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Can Bravecto make dogs itch?

In this article I will be looking at Bravecto for dogs and telling you about the problems I had with it causing extreme itching and scratching in my dog. I'll also tell you about which natural treatments and remedies I have tried and how I got on with them. as well as the monthly flea treatment for dogs that I use which has not caused a skin reaction in my dog. Medical or natural flea and tick remedies - there is something here for all!

a puppy sitting down and scratching itself

Itchy dog

Consulting a vet about itching and scratching in an animal is the second most common reason for a consultation, after gastrointestinal issues and diarrhea. If you have a dog who is constantly itching, scratching and licking themselves my advice would be to consult a vet immediately. Hopefully they will be able to help you straight away and solve the problem.

However, if you have been to the vet many times (and racked up huge bills in the process!) and your dog is still itching and scratching and driving you nuts in the process, then read on, I might just be able to help.

Dog scratching

Having a dog that constantly scratches, licks and bites itself is very stressful, not just for the dog but the owner too. You are constantly on guard waiting for the scratching to start and trying to divert their attention when it does. I can tell you that the sound of a dog constantly biting and licking itself is hard to listen to - those of you who have experience of this will understand!

Our last family dog had to be put to sleep and a few months later we got Sherlock, a beautiful golden retriever. He was ten weeks old when we got him and was scratching a little but I didn't think too much of it at the time. Over the next few weeks I thought that the scratching was increasing and I noticed marks on his stomach, they looked a bit like mosquito bites, small, red, round and slightly raised and he was biting them a lot. He had been treated for fleas and worms by the breeder before I got him and was not due any further treatments, but I gave him a check for fleas and couldn't find anything so left it at that.

Over the next few weeks he got a lot worse, and I mean a lot. He started dragging himself on his stomach outside on the gravel and this was making the sores weep. His underbelly was also really sparse on hair although the rest of his coat was fine. All the scratching seemed to be centred around his stomach, armpits and rear end. I had a few trips to the vets but after checking him over and not finding anything wrong, they didn't have much to offer because of his age and it was hoped he would grow out of it.

Supplements for itchy dogs

I started adding Lintbells YuDerm Itching Dog liquid food supplement ( to his food which is a premium cold pressed oil mixture (fish, salmon, golden flax, starflower and vitamin e) to help calm the skin down and also started using Sweet Relief cream by Biteback Products ( on him and I have to say they helped enormously.

biteback sweet relief cream to treat itchy and scratchy dogs

Although the Sweet Relief cream was helping massively with the healing of his sores, it didn't stop the itching.

I took Sherlock back to the vet who suggested he went on an exclusion diet to see whether he had any serious food allergies. The trouble with an exclusion diet is that you need to keep it up for about two to three months to monitor any changes. The vet suggested Hill's Science Prescription Diet z/d which is clinically proven to help reduce skin and gastrointestinal signs caused by adverse food reactions. (NOTE: exclusion diets should only be undertaken on the advice of a vet). Sadly, this did not stop the scratching and the Prescription Diet z/d had about the same nourishment in it as cardboard so I wanted my growing puppy off it as soon as possible.

Dog steroids for itching

Having proved that he was not allergic to anything in his normal food we returned to the vet. This time it was suggested that he went on a course of steroid tablets for five days. They don't really like to put such young dogs on steroids if they can avoid it but decided that about a week itch free might just give the sores on his stomach time to heal. The vet was concerned because once the skin becomes broken it is easy for bacterial and fungal infections to get in to the skin, especially in young dogs.

Malaseb shampoo for dogs

The vet also prescribed some Malaseb dog shampoo. Malaseb is a medicated shampoo (prescription only) that is anti-itch, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The fun part is that once the dog is shampooed up you have to leave it on for ten minutes. We managed this by leaving him in the bath and sitting next to him with a plate of chicken breast and feeding him tiny bits whilst the timer counted down.

With the steroids and Malaseb shampoo we had a few days of scratch free living which gave the medicated shampoo time to heal the skin a little, but as soon as the steroids wore off we were back to square one.

Dog skin allergies

By this time I was doing loads of research on itchy and scratching dogs and trying to pin down what could be causing the issue. There was a possibility that Sherlock could have an allergy to something like grass pollen but dogs can't have allergy tests until they are about eighteen months old and even then they are expensive and don't always give any answers. I also discovered that dogs don't usually get allergies until they are at least six months old and I knew Sherlock had been scratching at least since he was ten weeks old so was fairly confident that he didn't have an allergy.

Bravecto for dogs - side effects

I had a flash of inspiration and checked the calendar. I remembered a two week period when the scratching had decreased and I thought we were turning a corner, only for it to return again just as bad. This two week period when Sherlock scratched less was just before his second dose of Bravecto.

Bravecto is a tablet form of flea and tick treatment that lasts three months. I had a sneaky suspicion that it might be the Bravecto that was causing the skin itching problem for Sherlock. In all honesty I would never have chosen a treatment that lasted three months for a puppy. Imagine how much a puppy grows in three months and then imagine how strong the initial dose must have been to last for 3 months in a quickly growing puppy? I hadn't even considered the flea treatment as he had already had it when I got him. After further research I discovered that the USA does not licence Bravecto tablets for dogs under six months of age.

Injections for dog itching

I decided to change to a topical monthly flea treatment when it was next due to try and prove my theory but still had six weeks to go before the current dose of Bravecto wore off.

I then discovered that there are injections that dogs can have to help with itching and scratching and although they are hideously expensive, I was willing to try anything at this stage, Sherlock had been scratching and biting himself raw for about four months by now.

There are two injections that I know of, Apoquel and Cytopoint.

Apoquel injection for dogs

Apoquel is an injection that can be given to dogs but it suppresses the immune system and can cause other serious side effects. I had already decided not to use Apoquel when I found out that you can't give it to a dog under the age of twelve months anyway.

Cytopoint injection

I decided to try the other option which was an injection of Cytopoint. Cytopoint is not a chemical or drug, it is actually a protein that works like the dog's own immune system to block the main protein that sends signals to the brain that make them want to itch. Let's face it, any treatment like this is an interference with the biological system in some way but this was not a pharmaceutical treatment.

How long does Cytopoint last?

Cytopoint can last about four to eight weeks, but it is usually about four. Cytopoint is safe to use in dogs of all ages and has no known major side effects.

Does Cytopoint work?

Sometimes it works straight away and on every injection after that, sometimes it works on the first injection but not on the following ones and sometimes it doesn't work at all.

Sherlock had a Cytopoint injection and in under twenty four hours the itching stopped. The Lintbells YuDerm Itching Dog and the Sweet Relief cream had been holding back the very worst of the skin damage despite his scratching and biting, and once the continual scratching stopped you could see the sores healing and the hair starting to grow again.

How much does a Cytopoint injection cost UK

The cost of a Cytopoint injection will vary from vet to vet but I paid about £120.

Five weeks after Sherlock had the Cytopoint injection he was still completely itch free. I used the Sweet Relief rubbed in to his tummy twice a day along with the Lintbells YuDerm Itching Dog food supplement and the change was fantastic. His skin healed up and lots of new hair started to grow.

I spoke with his breeder and she said she had never used this treatment before but it had been recommended by her vet. After researching it further she told me she would never use it again. Like me, she felt it was just too strong for an 8 weeks old puppy and I am pretty sure that it was this that caused his itching skin problems.

Update on Bravecto October 2021

Sherlock has been off Bravecto since he was about 7 - 8 months old and we haven't looked back. We had thought that we would need at least two Cytopoint injections to get us through the Bravecto wearing off but he only ever needed the one injection.

I continued to use the Lintbells YuDem Itching Dog food supplement and the Sweet Relief cream from Biteback products topically on his stomach and his sores healed really quickly. I also got Sherlock on to a raw food diet (my previous dog had been on raw food for about 13 years). Raw food can often help a dog stop itching if the reason is food related.

Raw dog food suppliers UK

I use ProDog, although there are other good raw dog food suppliers in the UK such as Cotswold Raw and Nutriment.

I also give him a powder supplement called Protect from ProDog which is an advanced immunity and allergy formula made from natural ingredients such as sea kelp, tumeric root, kombucha tea and vitamin C. I used just ne tub of this (it's not cheap at about £40 for a large tub, but lasts a while).

Monthly flea treatments for dogs

There are lots of flea treatments out there but be warned, not all of them treat ticks.

I went through the ingredients in a lot of the flea and tick treatments and decided to use Frontline Plus which kills fleas, ticks and lice and inhibits the development of flea eggs. The active ingredients are Fipronil and (S)-methoprene and Sherlock has not had any reactions to these ingredients at all.

I may try and use just natural flea and tick treatments from October to March.

As a bonus you can also buy Frontline Plus without a veterinary prescription in the UK from online suppliers making it much cheaper than the ones from the vets. I bought a special bundle of flea/tick treatment (Frontline Plus) and worming treatment (Drontal) for a year from

Itch relief for dogs

If you have a dog that has constant scratching and itching, try some of the tips below to see if you can get your canine friend some relief:

  • First stop the vet, for professional advice, which will hopefully sort the problem.

  • Check for fleas and lice and ensure all treatments up to date.

  • Is your dog just itchy for just some months of the year or all year round? If just seasonally they could be allergic to something like tree or grass pollen.

  • Try washing all the dog bedding, toys and blankets they lie on in non-biological laundry wash and a non-bio fabric conditioner.

  • Have you been using a carpet cleaner on the area where they lie or sleep? Try running the carpet cleaner over the area again but with just water to try and remove any carpet cleaner residue that they could be allergic to.

  • Don't use any of the 'shake and vacuum' type carpet cleaners where the dogs lie or sit.

  • Check any shampoo you are using on them is specifically for dogs and avoid highly scented ones. Try shampoos for puppies which are likely to be milder and consider asking your vet whether Malaseb, the medicated shampoo which is anti-itch, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, would be suitable for your dog (prescription only).

  • Don't use dog deodorising sprays.

  • Do you walk your dog over any areas that may be contaminated with chemicals? Farming fields or golf course or does he play in water that could be contaminated?

  • If your dog swims in unknown water sources or gets very muddy, always rinse off with water in case they have come into contact with pesticides or similar.

  • Ask your vet whether it may be worth trying a food exclusion diet. Often dogs with food allergies may have gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or watery stools as well, but not always.

  • Try Sweet Relief cream by Biteback Products ( for dogs, a conditioning cream for calming itchy skin, I found it excellent and it can be used on paws, ears and faces. Dogs don't seem to lick it off either.

  • Try Lintbells YuDerm Itching Dog oil as a food supplement to help boost important omega 3 and 6 oils (

  • Try ProDog Protect food supplement ( to boost the immune system and prevent allergies.

  • Try Dermadog Itchy Wash Bar ( with 100% pure essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint which is great for washing dogs with itchy or sensitive skin.

Natural flea and tick treatments for dogs

Billy No Mates for dogs

If you want to try a natural flea and tick repellent the best one I found was Billy No Mates by This is a natural herb mix of mint, lemon balm, fenugreek, seaweed and neem leaves that you simply mix in to their food. It does give your dog a certain odour, which is said to repel the ticks and fleas. I quite liked the smell, basically just like the smell of the product. Sadly, it wasn't enough to repel the ticks in the height of the season where we live but I would certainly recommend using it from about October to March, and probably all year round in you don't live in the country.

Neem Shield pet shampoo

I also tried Neem Shield pet shampoo from which is great for coat conditioning as well, but it has to be left on for 10 minutes. This seems to work well and smells nice and helps boost protection if you are using Bill No Mates at the same time.

Neem Shield pet spray

Finally, you can add in the Neem Shield pet spray. Just a light spray on the coat daily and it can be used for their bedding as well. I think it smells lovely but it does contain organic cider vinegar and my dog hated it being sprayed on his coat. He was fine with it on his bedding, I think maybe the cider vinegar smell was too strong for him!

Dog insect repellent spray

Dermadog insect defence spray

I had a lot more success with Dermadog Insect Defence Spray ( which smells great and repels, and deters fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes. It contains lemongrass, rose geranium and cedarwood essential oils as well as castor oil which helps condition the coat. I found this spray really useful in the summer evenings in the wood

If you are having problems with an itchy dog and they are taking Bravecto, then I suggest trying to come off it to see what happens. Just remember that if a dog has been on it for a while it may take a little time for the effects to wear off.

Meanwhile you could try some of the natural methods above, or some of the monthly spot-on topical treatments.

If you are heading out with your dog into the countryside you might also be interested in reading about one of the best natural insect repellents in the UK for humans too!

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