Written by FOTP Team
Itching is surprisingly common in dogs. The medical name for this condition is pruritus, and it can be caused by several underlying pathologies. And though some itching is normal, if the problem is severe enough your dog may end up with scabbed, raw, and bleeding skin.
Having a dog with itchy skin is traumatic for both them and you. You might have noticed that your dog will bite and scratch at an itch to try and make it go away. And if this doesn’t work, they won’t leave the area alone and eventually, the skin will end up severely damaged.
There are plenty of things you can do to help your dog with itching and within this article, we are going to unpack the causes of dog itching and offer advice to help your dog with this issue.
One of the most common causes of itching in dogs is an allergy to fleas. To check if your pet has fleas, check their neck and shoulder blades as they often gather around these areas. The base of the tail and along the back of the legs is also a favourite hangout for fleas, so you may notice increased itching there too. Just one flea bite can cause intense itching for your dog, so imagine how they feel if they are being bitten constantly.
Bacterial and yeast infections also cause itching and discomfort in dogs. In addition, constantly chewing on itchy skin can lead to bacterial skin infections.
Dogs can also have allergies to certain foods, just like humans, that lead to itching. Many commercial dog foods contain allergens like wheat, dairy, chicken, and beef. If your dog’s diet is the culprit, you can tell because they will have an itchy belly, face, and armpits.
Environmental and seasonal allergies are another common cause of itching in dogs. Dogs can be allergic to mould, pollen, and dust. So if the itching only occurs in the spring and summer, a pollen allergy might be the problem.
If your dog has a slightly itchy area, try a few home remedies. As long as the underlying cause isn’t anything serious, such as a bacterial skin infection, or you have treated the cause and all that remains is an itch, home remedies can be helpful.
There are several home remedies owners can use to reduce itching in dogs. You can make your own dog itching remedies from ingredients you already have in your cupboards. Most of the ingredients below are easy to buy if you don’t already have them, some are available in local supermarkets, and others can be bought online.
Depending on the cause of your dog's itching, you might find some anti-itch ingredients work better than others. And in the unfortunate event that none of the home remedies work for your dog, there are other things you can try, which we'll get to later. First, try these easy options to ease your dog's itching.
Applying coconut oil to the skin can help soothe itches, but make sure you use a good quality coconut oil that is organic or unrefined. Place the coconut oil in the fridge, so it is nice and cool when you rub it into your dog’s itchy skin. It will feel soothing if your dog has an allergy itch or some itchy flea bites.
Baking soda is a useful store cupboard ingredient for many reasons, not least because it can soothe itchy skin. To use on your dog’s itchy patches, mix some baking soda and water to form a thick paste. Apply the paste to the affected areas and leave it in place for around 20 minutes before rinsing off. Baking soda can also be added to their bath.
Apple cider vinegar has natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Add a 50:50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water to a spray bottle and apply to the affected area. If your dog has itchy paws, add some apple cider vinegar and water to a bucket and place your dog’s paws in the solution for a few minutes.
Note: do not use apple cider vinegar on broken, damaged skin, as it will be extremely painful for the dog.
Colloidal oatmeal is very finely ground oats, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties. This can be bought pre-made or you can grind up oats into a fine powder at home, using a mortar and pestle or food processor. If you buy oats, make sure they contain no sugar. Boil up the finely ground oats to release the colloidal properties and apply to the itchy area. Your dog will probably try to eat it, but that’s fine.
Green tea is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. And though you can’t expect your dog to drink a mug of green tea, steeping green tea in bath water for your dog can be incredibly soothing. Fill a bath with warm water and leave several green tea bags to soak for a few minutes. Remove them and when the water is cool, pop your dog in the bath and pour the water over their affected areas.
Chamomile tea bags can be used in the same way as green tea. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties, and will help to soothe your dog's itchy skin. As with the green tea, steep some chamomile teabags in a bath of warm water. Remove the teabags, leave the water to cool, then soak your dog.
Aloe vera plants are really easy to grow. They like cool windowsills and are low-maintenance plants that are easy to care for. Extract the aloe gel by cutting off a spike and slicing along the edge. The gel inside can be applied directly to itchy patches of skin. It has a lot of natural healing properties and will draw any heat out of the skin, which is why it is so useful on sunburn for humans.
If you don’t have an aloe plant, fear not. You can buy aloe gel pre-prepared, but do make sure the gel you use is 100 percent natural rather than “contains” aloe. Also make sure that it doesn’t contain any alcohol, as this will cause discomfort and make the problem worse.
Plain yogurt is a useful natural remedy when added to a dog’s food. It can help soothe the itchy symptoms of hives and allergies, and because dogs love the taste, most dogs will lap it up with delight. One teaspoon a week is enough for a small dog; give large dogs two teaspoons.
Honey has long been used as a natural cure for many ailments, including skin problems. Like many ingredients on this list, it is a natural anti-inflammatory, and can be used to treat itching caused by eczema and psoriasis. If you want to try honey as an anti-itching home remedy, look for Manuka honey. This has excellent antibacterial properties and can help heal and protect sore and damaged skin. You can apply honey topically or look for pet shampoos and sprays that contain honey as an active ingredient.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. It will help to reduce the inflammation that is part of the itching process. It’s very beneficial for dogs with diet-related allergies. If added to a dog’s diet regularly, fish oil may prevent itching from occurring and can also improve the condition of your dog’s coat.
Turmeric contains the active ingredient, curcumin, which has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can be added to a dog’s food. You can apply turmeric directly to the skin as a topical paste and it will help to ease the soreness and itching in dogs with chronic skin problems. However, turmeric is not suitable as a home remedy for all dogs, so check with your vet before trying it.
There is no guarantee a DIY anti-itching remedy for dogs will work, but if your dog seems particularly itchy, it is worth a go. Only try home remedies if the itching is mild and the skin isn’t broken. It is also important to look for the underlying cause, as itching doesn’t happen for no reason.
Fleas are the usual culprit and most common underlying cause, so if the weather has turned warm and you have cats, suspect fleas in the first instance. It can be hard to spot fleas in a dog with dark, thick fur, but the presence of flea dirt is a strong sign the dog has fleas. Also, if your cats have fleas and everyone in the house has been bitten, the dog is unlikely to be immune.
Don’t try any DIY home remedies if your dog is itching all over or the itching has caused his fur to fall out. If the dog’s skin is sore, scabby, or bleeding, using home remedies is not advised. It is also inadvisable to try home remedies if your vet has prescribed a topical medication or your dog is being treated for any underlying health problem. Speak to your vet before trying another anti-itching solution.
Don’t let your dog suffer. If they're itching like crazy, chewing the affected area, or there are clear signs of a skin infection, seek professional advice immediately. The vet will want to take skin scrapings to look for mites, bacteria, or yeast. Bear in mind that some pets need treatment for the rest of their lives to keep the itching under control.
Front Of The Pack's Soothe supplement is a targeted itch and gut support that contains post-biotics that have been clinically tested on dogs and shown to support healthy, clear skin, a strong gut, healthy microbiome as well as a healthy immune response. If your dog needs some itch relief, Soothe could be the answer.