How tracking your dog’s itch level will help your veterinarian

Like a pediatrician relies on a parent to describe their infant’s symptoms, your veterinarian relies on you to describe your dog’s itchiness. He may get a bit anxious or preoccupied during a visit to the vet’s office. During consultations, it is common for dogs to hide any itching behavior (including scratching, biting, rubbing, and chewing themselves). That’s why veterinarians need to find out from you how itchy your dog is.

How do you tell your veterinarian how itchy your dog is?  Until recently, veterinarians may just have asked whether or not she was itchy. But knowing the degree of itchiness and how that itchiness has changed over time, responded to certain medications, worsened when certain foods were fed, or changed with the seasons, weather or pollen count was not information that you could easily gather or share. Now, there is an app for that.

Itchology for iPhone was designed by veterinary dermatologists to help pet owners gather and share the information that can help veterinarians care for your itchy dog.  Recommended by leading veterinary dermatologists who treat dogs with allergies, Itchology is available in the Apple App Store. In the future, it will be available in Android and veterinarians will also be able to view pet data in a web browser.

For more information and a demo video, visit www.itchology.com.

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How itchy is your dog, really?

By Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD

Scratching, biting, chewing, rubbing, and excessive licking can all be signs of itch in dogs. A number of methods have been developed to try to quantify itching, but these are most useful in research settings.  One method is to take videos of kenneled dogs then track all itching behavior seen over a period of time.  Another idea that I have published research itchy-dogon is the use of sophisticated motion sensors attached to dogs’ collars. The most widely used method is to ask the dog’s guardian to rate the level of itch severity on a linear scale.

Why might measuring itch be important, you ask? I think of it like this: would you start a weight loss program without knowing how much you weigh? Excessive itching has a negative impact on dogs’ quality of life.  Surprisingly, most veterinary medical record standards do not require us to record itch severity. A meaningful measure of itch severity that you could share with your veterinarian would be a great step forward in helping pet owners help their itchy dogs.