Revolutionizing Animal Care
August 30, 2022
'I GOT MY DOG BACK'
Life-altering science brings relief to millions of itchy dogs
A dog with itch due to skin allergies is serious business. If you are a pet parent, you may watch helplessly as your dog scratches its ears, chews and bites its paws and skin—all day and night. With every scratch, the dog’s tag jingles, the bed shakes, the animal’s skin gets redder and rawer, and you suffer because you don’t know how to bring relief to your furry friend.
Dermatological problems for dogs are not new, but in recent years, innovative treatments have brought relief to millions of dogs with allergic itch around the world. “The first thing our scientists do is to dig deep into what triggers the allergic skin disease. Then, we get to work and figure out how to stop or prevent it,” said Andrea Gonzales, who leads dermatology research and development at Zoetis.
The resulting treatments can be life-changing for dogs and their families. Just ask Laura Olsen, who leads U.S. Petcare at Zoetis. She adopted Bodie in 2012 and for the first year of his life, he suffered from ear infections and GI upset. After being referred to a veterinary dermatologist, Bodie was diagnosed with allergic skin disease due to a food allergy. “One of the hardest parts of having a dog with skin allergies is knowing your beloved pet is terribly uncomfortable. Your pet can’t tell you what’s wrong, and you can’t tell them it will all be okay. The emotional toll is huge.”
The separation is heartbreaking, too. “For some families, the dog is no longer allowed to sleep in the bedroom because scratching due to allergic itch keeps everyone awake,” said Laura. “The pet is too exhausted to play, and family members are hesitant to touch him because his skin is so raw, and they don’t want to cause him anymore discomfort. All that itching breaks the human-animal bond.”
Game-changing treatments to help ditch the itch
Laura’s Bodie and more than 11 million dogs in the U.S.—and countless others in more than 90 countries—have found relief from allergic itch with Apoquel® (oclacitinib tablet) from Zoetis. Apoquel works by blocking Janus kinases enzymes, troublesome signals that our scientists know cause itch and inflammation in dogs with allergic skin disease.
Nearly 6 million U.S. dogs, along with others in more than 40 countries have also benefitted from another breakthrough in Zoetis' dermatology portfolio—Zoetis’ injectable treatment, Cytopoint®, the first monoclonal antibody therapy used to provide long-lasting relief for dogs with allergic skin disease. Cytopoint is a biological medication (a protein, not a chemical) that works like the dog’s immune system to target and neutralize proteins that send signals of allergic itch to the dog’s brain, triggering itching, licking and chewing.
“One of the favorite parts of my job is hearing from so many pet parents who say, ‘I got my dog back’ because of our innovative therapies,” said Laura. “This happened for Bodie and me, too.”
How serious is all that itching?
Dogs itch for a variety of reasons. There’s normal itching—an occasional tickle behind the ear or nibble to dislodge the debris clinging to the leg. “But when scratching becomes more frequent and uncomfortable for your pet (and you), it’s important to find out why,” said Olivier Martinon, who’s spent the past 15 years leading Zoetis scientists in the development of Cytopoint. “Persistent scratching could be a warning there’s a parasitic infestation or a chronic or seasonal skin allergy.”
Research shows a common reason people take their dogs to the veterinarian is because of skin allergies.1 Consider pets in the U.S.: Veterinarians diagnose 15% of the dogs they see with itch due to skin allergies.2
“If untreated, skin allergies can get worse and cause even more problems, like fur loss, paw lesions and bacterial and fungal infections, making life even more miserable for the dog and the entire family,” said Olivier.
‘Her quality of life was decreasing. It was very stressful on our family’
Andrea has experienced the suffering firsthand. Her family lives on a lake and enjoys hiking and swimming with their Labrador retrievers. “All of our dogs have been diagnosed with skin allergies, but Piper suffered the worst. She would itch like crazy. You could see she was struggling, and her quality of life was decreasing. It was very stressful on our family.”
Piper’s struggles with allergic skin disease made Andrea’s work at Zoetis especially fulfilling. She joined the company in 2007 to work in early research for Apoquel. “At the time, there was very little work that had been done in the scientific community to understand what made dogs itch,” said Andrea. “My first job with the company was to understand the role of cytokines, the small proteins that ‘talk’ to the immune system so it will kick into action, and how Apoquel could block those cytokines from communicating in dogs with allergic skin disease.”
Ultimately, Apoquel was approved in the U.S. in 2013. “Once Piper was on Apoquel, within an hour, she started to calm down. She was comfortable and not itchy for the first time since her diagnosis,” said Andrea. “At that moment, it hit me: We are a part of something very special. We were so excited when we saw the study results and the data Apoquel generated, but when that innovation directly impacts your pet? That’s the most rewarding of all.”
What life-altering innovations are on the horizon in pet dermatology?
Zoetis has a strong track record of life-altering treatments in canine dermatology, but Olivier says, “There’s much more we can do. A significant unmet need exists for new dermatological treatments to help other companion animals. And where there’s a need, we aim to find a solution.”
That’s where ZINC comes in. The Zoetis Incubator of Northern Colorado launched in January 2020 to use the most advanced science to focus on immune-related diseases and find potential new solutions.
“At the incubator, we have some of the finest immunologists and data scientists working together with the university ecosystem to push the boundaries of research to gain a deeper understanding of disease biology,” said Chad Ray, who leads the incubator. “We aim to find the next innovative therapy—something that’s even better than what we have—and something that will lead to faster resolution of disease for companion animals.”
When ZINC opened in January 2020, Zoetis scientists were focused on building our understanding of the livestock immune system to pave the way for new alternatives to antibiotics in food-producing animals. The team has identified several substrates in vivo and in vitro and is now looking to scale them in the target species. Given the successful partnership model with Colorado State University, and the opportunity for growth in the allergy and dermatology space for companion animals, Zoetis recently expanded ZINC to include additional lab space dedicated to companion animal projects.
Pets can rest a bit easier nowadays knowing the Zoetis scientists are on the case.
CYTOPOINT INDICATION: Cytopoint has been shown to be effective for the treatment of dogs against allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.
APOQUEL INDICATION: Control of pruritus associated with allergic dermatitis and control of atopic dermatitis in dogs at least 12 months of age.
APOQUEL IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not use Apoquel in dogs less than 12 months of age or those with serious infections. Apoquel may increase the chances of developing serious infections, and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to get worse. Consider the risks and benefits of treatment in dogs with a history of recurrence of these conditions. New neoplastic conditions (benign and malignant) were observed in clinical studies and post-approval. Apoquel has not been tested in dogs receiving some medications including some commonly used to treat skin conditions such as corticosteroids and cyclosporines. Do not use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. Most common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. Apoquel has been used safely with many common medications including parasiticides, antibiotics and vaccines. See full Prescribing Information at Apoquel.com/pi.
1. Nationwide: Newsroom. Skin allergies, ear infections among most common conditions that prompt veterinary visits. https://news.nationwide.com/common-pet-conditions-that-prompt-veterinary-visits/. Published March 28, 2022.
2. Data on file. Zoetis, Inc. 2021.