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Behavioural Differences in Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis Suggest Stress Could Be a Significant Problem Associated with Chronic Pruritus

Harvey, Naomi D.; Craigon, Peter J.; Shaw, Stephen C.; Blott, Sarah C.; England, Gary C.W.


Naomi D. Harvey

Stephen C. Shaw

Foundation Dean & Prof Comparative Veterinary Reproduction


Canine atopic dermatitis (cAD) is a common allergic skin condition in dogs that causes chronic pruritus. The overall quality of life in dogs with cAD is known to be reduced, and human patients with pruritic conditions report significant psychological burdens from pruritus-induced stress, and atopic dermatitis is associated with significant psychopathological morbidities. We tested the hypothesis that dogs with cAD would display more problem behaviours that could be indicative of stress than would healthy controls. Behavioural data were gathered directly from owners using a validated dog behaviour questionnaire for 343 dogs with a diagnosis of cAD and 552 healthy controls, and scores were also provided for their dog’s pruritus severity. Regression modelling, controlling for potential confounding variables (age, sex, breed, neuter status or other health problem(s)) showed for the first time that pruritus severity in dogs with cAD was associated with increased frequency of behaviours often considered problematic, such as mounting, chewing, hyperactivity, coprophagia, begging for and stealing food, attention-seeking, excitability, excessive grooming, and reduced trainability. Whilst causality cannot be ascertained from this study, the behaviours that were associated with pruritus severity are redirected, self/environment-directed displacement behaviours, which are often considered indicative of stress. Further investigation is warranted, and stress reduction could be helpful when treating dogs with cAD.


Harvey, N. D., Craigon, P. J., Shaw, S. C., Blott, S. C., & England, G. C. (2019). Behavioural Differences in Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis Suggest Stress Could Be a Significant Problem Associated with Chronic Pruritus. Animals, 9(10),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 6, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 16, 2019
Publication Date Oct 16, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 17, 2019
Journal Animals
Electronic ISSN 2076-2615
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 10
Article Number 813
Public URL
Publisher URL


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