The goal of this study was to determine if anxiety, aggression, and fear-related behaviors are more common in pruritic dogs with atopic dermatitis than nonpruritic, healthy dogs. One hundred forty-one pruritic dogs >1 yr of age with a clinical diagnosis of atopic dermatitis and a >3 mo history of pruritus were recruited. Dog owners completed a behavioral survey (canine behavioral assessment and research questionnaire) and a pruritus scale (pruritus visual analog scale). Pruritic, atopic dogs showed significant increases in fear- and anxiety-related behaviors as well as aggression compared with a large control group of healthy dogs. Stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, familiar-dog aggression, dog-directed fear, nonsocial fear, touch sensitivity, excitability, and attention-seeking behaviors were all increased in the study group. Trainability was decreased in the study group. Chronically pruritic dogs experience fear and anxiety and are more likely to display aggression. This is an important welfare issue for these animals. Early recognition of the behavioral derangements that can be associated with chronic pruritic skin disease could allow early intervention with a multidisciplinary approach for these patients, thus improving patient and owner quality of life and long-term treatment outcomes.

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