This double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial indicates that Phytopica can be an effective glucocorticoid sparing agent in canine atopic dermatitis (AD). Twenty-two dogs with perennial AD [Canine Atopic Dermatitis with Severity Index (CADESI-03) >or= 60] were given 200 mg/kg Phytopica or an identical placebo in food once daily for 56 days. All dogs were initially given 0.4 mg/kg methyl-prednisolone once daily, which was then adjusted according to the daily pruritus score (0-100 mm visual analogue scale). The cumulative dose and pruritus score were lower in the Phytopica than the placebo group. There were statistically significant time and treatment effects for the methyl-prednisolone dose and pruritus score, but there were no significant differences between the Phytopica and placebo groups in the proportion of dogs that achieved a > 50% reduction in dose or pruritus scores at day 56; the mean CADESI-03 scores at days 0, 28 and 56; the numbers achieving >50% reduction in CADESI-03 at days 28 and 56; or in the owners' global efficacy score at days 28 and 56. Adverse events included diarrhoea (three Phytopica and one placebo treated dog), polyuria/polydipsia (three dogs in each group), and polyphagia, intermittent anorexia and panting (one dog each in the placebo group). None of these by themselves required withdrawal of treatment.