Development of an owner-assessed scale to measure the severity of pruritus in dogs


Dr P. B. Hill, Division of Companion Animal Studies, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. E-mail:


Assessment of pruritus is critical in dermatological history taking, both for initial diagnosis and for monitoring treatment. Various methods of assessing pruritus in the dog have been described but none have been validated. In this study, four different pruritus scales were initially assessed: a 0–5 numerical scale; a scale containing six categories of pruritic behaviours; a scale with six basic descriptors of severity; and a visual analogue scale with severity descriptions at either end. One hundred and sixteen owners were asked to grade their dog's pruritus with each of the four scales given to them in a randomized order, and asked which they thought was easiest to use, which was most accurate in assessing their dog's pruritus level, and which two scales they would combine to make a superior scale. Pruritus scores from different scales were highly correlated with each other, but scores were significantly higher with the severity and numerical scales compared to the behaviour scale. Based on the clients’ responses, a new scale was developed that combined features of the behaviour and severity-based scales with the visual analogue scale. When tested on 166 different owners, 98% thought it was easy to use and accurate in assessing their dog's pruritus level. In 44 dogs, independent scores obtained by two owners were highly correlated (R = 0.8; P < 0.0001), confirming the scale's repeatability. The new scale proved to be an easy and repeatable method for owners to determine the severity of pruritus in their dog.