has proven to be highly effective in keeping symptoms under control between flare-ups when used as maintenance therapy.


Cytopoint is a monoclonal antibody injection developed specifically for treating Canine Atopic Dermatitis Treatment Drugs in dogs. It targets and neutralizes a substance in the body called IL-31 which is a major driver of persistent itching. A single injection of Cytopoint can provide relief from itching for 4-8 weeks on average. This makes it very convenient compared to daily oral medications. Side effects are rare with Cytopoint. Localized swelling and pain at the injection site are the most common reactions reported. Cytopoint is safe to use long-term and provides a non-drug alternative to corticosteroids and Apoquel for intermittent flare control.


Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine – a substance released during allergic reactions that causes itching and other symptoms. Oral antihistamines prescribed for dog allergies include hydroxyzine, cetirizine, and chlorpheniramine. They are generally well-tolerated but may cause drowsiness in some dogs. Antihistamines are usually not very effective as sole therapy for atopic dermatitis but can be used as an adjunct along with more potent drugs. They are often recommended during peak pollen or mold seasons to provide additional symptom relief when the underlying skin condition is well-controlled already. Topical antihistamine creams and sprays have more localized effects and fewer side effects compared to oral versions.

Allergen-Specific Immunotherapy

Allergen-specific immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, involves administering gradually increasing doses of the specific allergens that trigger a dog’s symptoms, such as tree, grass, or dust mite extracts. The goal is to desensitize the immune system to these substances over a period of 3-5 years with regular injections or oral drops/tablets. While immunotherapy cannot cure atopic dermatitis, it may prevent future flare-ups once a helpful maintenance dose is achieved. Drawbacks include the lengthy treatment course and potential for rare adverse reactions. However, immunotherapy provides a non-drug approach for long-term control of mild to moderate cases. It works best when combined with other concurrent therapies during the initial years.

Dietary Management

Hydrolyzed protein or novel protein prescription diets designed for food-allergic dogs may also form part of an integrative treatment plan in conjunction with medications. Soy, beef, chicken, dairy, and grains are common food allergens triggering skin flare-ups in sensitive dogs. Elimination diets help rule out dietary factors exacerbating the condition. Hypoallergenic novel protein diets containing unusual protein sources like kangaroo or venison are less likely to cause reactions. They preferably should be fed exclusively under veterinary guidance to evaluate effectiveness. Diet alone usually does not control severe cases that have failed multiple drug therapies.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it