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Vet-Approved Home Remedies for Itchy Dog Skin

If your dog is suffering from itchy skin, try some DIY care methods, including Omega Oil, an oatmeal bath, and more vet-approved home remedies.

A beagle puppy sits in a field and scratches himself.

If your dog is suffering from itchy skin, try some DIY care methods, including Omega Oil, an oatmeal bath, and more vet-approved home remedies.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM 

Many dog owners have lost sleep because of the constant thumping legs of their itchy pups. The occasional scratching, licking, or biting can be normal dog behavior. However, excess itching and scratching may be the first clue that your dog’s skin needs veterinary treatment. Excess itchiness is one of the most common reasons pet parents bring their dogs for a veterinary examination.

It may be tempting to try home remedies to relieve your dog’s itchy skin, but home care should never replace taking your dog to the vet. However, once you get to the root of your pup’s skin issues, there are several ways you can support your dog’s skin barrier and help alleviate and potentially prevent them from suffering from itchy skin. 

A beagle puppy sits in a field and scratches himself.

Common Causes of Dog Itching

Itching, or pruritus, is the uncomfortable sensation within the skin that triggers the need for your dog to itch or scratch themselves. Pruritus is a sign, not a diagnosis, indicating an underlying skin problem. Like people, occasional itching can be normal. Still, excess or continued scratching and itching is likely a response to an underlying cause.

Common skin conditions that cause excess itching in dogs include:

  • Ectoparasites — Parasites on your dog’s body, including mites, ticks, and fleas, can cause your dog to itch. Dogs are sensitive to the flea’s saliva when they bite the skin, which can lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation), redness, and irritation at the bite site, similar to mosquito bites in people. 
  • Bacterial and fungal infections – Itching can result as a response to a primary or secondary bacterial or fungal skin infection from various causes, including hot spots, self-trauma, or environmental exposure. 
  • Food allergies or sensitivities – Like people, some dogs may be sensitive to specific ingredients or foods, like chicken. Excess itching and chronic skin and ear infections are commonly associated with food allergies
  • Environmental allergies — Itching is a common sign in dogs with seasonal and environmental allergies. Common allergens include dust, pollen, flowers, plants, detergents, and plastic.  
  • Behavioral disorders – Dogs who suffer from boredom, anxiety, or other behavioral disorders may excessively itch, scratch, or lick the same area on their skin, leading to hair loss, infections, or a condition called a lick granuloma.  

Tip #1: Give Your Dog Veterinary-Approved Parasite Control

Pesky parasites like fleas, mites, and ticks can wreak havoc on your dog’s skin and sometimes lead to painful skin infections. Your dog’s skin is also sensitive to flea saliva. Many pet parents mistakenly think that if they don’t see fleas on their dogs, then parasite control is unnecessary. However, fleas are everywhere and can be brought inside by people, visitors, or other pets. It takes just one flea bite to irritate your dog’s skin, leading to excess itching and skin inflammation. Giving your dog veterinary-prescribed monthly parasite prevention medication will protect your pup and prevent potential infections.   

Tip #2: Feed Your Dog a Complete and Balanced Diet

Like humans, pets require a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and proteins for proper organ function. The skin is the largest bodily organ in your dog’s body, and a lack of appropriate nutrients can affect the health and function of their skin, resulting in excess itching.

It may be tempting to buy your pup the most expensive dog food or cook for them at home, but these diets often lack key nutrients for skin and overall health. Be sure to feed your dog an AAFCO-approved, complete, and balanced diet appropriate for their age and breed. Dogs suffering from skin or food allergies may require a veterinary diet with added nutrients to support their skin. Your veterinarian may recommend a diet trial to determine the source of your pup’s food allergies and the best food to keep them healthy and itch-free.   

Tip #3: Give Your Pup an Oatmeal Bath

Fragrance-free, oatmeal-based dog shampoos can help moisturize and soothe your dog’s irritated skin. Never use human shampoo on your dog, as many contain ingredients that can further irritate your dog’s skin. Oatmeal shampoos have anti-inflammatory properties and moisturizers that can help support your dog’s skin barrier. Contact time is critical with topical solutions and ointments, so let the shampoo sit on your dog’s body for five to ten minutes before thoroughly rinsing.

Bathing two to three times a week during periods of itchiness may help decrease your dog’s discomfort. Dogs with red, inflamed, and potentially infected skin may require an antibacterial prescription shampoo and other veterinary-prescribed medications. Always consult with your veterinarian before bathing your dog with specialized shampoos.   

Tip #4: Try a Veterinary-Approved Skin and Coat Supplement

Allergy-prone, sensitive-skinned dogs may benefit from veterinary-approved supplements that target skin, coat, and immune system support. Supplements should never replace a proper diet, and always consult your DVM before adding or making any changes to your dog’s diet. Supplements to consider include:

  • Fish oil Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can improve skin health and decrease inflammation caused by some skin diseases. This powerhouse supplement can also support joint health and overall organ function. Use a dog-formulated oil, like Native Pet Omega Oil, to ensure it’s safe, and follow the dosing instructions from your veterinarian.
  • Allergy-targeted supplements — A healthy immune system is essential for fighting disease and helping keep allergy symptoms, like itching and sneezing, at bay. Immune-supporting supplements like Native Pet Allergy Chews contain immune-supporting ingredients, including spirulina, bone broth, and probiotics. 
  • Skin and coat supplements — Biotin is a popular supplement used by people to improve hair health, and some research in dogs has reported benefits in fur and skin health. Native Pet Skin and Coat Chews contain multiple skin and immune system-supporting ingredients, including biotin, omega oil, and probiotics, to support overall health and help alleviate itching.  
A dog watches as Native Pet Omega Oil is pumped onto his food.

Tip #5: Use the “Cone of Shame” when Necessary

Itchy dogs are at risk of causing further trauma to their skin, which can lead to painful secondary infections or injuries. The dreaded “cone of shame,” or Elizabethan collar (E-collar), is an essential tool that every pet owner should keep available. Placing a properly fitting E-collar on your pup when they are itching will avoid further injuries to their skin. Keep the e-collar on your itchy dog until you can schedule a veterinary examination. 

Tip #6: Follow Your Veterinarian’s Medication Instructions

It may be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine or allergy medication like Zyrtec to ease your pup’s discomfort. However, always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any prescription or OTC medications. Some OTC human medications contain ingredients that may be toxic to dogs. Additionally, never double up or change the dose of your dog’s prescription allergy medications. For example, some itchy dogs may be prescribed a steroid to decrease skin inflammation; changing or increasing the dose of this medication can lead to dangerous side effects, including liver disease or diabetes. 

Other Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

Some natural remedies and treatments can help alleviate your dog’s itchy skin, but they should never replace veterinary care. Other tips for managing your dog’s itchy skin include:

  • Regularly brush your dog’s coat and check their skin for rashes, redness, itching, or parasites.
  • Avoid excessively bathing or grooming your dog. Bathing can strip your dog’s fur of natural oils required to keep their skin and coat healthy. It can also dry skin, leading to flaking and itching.
  • Avoid using coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, tea bags, or aloe vera gel to treat your dog’s skin, as no scientific evidence supports their benefit. Aloe vera is toxic to dogs when ingested. Additionally, apple cider vinegar baths can lead to dry skin, and the vinegar can be painful and stinging when placed on open wounds
  • Remove any potential allergens from your dog’s environment, including excess dust, perfumes, or scented candles.
  • If your dog prefers a whole-food diet, consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure you are providing balanced nutrition. Balance.it is also an excellent source for home-cooked dog diets.  

Chronic itching and scratching can make your dog miserable and may be the first clue of underlying health issues or allergies. Supporting your dog at home is an essential part of responsible pet ownership, but DIY home remedies should never replace regular veterinary care and treatment.

Always consult your DVM before trying any “natural” or at-home itch relief remedies because some may be harmful or exacerbate your dog’s condition.

For more information and tips on your dog’s health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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