Healthy Living
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Vet Advice: Relief for Your Dog's Itchy Skin


Determining which condition your dog is dealing with requires a vet’s evaluation, but implementing some of the suggestions provided in the sidebar can certainly help your pup be more comfortable in her own skin—literally.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 46: Jan/Feb 2008
Robert Silver, DVM, founder of Boulder's Natural Animal: A Holistic Wellness Center, is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist. He received his DVM from Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. bouldersnaturalanimal.com
CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Victoria | October 7 2013 |
Submitted by Penny | October 4 2013 |

I have spent a lot of money in the past on pets with allergies & I can't do that anymore. I researched online about home remedies and then went out to get Epsom salts, olive oil, benadryl capsules and apple cider vinegar. I tested the apple cider vinegar on some areas. I put it in a spray bottle & got a cotton ball - saturated it & I really saturated it and massaged it right into my dogs skin skin. Also I sprayed all four paws and lower legs and hiney. Again very saturated. The first relief he has had has come from Apple Cidar Vinegar $2.80 for a big bottle! It's a no name brand - not toxic and I'll need to reapply it a few times, but he finally stopped scratching non-stop and slept for a couple of hours. This first round of relief has lasted about 4 hours. I don't know if its the cure - but it's looking good!! Later I put him in the tub with room temperature - cool water that was 1/2 water and 1/2 apple cider vinegar with a little bit of olive oil. For 10 minutes I just kept pouring it over his back...everywhere but his face of course. I did use a cotton ball to apply it to his ears with the AC Vinegar. His areas that he had scratched raw are nicely healing. I apply the apple cidar vinegar to his paws in the morning. I only use the Benadryl if its bad at night. Good luck!

Submitted by April | July 19 2013 |

I have a small to medium size dog that we got from a friend. Not sure what breed he is he's maybe 15 lbs long wiry hair that we keep trimmed. We live in the desert , dry, windy, and hot. Anyways he's constantly scratching his face to the point his eye has a cut near the corner. I try to keep it clean, he's an outside dog so that hard but I bring him in to clean it every few days. My question is, is it safe after I clean it to put a triple antibiotic ointment on it so it doesn't get infected??

Submitted by Betty | November 20 2013 |

Your dog's itchiness could be from being outside. For one thing a dog that small needs to be indoors. They are lonely outside. Dogs are social animals. If a dog is bored they will scratch at themselves or dig holes etc. Bring your dog inside and his health will improve.

Submitted by laurie | July 23 2013 |

My mom's dog is a mix breed. This last year her dog has been issues with scratching and itching. It has gotten so bad that she has chewed her self raw. She hasbe3en to the vet n received meds but they hav3 stopped working. They put a shield on n she goes bananas. They have n cont doing the fish oils n even went and changed her food to Blue. Nothing is working the vet cant seem to figure what she is allergic to. My mom is scared to let her out in the yard she is worried that a bug might start laying eggs o her open spots. We are all lost on what to do. Mom fears that her dog is miserable n might have to b put down. Is there anything else to try and do??? An ideas

Submitted by Dorie | August 18 2013 |

I have the same issue wirh my dog. Get an anti itch spray with tea tree oil on Petco. just spray the area whete she itches. It could help your dog relieve the itch and heal the sore.

Submitted by Sonia | June 30 2014 |

Wash his bed often like once a week and dont feed her
Any commercial food and add as much veggies that helps
With the skin and check that everything you feed him is
Msg gluten and dairy free and free of any preservatives or anything like
That and remember sugar has different names and most
Ingredients too so try your best and dont forget essential
Oils on the food

Submitted by Vonda | July 2 2014 |

try a product called "Dinovite
just sprinkle it on the pets food...it works wonders..natural aminos, fats,and vitamins thats cooked out of foods..

Submitted by Anonymous | July 23 2013 |

Can my dogs itching and small sores be bugs or mites that could have gotten on my self and family? Becouse we are all itching and getting sores

Submitted by Kat | July 29 2013 |

After dealing with my own allergies to dust mites, I found my terrier dog got better. I have a clean house but took down drapes, took out carpets, etc. . My allergist said dust mites saliva causes many allergies in people so why not in dogs too.

Submitted by Raven | July 4 2014 |

It sounds as if those are flea bites, which can cause flea dermatitis on both humans and dogs. Try filling a spray bottle halfway with either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar then fill it up the rest of the way with water. Once a day, spray your dog with the solution making sure to wet the skin. Fleas hate vinegar and it should help to relieve some itching.

Submitted by Tracey | July 30 2013 |

My lab has been suffering from dry skin since he was 5mths old and he is now 15mths. I went to the vet and they recommended changing dog food to something with better product which I did. They also said a antihistamine, which I did for awhile every few days no result. He sheds more than I have ever seen for his type plus I can slightly tug and clumps and clumps come out but still tons there. This been after I just brushed him. He scratches almost every few minutes. His skin doesn't have flakes but during the fall, it looks snowy (he has black fur). During the summer its so bad, he is chewing off patches. I have also used oatmeal shampoo once a month. Nothing, vet didn't seem too concerned but I need to make him itch less, I am sure it would allow both of us to sleep and his life easier.

Submitted by Alisha Franczak | June 7 2014 |

my dog also scratches a lot. I'm going to get it checked out I just rescued it I mean adopted it. Did you try any of the things in this article? Did any of them work? Thank you!

Submitted by Linda Trevor | July 12 2014 |

Alisha - I too just adopted a rescue dog. Her skin was beat red and she did nothing but scratch and bite her skin. To the point where she was raw and missing fur. My vet put her immediately on a steroid regiment which worked amazingly but now that she is dwindling the dosage, the scratching and biting is coming back. I am going to try different things- if something works I will let you know!

Submitted by Max Noriega | June 25 2014 |

both of my dogs have all the same symptoms. Took her to the vet. SAid it could be changing food or diet. My dad has been changing foods a lot. oatmeal shampoo didn't help. Vet said you could try adding cooking oil to our food. I'm assuming the dry food, but I'm also going to mix wet food in with the dry. and we have per allergy pills we've been giving them that seem to work for a while. I'm thinking of trying to mix conditioner with/water and see if that helps

Submitted by charlene | July 1 2014 |

I would try rinsing your dog with water instead of conditioner.My dog had the itchies all last summer.I must have dried her skin out with shampoo and flea stuff.Anyway all winter I never shampooed her just rinsed her and everything was great I thought she must have out grown the itchiness.But then I bathed her with people shampoo and conditioner the stuff I use and the itchiness came back.I use Panteen but I think there must be to much perfume or something in the shampoo and conditioner so I am going back to just rinsing her with tepid water.good luck

Submitted by Veronica | July 13 2014 |

Charlene, you should *never* use people shampoo/conditioner on cats or dogs. Why? Because their skin has fewer layers than humans, making them more sensitive. You should only use products made for dogs on dogs.

Submitted by PJ | July 13 2014 |

Oh gosh.. don't ever use a shampoo nor conditioner that has any perfume/scent EVER on your dog! The poor dog has allergies so why exacerbate his/her condition?

I would also remove ALL products from the house that are scented.. Remove ALL air fresheners(they are toxic to humans as well), stop all use of fabric softeners(toxic as well...are natural unscented ones out there.. for example: Seventh Generation's).

Also, stop all use of chemical scented floor cleaners. Use natural plant based dish detergent(unscented) for dishes, floors, etc. You can also use Mule Team Borax for laundry, clothes, etc. Also, switch to a natural unscented laundry detergent.

Throw out all perfumes, scented hair sprays, body lotions, and bar soaps.. can switch to a more natural unscented bar soap.

Your dog will be healthier and so will you.

Submitted by Callie | July 12 2014 |

Check your dog's food. I have had two dogs that I have had to switch to a certain diet because of allergens. Corn, wheat and chicken are all common allergens, and most dog foods have at least one of these ingredients, often more. My pups did the same thing, dry flaky skin and constantly scratching, to the point where they would get sores and their skin would smell even if they'd had a bath the day before. Once we got them on the right food, their skin started clearing up within a week. Also be careful of the treats you give them, as they may have the ingredients you are trying to avoid.

Submitted by Carol | August 13 2013 |

Atopica at half strength for dog's weight works wonders. Also a diet of kangaroo, oatmeal, oil an molasses bought through an allergy vet.

Submitted by Joanna | August 19 2013 |

I adopted an 11 year old dog from a couple who had the dog since he was a puppy. They brought along vet records that were extensive. They also brought all kinds of medication. The results from a previous allergy test were that the dog was allergic to all kinds grass and trees. The problem for me was that this was February and nothing was blooming and there was no grass anywhere yet the dog was suffering. He had no fur on his belly and his skin was tough and blackened.
I decided to do an allergy food testl. Before the results were in, my other dog started itching. It turned out the dog had fleas and was suffering from from flea allergy dermatitis. The food allergy results came in and my little guy was allergic to rice (lamb and rice is often recommended for dogs with allergies), peas, cod, liver, corn and a few more things. We found food with none of the ingredients he was allergic to. We got rid of the fleas and began allergy shots. Eventually we were down to one shot a month and no more itching! All the hair grew back on his underside and the skin returned to the normal color and softness. Happy dog and happy family. Many vets don't go this route. Thankfully our vet who has since retired was no nonsense with no fancy office and not into the easy way out of just prescribing more drugs and never ending office visits. I know giving shots seems scary, but I learned to do it with no problem. My dog got used to it, instinctively knew it was good for him and didn't mind it at all. This was 8 years ago. Today we adopted a stray with major skin problems. Here we go again! If it turns out to be allergies I won't waste time with medication and go straight to allergy shots along with eliminating whatever food to which she may be allergic.

Submitted by monica ong | August 22 2013 |

Beware of allergy shots they can be very dangerous to your dog.
My ratterrier mix developed a serious case of acute pancreatitis and nearly died from it. She got the shots every month for 2 years and they did wonders for her itching but at the same time was destroying her health. I now try to manage her itchys' with diet, bathing, flea control and antihistamines. Nothing seems to work like the shots,but I am scared of them now.

Submitted by donna | December 16 2013 |

i have a 12 year old lab who has been on allergy shots for 10 years and they have done her allergys a world of good and her health is great

Submitted by David | August 29 2013 |

Hello. I have a two year old golden who is tearing herself up from itching. Her father had severe allergies to grasses and trees. We have had her on benadryl and are going to try using mane and tail shampoo. Any comments as to how often to shampoo her? Also, someone posted to use tinactin on spots that have been bitten raw, does anyone else successfully use that?

Submitted by Lucille S | June 5 2014 |

My Gracie & I adopted one another last July, 2013. She had hair missing from the back of her legs, under her chest, belly & her tail was almost hairless. She's on minimum ingredients, grain-free dry dog food - I add fresh chicken breast to morning meal. I bathed her frequently with oatmeal shampoo when I first got her. Later - I would bathe her when she seemed more itchy. One day I used the oatmeal shampoo & added the Main & tail shampoo w/it. Afterward, she was jumping & running all around, seemed she was irritated - it was early evening. I rinsed her again because I thought it must have been reaction to the shampoo. In the morning her skin was a deep red color in spots on her back - not from scratching but I believe from the main & tail shampoo. Had to take her to the Vets & he gave her a prednizone injection. I since have used the oatmeal shampoo only & she hasn't had any reaction. I will not use main & tail on her again. This is the shampoo I'd used on my previous dogs w/o skin allergies & no problem w/them that I ever noticed. Gracie is going through the itching again this June; hair coming out in clumps. I'm looking for a natural remedy.

Submitted by Patti | September 1 2013 |

Daisy is. 7 months old and we live on a very hot and humid area. Her skin is dry so she scratchs a lot. Is there a shampoo or cream I could use to help her! Thanks for your help.

Submitted by rohit | September 4 2013 |

my dog got some skin allergies for a long time tried out lots of medicine can any one help me out with this ...

Submitted by athlete cox | May 20 2014 |

Cortazone shots

Submitted by Judy Crown | May 25 2014 |

Long term use of cortisone is very dangerous to your dog. It eventually causes diabetes and then blindness. Please be careful. It happened to a dog of mine whose vet just wanted to get rid of a dry cough.

Submitted by debbie orr | September 8 2013 |

i have a small cairn terier cross silky his itch is driving him crazy and i can not afford a vet where he itches he gets very hot its like he has dandruff and he could be asleep and all of a sudden he jumps up and starts itching he is so uncomfortable please help

Submitted by Regina Naron | September 20 2013 |

Sytematic yeast.. look it up

Submitted by william | May 19 2014 |

I have a silkey and oatmeal dog shampoo helps as does childrens benydril,try 1 tsp
I have also put extra dry skin moisturizer (body lotion) for fast relief. Hope this

Submitted by Nicolle Guimbarda | September 9 2013 |

Hi! I have my dog here having his irritated skin. He used to scratch, lick and chew his skin due to its severe itchiness. He don't like to drink water as usual consumption of his body and saw him licking on others dog pee. He is always inside our house and regularly taking a bath. But it seems that it doesn't help him to prevent him from scratching. He's skin now is like a point-point small lump around his body. He's not that tardy (that i'm gonna think that he's sick) but he's shedding to much also. What can I do? Is chicken meat and crushed chicken bones bad to dog's health? Thanks

Submitted by Emma | March 29 2014 |

Hey there, NEVER give your dog crushed chicken bones. Chicken bones are really bad for dogs, especially when cooked as they can puncture their insides. Crushed ones are even worse!

Submitted by Mel | April 10 2014 |

As a matter of fact, raw chicken bones are not bad for dogs. When they're raw, they're soft enough to chew; it's when they're cooked that they splinter. Some large long bones may splinter also, but chicken, turkey, and neck bones are fine.

Submitted by dogzzz | April 16 2014 |

Wow. Just no. Chicken bones are an awful thing to feed a dog (no matter what form) and it's moronic to feed them to dogs.

Submitted by Joanna | May 22 2014 |

Our 1.5 year old german shepherd is on a raw diet (no kibble at all) and whole chicken quarters are many of his meals. Raw bones are safe for dogs - they are flexible and canines are designed to eat them. Maybe err on the side of caution with tiny dogs - you don't want them to choke. The point is, please stop spreading misinformation about raw bones, and educate yourself.

Submitted by Alisha Franczak | June 7 2014 |

I just adopted a German Shepherd. The Rescue has put her on some sort of antibiotics twice and they help but the condition comes back. I just ordered her a medical shirt... Until I can figure out what the heck is wrong with her. Did you begin feeding raw because you also were having allergy issues? I think I will switch to raw too (she is currently on limited ingredient kibble) because I've heard it is cheaper than canned food and really good for them, especially allergies. Please reply! I am desperate

Submitted by Mike G | June 28 2014 |

I feed my dog raw. We have a very good meat grinder, When raw chicken is put in the grinder you don't even see the bones. They are ground into the meat. So there is a way to feed your dog chicken bones which is very healthy because of the marrow in the bones.

Submitted by Holly | September 9 2013 |

Is it possible for the topical flea medicines to cause a reaction on the skin? If so how do you recommend treating for fleas? Also, is there any homeopathic regiments to treat the skin and itch?

Submitted by dian blinte | September 18 2013 |

my dog is having a reaction also scraching on the area that i put advantix II on I gave him benadryl but still scraching been 2 days rinsed him with plain water what else can we do

Submitted by Heidi | March 7 2014 |

I know I'm late to this party but my dog had a severe, toxic reaction to a topical flea medicine. Symptoms started (itching all over and rubbing her nose and face) showing about 12 hours after application. I stayed up most of the night with her. By morning she had calmed down but still didn't seem right so I took her to the vet. Good thing because my vet said she would not have survived if I hadn't brought her in when I did. She ended up in the hospital for 5 days and now, almost two years later is still on Denamerin because her liver enzymes are too low. Thankfully Denamerin is one of the more natural medications out there. It is made from milk thistle extract and has no known side effects or long term repercussions. My baby girl has done really well on it.

Submitted by Andrew | May 1 2014 |

If you want a homeopathic version of anything, just mix 1ml of the original with 1L of water, and you have a VERY powerful homeopathic version of the original. To make it even MORE powerful, take 1ml of the new mixture and mix it with 1L of water. The more times you do this, the more powerfully homeopathic it is. That's what the (for instance) 16x on the label means - it has been massively diluted 16 times.

If you think that sounds like a sick joke, and you should, then you don't understand homeopathy.

Submitted by chaz | September 19 2013 |

my staffy has allergies and chews his feet(pretty bad)my vet has said he will have to take steroids for the rest of his life!but I fear they will harm his health,i have heard of a product called dermapaw in America..do the uk have a sililar product?? anybody who can help please do!

Submitted by Tom | September 27 2013 |

For what it is worth, my little pekingese / poodle (peek-a-poo) mix gets the itchies every fall. Nothing else changes in his world or in his (very high quality) dry dog food, just the time of year. Common sense tells me that my skin also becomes itchy at this time of year, why not his? I started adding a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil (not corn oil!) to his food. This helps until the season really kicks in, about now.

Last couple years I took him to the vet who, of course, decided he needed expensive injections of steroids plus steroids by mouth. After reading the horrors of steroids I didn't want to do that to him again. Heck, it didn't help for more than a few days anyway. A lot of what you read online is scary too... One article I read recommended rubbing baking soda and oatmeal into his skin. Really? The dog's skin is dry so we want to use the driest stuff on the planet on him. Stuff that will take motor oil out of a concrete driveway? I think not!

Today, after reading the above article as well as some others I just thought "why not try on him what I use on my own dry skin?" Nothing with chemicals or scents, of course, just pure aloe vera. I buy it at the local pharmacy, but you can get it almost anywhere. I had to mix the gel with water to make it thin enough to get down through his coat, but the relief was immediate and has lasted all day so far. It must taste like crap because he won't lick it, and it is non-toxic even if he did. It is unscented and has no real natural scent to it. And, bonus, it is dirt cheap.

My dog is no longer suffering. I hope you'll try this solution for yours and save him some irritation, and yourself some money.

Good luck!

Submitted by cyn | April 1 2014 |

Thank you for your post! My lil peekapoo, thanks you as well :-)

Submitted by aditi | April 8 2014 |

Yeah...for sure..i will try this..for my cutiee pie minnie..thnx dude..

Submitted by Cindy | May 3 2014 |

Will give this a try. I will stop at the store tomorrow. My poor Oscar is itching so much. he looks at me sometimes, like he is saying, can't you do something mommy

Submitted by Melody | June 27 2014 |

I'll be trying this on my little Pekingese this afternoon! Thanks!

Submitted by Roger | September 30 2013 |

ABout 1 week ago, I decided to try the Wellness brand dry dog food, for my 3 4 legged kids, and i am starting to decide it was a bad idea. Cost wasn't a factor, as it is pricey. More so than the Blu Buffalo I was feeding them for many years. Bear is a 5 year old Shi-Chon Bichon mix and has never displayed any signs of excessive itching or skin problems up to this point. After 1 week on the Wellness brand dog food, the itching has begun to drive us both crazy it seems. He sleeps with me and shakes the bed all night long now. I spend more time scratching him to prevent him from doing damage to himself. I tried benadryl ( 1/2 tablet) and it seemed to quiet down the itch, but only tried it as a last resort. It worked for 1 night of rest, but I am leary of making it a constant remedy for his itching. As of today, I am removing the Wellenss from his diet and going back to Blue Buffalo permanently. Just because it costs more, doesn't mean it's better. Wellness brand claims are deceiving at this point. for instant releif, I use the benadryl insect bite spray and rub it in very good, to treat the skin where he seems to have the itchy spots ( rib area on both sides, lower inner stomach) after reading other posts, I will go back to benadryl tablets at bedtime so he sleeps good at night.

More From The Bark

More in Healthy Living:
Pounds Off Pups
Dog Grooming Tips for Summer
Second Opinion: Barbecue Blues
Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails
Fleas and Ticks
Summer Dogs Checklist
Fight Back Against Environmental Allergies
Hydrotherapy: Dog Walk in Water
Vet School Profile: Colorado State University
Looking for Dr Right