Anxiety and Allergies

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Many pet owners may think their pet licks its paws because of anxiety. While anxiety may play a role in how itchy an allergic pet feels, when dogs lick their paws to the point of causing damage to the skin, anxiety it not the only problem. Dr. Lindsey McAuliffe, veterinary dermatologist, set out to study the role of anxiety in dogs with allergies. She found a fascinating change in many behaviors, including aggression, fear, touch sensitivity and trainability. If your allergic dog struggles with behavior problems, this is a fascinating conversation looking at what the research tells us.

Russell Sprout, the anxious, allergic dog.

Welcome, everyone, to today’s episode of Your Vet Wants You To Know. I am really excited to talk about today’s topic. If you’ve listened to some of the previous allergy episodes, particularly episode 03: Environmental Allergies, you’ll be familiar with my dog, Russell Sprout, the “so ugly he’s cute” terrier who ignited my enthusiasm for animal allergies. In today’s episode, I wanted to talk about an aspect of Russell Sprout and his disease that I discuss with my dermatology clients on a regular basis, and that’s his fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS). Russell is highly insecure and reactive when he feels like he’s threatened. And just like every owner of an allergic pet, we’ve had our ups and downs together. When he feels really good, he’s sweet and snuggly, but when his allergies are flaring, his entire demeanor changes and he becomes one of the most irritable, ornery little jerks that I’ve ever met. And honestly, I can’t blame him! Allergies and infections on the skin and in the ears make animals (and humans alike) absolutely miserable.

Russell Sprout, the Your Vet Wants You to Know mascot and allergic, anxious dog.

Welcome, Dr. Lindsay McAuliffe!

Dr. Lancellotti: If you’ve listened to other episodes, you know that I love data. Between living with an anxious allergic dog and treating many allergic dogs with fear, anxiety, and stress, I’ve seen firsthand the effects of allergies on those behavioral issues. I was thrilled to read a recent article in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association by Dr. Lindsey McAuliffe on the associations between atopic dermatitis (allergies) and anxiety, aggression, and fear-based behaviors in dogs. I reached out to her to join us on the show today to talk more about her research. Thanks for joining. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background?

[00:02:47] Dr. McAuliffe: Thank you so much for having me. I’m always excited to talk about this topic, so this is a great opportunity. I was a general practice family vet for about five years after I finished veterinary school, before I went on to my internship and residency. I got a lot of firsthand GP, skin and ear disease experience there. I went to vet school at Tufts University, where I had a very solid foundation in both dermatology and behavior. We were lucky enough to have a full course in animal behavior, which I know not all vet schools offer. During my free time, I spent a lot of time at the behavior clinic with Dr. Nick Dodman and his fabulous resident, Stephanie Borns-Weil. Some of your listeners might know Dr. Dodman because he’s written a lot of books about behavior for pet owners and he’s made quite a few appearances on Animal Planet.

[00:03:44] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, that’s fun!

[00:03:45] Dr. McAuliffe: Too cute! So if you see a British guy with white hair on Animal Planet, it’s probably Nick Dodman. He was my behavior professor, so he helped me get really into behavior. I was also really active in our behavior club in school (I was one of the co-founders) and I thought that maybe that was an area I could specialize in. Five years in general practice pushed me more toward dermatology, but behavior is never far behind.

[00:04:16] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. One of the most common things that people bring their pets into the vet for are skin related diseases (infections, allergies, ear issues, etc). Dermatology is very heavy in general practice.

[00:04:29]Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. It’s top five, for sure.

Is my dog scratching because they are anxious?

[00:04:31] Dr. Lancellotti: Let’s talk a little bit about your study. In human dermatology, chronic itching is associated with an increase in both stress and anxiety. That can also worsen itch, which leads to this really vicious itch-anxiety cycle. Pet owners ask me a lot about the interaction between allergies and anxiety. I would love for you to tell the listeners about the science and what questions your team set out to answer.

[00:05:01] Dr. McAuliffe: Absolutely. People ask me that question really frequently, as well. They always want to know if all their dogs’ severe itching and scratching is caused purely by anxiety. And I always explain to them that dogs can scratch as a displacement behavior (when they just don’t know what else to do). If they’re feeling a little bit stressed or anxious, maybe they’ll scratch. Maybe they’ll sniff. But they never do it to the point of skin damage, like we see in our allergic patients. It’s usually a very short-lived behavior. I tell pet owners that their anxiety doesn’t cause it, but anxiety and stress will absolutely worsen their itching. Frequently, I’ll hear people tell me, “We had a stressful holiday and he had a flare of his itching,” or “All of these people were over.” Something stressful happened, and that will trigger their dog to have an itchy flare.

[00:05:55] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s an interesting thought there- you mentioned the holidays. Usually, we see flares around the holidays. I always have food on my mind as a trigger, with other people coming into the home, and not understanding that the dog may be food allergic and slipping some treats, because they want to make best friends with the dogs. But you’re absolutely right. Even the stress from just having more people in the household can cause an increase in their itching, as well.

Are dogs with allergies more anxious?

[00:06:21] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. Especially, for dogs that are already a little bit on edge. Most of these itchy dogs are, so it makes sense for sure. The real inspiration for this study was early in my residency. I knew I wanted to do something with behavior and dermatology. I didn’t want to do microbology study or look at Staphylococcal infections. People are doing that and that’s awesome, but I wanted to do something a little bit more clinical and my students were really the inspiration. They would come down to our clinic and make comments like, “Man, these patients seem way more stressed out!” They’re even aggressive or anxious or harder to handle than the patients that they were seeing at main campus- which was every other service. Our dermatology service was at a satellite clinic, so I thought it was very interesting that they were able to observe that and wanted to prove it. So we set out to collect the data to actually prove that this was a real phenomenon. I’d always suspected it and I was able to actually use a massive database out of UPenn. Their vet school has an amazing behavior department and they’ve been collecting data on dog behavior for almost a decade now, at least- just every kind of category of behavior. They have a huge global database and we were able to use that same survey to see how itchy dogs are compared to the 40,000+ “regular” dogs that were in the database already.

[00:08:00] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s great. And you looked at a whole bunch of different categories, correct?

[00:08:04] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. There are 14 different categories for the behavior survey; the CBARQ (Canine Behavioral Assessment Research Questionnaire). The categories were all of the really normal stuff like aggression and fear, and then some categories were related to separation anxiety, attention seeking behaviors, trainability, excitability, and just overall sensitivity of these dogs, which we can get into a little bit more.

Dogs with allergies are more aggressive.

[00:08:43] Dr. Lancellotti: What were some of the specific types of behavioral changes that you observed in your study, in regards to fear and aggression in these animals? What situations were more challenging for these dogs?

[00:08:56] Dr. McAuliffe: The CBARQ has actually four different aggression categories. There are a lot of ways that dogs can be aggressive and it looks at stranger-directed aggression (anybody strange/unfamiliar), owner-directed aggression (interactions in the household), dog-directed aggression (unfamiliar dogs), and then dog rivalry (familiar household dogs). Interestingly enough, the dogs in our study were more aggressive in every category except for the strange dog aggression. They didn’t love strangers, they had some issues with their owner sometimes, and they would get cranky toward their housemate dogs, but they didn’t have any real difference with strange dogs. I thought that was interesting.

[00:09:56] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. I can absolutely attest to the household aggression. We have two dogs in our household right now- Russell Sprout and our other dog, Stoufada Potato. Stoufada potato is so chill and relaxed. He doesn’t have any health issues. He’s just easygoing and an easy keeper- he gets along with everybody. But when Russell gets a flare of his allergies, he definitely takes it out on Stoufie. Stoufie will just be walking by, and all of a sudden, Russell will growl at him or just lift his lips to give him a warning. And I’m like, “Dude, he didn’t even do anything to you! Was he even looking at you? What’s the big deal?” So it’s interesting that you have some data to actually show that they can be jerks to the dogs in their household.

[00:10:44] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. Those poor dogs just don’t even ask for it and they get the brunt of it.

[00:10:50] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. But then there’s this major shift when the animal starts to feel better again. Right?

[00:10:55] Dr. McAuliffe: Oh yeah. I hear that all the time from my owners. They’ll come back in and be like, “Wow, we haven’t had an issue between the dogs in weeks, since Fluffy’s been feeling better.” That’s awesome. That’s really great to hear.

Anxious dog snarling at owner's hand
Dogs with allergies can become more aggressive towards their owners when the allergies flare.

Dogs with allergies are more fearful.

[00:11:09] Dr. Lancellotti: What about fear? What did you find in terms of fear behaviors?

[00:11:13] Dr. McAuliffe: These poor guys were nervous nellies across the board. They had worse non-social fear, which in this context is basically anything in the environment that is spooky (loud noises, trash bags blowing outside, things in the wind, things that move suddenly, etc). Stuff like that, out of their ordinary routine, might spook them. We had much higher incidence of like firework phobia and thunderstorm phobia, noise phobia, and those types of issues. I can’t even tell you how many dogs where people end up asking me, “What can I treat their thunderstorm phobia with?” These are my allergic patients coming in to see me for their itch, but in so many of them, their baseline anxiety is higher, so they’re much more likely to react to stuff like that.

[00:12:12] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, absolutely. And I would agree- we don’t have as many thunderstorms here in Los Angeles, but there is definitely the firework issue. Around New Year’s and the 4th of July, I have clients asking me all of the time about what they can do to decrease the stress with the fireworks. I’m interested to know if maybe general practitioners get that same level of questioning around those noise phobias as we do with allergic dogs.

[00:12:40] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. I feel like the incidence is really high for dogs, in general, to have noise phobia. And with our population of pets that we see, it’s just concentrated.

Dogs with allergies are more sensitive to noise and overall more fearful.

Dogs with allergies are more sensitive to touching.

[00:12:52] Dr. Lancellotti: When I’m working with Russell Sprout during one of his allergic flares (and essentially with every itchy dog I see in my hospital), I really try to be conscious of how sensitive their problem areas on their body can be (ears, paws, face, etc). Tell me a little bit about the relationship between allergic dogs and touch sensitivity, and how this might impact the treatments that we’re doing with them.

[00:13:18] Dr. McAuliffe: Once we did the number crunching, I was actually blown away by this particular category. Touch sensitivity was one of the categories in the CBARQ, and this one was actually the most dramatic difference out of all 14 categories for these dogs. It was the most statistically significant, which was something that I suspected, but I was really quite shocked by how much more touch sensitive they were. It makes sense when we think about it, handling them like every dog. I tell the owners that they have ticklish feet. When I look between their toes and they’re pulling their toes away, I try to be very gentle, but I know their feet are tickly. And it can make it harder for us to do a really thorough exam without causing too much stress to these poor pets, having to touch those problem areas, so I just have to be cognizant of it and try to be careful and considerate of their needs. For example, my dog, Buck, is a five-year old Brittany and he is an itchy guy. He’s got some dust mite allergy. He’s very sensitive- especially, in the ears. He also has ticklish feet. I’ve realized that if it’s nail trimming day and he jerks his feet and is just not having it, if I circle back around in a day or two, make sure his Apoquel is on board and he’s less itchy, he’ll just lay there and let me do all the toes with no issue. So I deal with that, here, in my own house.

[00:15:12] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. It’s not uncommon for me to hear owners say that the baths get easier as the animal’s feeling better. They get more comfortable with ear cleaning as their ear infections are improving, so making sure that those flares are managed is definitely going to help improve the behavior and the ability of the pet owner to be able to actually perform those treatments at home. But I often will give owners anti-anxiety medication to help with those treatments that I’m asking to do at home, especially in the beginning when the animal is more anxious and more touch sensitive.

[00:15:47] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. And that’s a great idea.

Pet owner holding a dog's paw
Dogs can be more sensitive about touching their paws when allergies are bad.

Dogs with allergies are more difficult to train.

[00:15:49] Dr. Lancellotti: I think about all the treatments that I’ve had to do with Russell, and the training that it took for him to be as comfortable as he is with what I’m doing (which can honestly still be a struggle for us), and if a pet is not comfortable with getting a bath, ear cleanings, having its paws touched, or getting injections from its owner, we need to work on training to make these things easier at home. Tell me a little bit about what your study found, in regards to training allergic pets.

[00:16:18] Dr. McAuliffe: This is super important. You and I both know- we can prescribe treatments all day long, but if the pet owner and the dog just can’t get it done, it’s not going to help anybody. So making sure we can implement strategies to help these people and these dogs is really important. On the CBARQ, there’s a category that’s called trainability, which can be a little misleading just in this context. Basically, they define it as willingness to pay attention to the owner, obey simple commands, learn quickly, etc. Observing our patients- if they can’t even stop scratching when they’re sitting in the exam room with their owner, of course they can’t focus well on training. I wouldn’t take it to mean that they’re less trainable, but rather that they just need a little bit more help to be comfortable enough to focus.

[00:17:23] Dr. Lancellotti: I remember one of my colleagues, Dr. Webb-Milum, was treating a police dog out in Oklahoma. The handler had told her that they absolutely needed to get the dog’s allergies under control because while he was chasing after a suspect, the dog stopped in the middle to scratch himself because he was so itchy.

[00:17:45] Dr. McAuliffe: Oh, poor guy!

[00:17:46] Dr. Lancellotti: This is a highly trained working animal who can’t do his job. Our household pets are certainly not going to focus on training. They are so uncomfortable. All that they want to think about is relieving their itch by chewing or scratching themselves.

[00:18:01] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah, of course. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to take very long to get them comfortable enough- a few weeks, in my experience- until they’re feeling a lot better and are able to handle that kind of work much more easily, so it’s not a super long-term thing.

Dog training will be much easier once allergies are better controlled.

Cooperative Care can improve allergies

[00:18:19] Dr. Lancellotti: Tell me a little bit about some of the training that you have owners do with their pets, once they are starting to feel a little bit better.

[00:18:27] Dr. McAuliffe: This is something that I am really passionate about and have been fortunate enough to work somewhere where we are trying to implement more of these strategies. We actually had a local dog trainer come in and help teach some of my staff about these things- which is great. It’s called cooperative care training. Basically, you teach the dog to be a willing participant in their treatment. You give them a choice, which makes them much more likely to opt in, even if something is uncomfortable for them (injections, ear treatments, baths, etc). It’s definitely a different type of training than most people are used to, but fortunately, there are some really great resources now. Where we are (and hopefully more places), there are trainers that are focusing on this. They’re able to teach people how to do this cooperative care training and help their pets. The last thing that I want is people chasing their dog around, cornering them, forcing an ear ointment in, or forcing a mousse on their feet. Those are never going to go well. It’s only going to get worse if that’s how they feel like they have to get it done. And I understand completely. They just feel like they don’t know what to do, so they want to get the treatment done. They chase the dog around, they corner it, and it always breaks my heart when I hear that. So, I’m super passionate about this. We send home handouts, I have video links, and I’m hoping (one day) to have tiny tech demo sessions, where my nurses can demonstrate the very basics of this type of care to our clients. And we can always refer to our local trainer if they need more help.

[00:20:39] Dr. Lancellotti: I really love cooperative care. Episode 56 with Dr. Amy Pike, who is a veterinary behaviorist, talks all about cooperative care, how to get started with it and how to incorporate cooperative care into ear treatments at home, which is something we ask a lot of our pet owners to do when they have dogs with allergies. Ear infections are very common in these animals. So that’s a great resource for people who are looking for more information on cooperative care techniques.

Honestly, if you look at it like a chore and a fight with your pet, it is way less likely to get done. If you look at it as a bonding experience and the bath time is a special time that you get to share with your pet, or they’re not fighting with the ear treatments and they’re happy to come over and let you make them feel better, it is going to make your life so much easier in the long run. This is not a disease that is going to immediately go away with one treatment. It is a lifelong disease that needs to be managed, and if these behavior issues can be managed, the disease itself can be much better managed. Also, you’ll have a much happier relationship with your pet. I love cooperative care. It’s definitely something that I talk to my clients about and I love that there’s been this strong movement towards cooperative care techniques.

[00:22:00] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah, it’s really great. It’s awesome for the welfare of our patients and the happiness of our owners, so I’m very excited about it.

Dogs with allergies have more behavior concerns.

[00:22:08] Dr. Lancellotti: What would you say were some of the most important findings, from your research, regarding anxiety and allergies? What areas of future study would you like to see be explored in order to help pets and their owners?

[00:22:21] Dr. McAuliffe: I think the biggest takeaway from this is that we’ve just proven that these dogs ( potentially) have more issues than your average non-itchy dog. That gives veterinarians and owners the knowledge to look for these things in their pets and recognize that they might have an issue. And recognizing it as the first step to being able to help them. It’s hard! We aren’t born speaking “dog,” so dogs to a lot of things that humans just don’t understand. But being able to teach owners, by showing videos or pictures of different body language and how they show fear in those things, can be really helpful because some pet owners just might not even realize that what their dog is doing is actually a fear-based behavior or something like that. So just being able to recognize that these dogs might have an issue is super important, and our first step to being able to help them.

Future research into anxiety and allergies

[00:23:31] Dr. Lancellotti: Absolutely. How about some future studies? Are there any directions that you would like to go after having published this data?

[00:23:38] Dr. McAuliffe: I surely had some ideas immediately after I finished putting together this study. Personally, I would be interested in the day-to-day things in our clinic- seeing how implementing some cooperative care strategies, training, or anxiety medications even could improve our treatment outcomes. One of the things that we can struggle with the most is actually allergy shots- having our owners do allergy injections for their pets– and not every dog just wants to sit there and be injected every 7-10 days, or however often you end up with your immunotherapy. And that’s a huge reason why people stop. I’m sure you have a lot of clients that end up stopping, because eventually, you find out it just wasn’t working. The dog wasn’t tolerating it. To be really scientific about it, I’d be interested in putting two groups together. In one group, the owners get some basic cooperative care training, plus the demonstration on how to give the allergy injection. Then, the other group would just get the traditional standard- showing how to do the allergy shot and giving your dog a treat when it’s done- and see how that plays out with their long-term willingness to keep going. And with what we know now, I really wouldn’t even feel right to withhold some information about cooperative care. But it’s hard work. So seeing how those people play out and how their dog cooperates, over the long run, would be really interesting. And just being able to prove that implementing some of these training strategies will help us and we’ll get better treatment outcomes for these pets.

[00:25:35] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. One of the main goals of starting this podcast was just to see if this could help in my clinical practice with the pets that I was treating. Does more education and more knowledge improve the treatment outcomes and make these animals lives better? If you would want to include Your Vet Wants You To Know in part of that training process, I would love to be involved in some sort of cooperative care study. For pet owners who have to give their pets injections and are looking for a resource, there’s a video of me specifically doing cooperative care injections with Russell Sprout in our home- he receives his allergy shots every two weeks- if you want to check out that really great tool, where I show my clients how we reward each step of the process, making sure that he’s comfortable, focused on the food and the reward aspect, so that the shot is not something that bothers him even a little bit.

[00:26:45] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. I tell people, when they pull the vial out of the fridge, “If your dog comes running to you, you’ve done it right.”

[00:26:52] Dr. Lancellotti: Yes! I’ve done it right. Oh, I’m so proud!

[00:26:57] Dr. McAuliffe: Good job!

How can you advocate for your allergic dog with anxiety?

[00:26:59] Dr. Lancellotti: I want to give you the opportunity to talk about anything that’s really important to you- something that you feel passionate about. Is there anything else that you want to add before we close things out?

[00:27:10] Dr. McAuliffe: Yeah. All of this, in case you can’t tell, I’m very passionate about. We really like to use anxiety meds to help them feel better and have a better experience, but every once in a while, we get pushback and people don’t want to give the medications. Usually, with more questioning, we find out that they think it’s either going to be a really heavy sedative or something that needs to be given chronically, and they’re worried about changing the dog’s personality- things like that. So I just wanted to take this as an opportunity to dispel some of those myths about us using pre-visit medications like Trazodone and Gabapentin, which are the most common ones that I prescribe. We want to stop your dog from having a panic attack. We want him to be comfortable- maybe not thrilled- but at least not shaking himself to pieces when he comes into my exam room. So if your pet feels less anxious at the vet, you are going to feel less anxious at the vet. I know when I have a really stressed pet, the owner is equally as stressed. So if everybody’s less stressed, we’re going to have a better visit. Even potentially the stress of the visit for your dog could send them into an itch flare, and they’re itchier after they come and see me. A lot of people also think that we would only need medications for dogs that are aggressive or trying to bite me (for example), and honestly, that’s a very small minority of the patients that I prescribe medications for. Most of them are just really scared (shaking, panting heavily, hiding, etc) and they don’t want to come interact with us, so medications really help these dogs, especially because dermatology requires really frequent follow-ups and long-term care. As you’ve discussed, allergies don’t go away and they do need chronic long-term management. Honestly, wouldn’t you like to feel less stressed when you go to the doctor’s office? I know I get white-coat syndrome and my blood pressure’s always a little higher when I go to the doctor. It’s the same thing with your pets. And if your veterinarian doesn’t bring it up, and you realize that your pet is stressed, you can advocate for them. You can ask, “Do you think my pet would benefit from some anxiety medication for his visit?” And most vets I know are more than happy to prescribe anxiety meds. They just might be so busy with all of your pet’s other needs that it might not be at the forefront of their minds. So, you can be your pet’s advocate in situations like that.

[00:29:58] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh my gosh. There was so much good information that you just unpacked. I love this so much! There are actually two episodes of the podcast that cover this, specifically. Episode 18 is all about decreasing stress before vet visits and Episode 19 goes specifically into what Dr. McAuliffe talked about, as far as the two medications she uses, Trazodone and Gabapentin. These are what we call pre-visit medications that help to decrease fear, anxiety, and stress before the animal comes into the vet. There are so many reasons to incorporate these into our treatment plan, but allergies aren’t going to go away. Every time I interact with an animal, I am teaching them something about what to expect from me, and if I can take the edge off of it, what they learn is that they can trust me and that I’m not going to hurt them. But if they come in scared, they’re going to leave scared, and it’s going to make it harder for me to get a good physical exam, which is what allows me to provide the best medical care possible. So if your animal is less stressed, we can give better treatment. I want to have a good relationship with my clients and my pets, and anti-anxiety medications are definitely something that can help facilitate that. I will tell owners that when my own dog, Russell Sprout, comes into the clinic, even if I am the one that is doing his physical exam and his treatments, he still needs Trazodone to make him comfortable. I don’t judge anybody whose animal comes into the clinic and is a little bit nervous or anxious to see me. That is a totally normal behavior for these animals and we can help them.

[00:31:40] Dr. McAuliffe: Absolutely. Mine, too! My nurses’ dogs get Trazadone. Everybody’s dogs get some help with their anxiety when they come in. Even if it’s a vaccine, they’re still less stressed.

[00:31:57] Dr. Lancellotti: It just makes everybody’s lives so much easier, for sure. Many family veterinarians are comfortable treating allergies and anxiety, but the link to find a veterinary dermatologist or a veterinary behaviorist is on the website, under the resources tab, if you would like to consult with a specialist for your pet. We also have a Facebook group, Your Vet Wants You To Know. There are a lot of members talking about their experience with their allergic pet and what they’ve been going through. I think this is going to be a topic that is going to generate a lot of discussion, as far as whether or not their itchy pets have behavioral issues and how they’ve tried to manage them. It’s a great community to help you feel less isolated when you’re dealing with this challenging, lifelong condition.

[00:32:53] Dr. McAuliffe: I forgot to mention this in our references, but pet owners can go onto the CBARQ website and take the entire 100-question survey, to see how their dog compares to the database average. You can actually take the survey, yourself, and see if your dog is more anxious, more aggressive, or has more separation issues than the average dog. It’s free and easy to access, so we can include the link to that.

[00:33:24] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, I love that. So you guys have a little bit of homework that you can do, if you want to find out more information about your specific pet.

Scratching the Itch

Dog doing a food puzzle
Food puzzles are an excellent way to provide enrichment for your pet.

Dr. Lancellotti I like to end each episode with a segment called Scratching the Itch. This segment is designed to highlight something, whether it’s a human interest story, a product, or a website- just something that provides relief or makes you feel good. Hence, scratching the itch. Dr. McAuliffe, do you have a ‘scratching the itch’ for our listeners today?

[00:33:50] Dr. McAuliffe: Yes. It’s one of my favorite things to talk about with clients. After finishing up the actual allergy discussion, I found myself spending another 10 or 15 minutes trading which food puzzles were our favorites for our pets. Canine enrichment is one of my favorite things and there’s so much out there. There’s a huge Facebook group that some of you might already be part of. He has a book that he’s written that goes along with it. He’s got a PhD in animal behavior. Basically, it’s helping our dogs (and cats also) fulfill their instinctual needs. Sitting on the couch drinking coffee is something that fulfills our needs, but not necessarily the needs of our dogs. So, letting them sniff, shred things, and other stuff like that can be hugely helpful in feeling less stressed, keeping their brains busy, and keeping them feeling good. And doing dog stuff is important. For my dogs, I am a huge fan of food puzzles. I have three dogs. I have an entire closet downstairs that is like floor-to-ceiling covered in food puzzles. No joke. There’s like a shoe organizer full of them, like three shelves, and kong toys spilling out of baskets, and all of that stuff.

[00:35:23] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s awesome!

[00:35:23] Dr. McAuliffe: Some of our favorites are the actual puzzles by Nina Ottosson and she has a great webpage. Many of her puzzles are sold through Amazon, so they’re affordable and great fun. They’re meant to be interactive. You sit with your dog and watch them, helping them if they can’t figure the puzzle out. It’s not meant to be a Kong, where you just throw it down and let them do their thing. It’s more interactive- which is fun. I love getting a new puzzle, putting it down, and seeing how different each of my three dogs is at trying to figure it out. They get so excited, too, which is always really cute and fun to watch.

[00:36:10] Dr. Lancellotti: I love all of this information that you shared. And I loved your study! I know resident research projects can sometimes be completely overwhelming (and I’m sure this was in its own way), but I love that you picked something that you were passionate about and that was clinically relevant. It’s really helpful for me as a practicing veterinarian, but also for pet owners to understand more about why their itchy pet might be more anxious than other dogs. I am so grateful for you coming on and sharing your time and your expertise with everybody, today. I really would love to keep this conversation going. I think that there’s a great movement happening within veterinary medicine, cooperative care, behavior, and the overall quality of life for these animals. To be part of that is really exciting for me, so thank you so much!

[00:37:00] Dr. McAuliffe: You’re very welcome. I’m always excited to talk about this stuff!

[00:37:05] Dr. Lancellotti: And to everyone who joined us on the episode, today, I look forward to your next visit with Your Vet Wants You To Know.


  1. Husbandry Project | Academy for Dog Trainers
  2. Content Library | Fear Free Happy Homes
  3. Cooperative Veterinary Care 1st Edition by Alicea Howell, Monique Feyrecilde
  4. Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-Free Husbandry Paperback – December 22, 2018 by Deborah Jones Ph.D. 
  5. Associations Between Atopic Dermatitis and Anxiety, Aggression, and Fear-Based Behaviors in Dogs Lindsay R. McAuliffe, DVM, Colleen S. Koch, DVM, James Serpell, PhD, Karen L. Campbell, MS, DVM

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