Skin allergies are the top reason for dog owners to seek veterinary care, according to data collected by Nationwide pet insurance1.
This causes many pet parents to wonder not only how to stop itching in dogs, but also how to do it naturally.
In many cases, your veterinarian will prescribe antihistamines and/or anti-inflammatory steroids, which are usually used to treat and manage excessive itching in dogs.
While these products can indeed be wonderful and offer tremendous relief, they can also have undesirable side effects and potential impact on your dog’s long-term health.
The good news is, there are simple, natural approaches to treating and managing your dog’s itchy skin without resorting to medications.
Why is my dog itching like crazy?
All dogs get itchy from time to time.
This isn’t always a bad sign, but something that sometimes happens without any reason, much like we might unconsciously scratch our own nose.
However, if your dog seems to be itching constantly, to the point where it causes inconvenience and continuous self-licking or chewing, this could be a sign of a skin problem that needs attention.
Here are the most common causes of excessive itching in dogs:
- Dry skin
While this might seem obvious, fleas are perhaps one of the primary suspects in any overly itchy dog.
Fleas are extremely common in dogs, and in some cases, even a single bite can cause a reaction, as their saliva is a classic trigger for skin irritation.
While a few fleas on your dog can make them very uncomfortable, an outright flea infestation can be terrible for their health, and overall quality of life.
Luckily, they’re very easy to spot and recognize as soon as they become a problem.
Look for tiny, seed-like dots on your dog’s coat. Even if you don’t see many at first, be sure to closely inspect the trouble areas, which are around the ears, tail, and tummy.
Let’s face it, your dog can be allergic to just about anything.
While fleas are one of the biggest culprits, there are many other common triggers, such as seasonal/environmental allergies and food allergies.
Some dogs have an adverse reaction to grass, pollen, mold, and dust, while others seem to itch more when exposed to certain ingredients, like wheat or corn.
These allergies usually result in dry, itchy skin around the face, belly, and paws, which can lead to infections due to constant scratching and licking.
Just like humans, dogs can develop dry skin.
The common reasons for dry skin in dogs are similar to ours and include things like excessive bathing, the use of harsh soaps, and dry air.
Scratching, flaky skin and oily coat are all signs that your dog has dry skin.
If your dog’s dry skin is caused by allergies or another medical condition, you’ll need to speak with your vet before treating it.
Yeast and bacteria can cause a dog to become itchy, leading to more licking and biting.
Yeast infections usually occur in the dog’s paws, neck, armpits, and even ears. Some of the common symptoms to be aware of include excessively oily skin that has a bit of odor, or if your dog is constantly licking a specific area.
Bacterial infections can be caused by skin damage, poor diet, and/or antibiotics, which disrupt the bacterial balance within the dog’s body.
Itching, scabs or crusting, and hair loss are the most common symptoms of bacterial infections.
How to stop itching in dogs
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how to stop itching in dogs.
Use a flea treatment
The best way to prevent a flea infestation is to use a high-quality flea treatment product.
This also helps guard against mosquitos and black flies, which can irritate your dog’s skin, as well as ticks, which can cause Lyme’s disease and other health problems.
If you prefer a more natural approach, there are many flea repellents you can use such as diatomaceous earth, coconut oil, and essential oils. However, these natural remedies aren’t always as effective as chemical treatments.
To get rid of fleas completely, make sure to also mow your lawn regularly, and avoid wooded areas, tall grass, or bushes while walking your dog outside.
Feed a hypoallergenic diet
Food allergies are a common reason for itchy skin that many owners tend to overlook.
Things like corn, wheat, and soy are all common food allergens, and some dogs can even be sensitive to chicken and eggs.
Switching to a hypoallergenic diet with limited ingredients has shown to be effective for many dogs. These are diets that have ingredients that most dogs don’t react to, such as fish, lamb, bison, or venison.
Fish and sweet potato recipes generally work best. The added benefit of fish for dogs is that they have a higher omega-3 content, which can help with skin inflammation.
However, you should always consult with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
Bathe and groom your dog regularly
While you don’t want to bathe your dog too often, bathing them on a weekly or biweekly schedule is perfectly fine.
In fact, if your dog suffers from allergies, washing away the dust and other allergens from their coat on a regular basis is perhaps what they need.
In order to avoid removing the natural oils from your dog’s skin and coat, you should use a shampoo that’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin.
Some of the ingredients you want to look for are aloe vera, oatmeal, and honey.
If your dog doesn’t like baths, you can try a dry shampoo instead.
Sometimes, even just a simple thing like brushing your dog every day can have a large impact on their skin condition.
Not only does regular grooming help keep your dog’s coat healthy by removing dead hair, but it also removes dirt and other allergens, prevents tangles and mats which can irritate the skin, and stimulates blood flow to the skin and hair follicles.
What home remedy can I use to stop itching?
No article about itchy dogs would be complete without mentioning a few natural remedies.
Here’s a list of things you can try:
Coconut oil can be used for a lot of things, including alleviating allergic reactions and even itchy flea bites.
It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and makes for an excellent natural moisturizer and shedding treatment.
The oil can be used by itself on the dog’s coat, or as a carrier oil with a little bit of essential oil, such as lavender. For lavender coconut massage oil, simply mix 2 tbsp. of coconut oil with 10 drops of lavender essential oil.
You can also mix coconut oil into your dog’s food to help improve the appearance of their coat and reduce the body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Omega-3 is probably a good supplement to include even if your dog doesn’t experience skin issues.
It has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can keep allergies under control, as well as reduce itchy skin, and it’s also simply good for your dog’s health overall.
Omega-3 can be found in salmon, sardines, and mackerel. There are also supplements and chewable tablets that you can give your dog to fight against dryness and flakiness from the inside out.
You can also take the oil out of the capsule, and rub it onto your dog’s dry and itchy spots for fast relief.
Liquid fish oil can be easily added to your dog’s food and is especially helpful if your pup is a picky eater.
Honey is well known for its medicinal uses and it’s also a great way to soothe your dog’s skin.
Manuka honey, in particular, has antibacterial properties that can help fight infections and relieve inflammation. It’s also full of antioxidants that can be beneficial to your dog’s overall health.
The easiest and less messy way to use honey for your dog is with a spray bottle. Add one teaspoon of honey per eight ounces of warm water and you’ll get a nice, soothing spray that won’t leave any sticky residue on your dog’s fur.
When buying a shampoo for your dog, look for one with honey in it. You can also give your dog a little bit of raw, local honey to help with allergies.
Turmeric has been used for centuries as a natural medicine.
It contains curcumin, which can help reduce inflammation and skin irritation and in addition, it has antibacterial properties that can help fight infections.
To make a ‘golden paste,’ mix turmeric powder with a little bit of water or coconut oil and apply it directly to your dog’s itchy skin.
You can also add it to your dog’s food for extra benefits, but make sure to talk to your vet first.
Aloe vera is a great healing agent for cooling and relieving itchy skin and redness that’s found in many dog shampoos.
It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, both of which are great for taking care of infections. Additionally, this green plant is a great natural moisturizer.
For best results, use fresh aloe vera leaves from the plant and apply the gel to the itchy area a few times a day.
If you buy store-bought aloe vera gel, avoid alcohol-based products and keep in mind that some gels may contain added ingredients that can be harmful to your dog, so use it only as a topical treatment, and make sure they don’t lick it.
Calendula is one of the safest herbs to use on dogs, which is why it’s used in so many pet products.
It has antimicrobial properties, which not only soothe the skin from itchiness and insect bites, but also treat cuts and wounds.
Fill a bathtub with warm water and add a couple of tea bags to the water for a couple of minutes. Let your dog soak in the bath for three to five minutes and pat dry.
If they have especially itchy skin, you can soak the tea up with a towel, and leave it on their trouble spots for a few more minutes.
Chamomile is similar to calendula, in that it’s also known to temporarily help with calming dry and irritated skin.
It has antimicrobial properties and can help heal skin infections, as well as ease any skin issues or bug bites when applied topically.
Use the same way as calendula or prepare a cup of chamomile tea, let it cool down, and pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Use this on your dog’s coat whenever needed.
For itchy paws, soak and massage a bit of the tea into them to relieve any discomfort.
Green tea has many great benefits for the skin, and it can be very effective in treating hot and itchy skin conditions.
It has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as tannins, which can reduce discomfort and itching from allergic skin reactions.
Steep a few green tea bags in warm water and let your dog soak in the bath or make a green tea rinse and use it after you shampoo your dog.
You can also use the cool tea bags directly on your dog’s itchy spots.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a popular natural remedy for dogs with flaky, itchy skin, and it can even deter fleas.
It has antiseptic and antifungal properties, which can treat infections and reduce dryness and irritation in the skin.
You can mix a solution of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water inside a spray bottle, and spritz it on your dog. Alternatively, use the same blend to rinse your dog’s body after bathing.
Just make sure that it’s raw, organic vinegar, and don’t use it on open wounds or cuts.
Baking soda is another common household ingredient for treating skin rashes and itchy skin.
It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which makes it ideal for healing skin conditions.
Use a 50/50 mix of baking soda and water to make a paste, and apply it to your dog’s affected skin. Leave it on for 10-20 minutes, then be sure to thoroughly rinse it off.
You can also add one cup of baking soda to your dog’s bath water to help relieve itchiness.
An oatmeal bath is a time-tested, soothing treatment for itchy dogs.
It softens the skin and helps to lock moisture while protecting it from external irritants, plus it’s non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about your dog ingesting it.
You’ll have to use colloidal oatmeal, which are oats that have been grind into a fine powder (you can also make your own at home2), and add it to your dog’s bath water or make an oatmeal paste and apply it to your dog’s troubled areas.
You can also find hypoallergenic oatmeal shampoos that you can use if you don’t have colloidal oatmeal or want an easier option.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt has many health benefits for dogs, mostly due to its probiotic content.
Even though they aren’t necessarily anti-itch remedy, probiotics can help your dog’s infections tremendously.
About 70% of a dog’s immune system resides in their gastrointestinal tract3. This means that if your dog has a healthy gut, then they’re going to be healthier overall.
You can feed your dog plain yogurt as a snack or add it to their food, however, be sure that it doesn’t contain any added sugar or artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Epsom salt is a natural exfoliant that helps fight skin disorders like allergic dermatitis.
It contains minerals such as magnesium and sulfate to reduce inflammation and help treat dry skin and open sores.
You’ll need to fill up a bath with lukewarm water, add the Epsom salt inside, and scrub your dog gently. You can also soak a washcloth inside and apply it directly to your dog’s skin.
There are several ways to stop itching in dogs, from flea treatments and food elimination diets to natural remedies like giving them an oatmeal bath, applying herbal teas on their itchy spots, and feeding them probiotic foods such as yogurt.
If the issue persists it’s best to consult a vet, as this could be a sign of an allergic reaction or another underlying medical condition.