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Vet Advice: Relief for Your Dog's Itchy Skin




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
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Submitted by Alta Riggs | January 27 2014 |

I have a 110lb. Rottie,he bites himself and PULLS OUT HIS HAIR...Keeps us up all nite chewing,biting and scratching himself.I finally have to get up and block him from coming back into our room.I know he can't help it, he is probably miserable :( I give him dog bones as a treat and was wondering if this could bring on his itching?? I'm gonna try the Selsun Blue for shampoo,and the apple vinegar and water(1/2 and 1/2) to spray on him,the fish oil or omega vitamins and try to research for a new food for him...Any suggestions would be helpful

Submitted by yodaman7 | February 2 2014 |

I have a pug/sharpei mix. He is 13 yrs old and every year it gets worse. From my experience, his best relief comes from a steroid shot at the Vet. Its abrev. SQ/IM. Vet will only give him 2 per yr tho so I save those for fall and spring when his allergies are worst bc of pollen increase. In winter, its dry skin. I give him an oatmeal bath (aveeno shampoo) 1-2x a month and spray a hot spot spray on him constantly. it has tea tree oil to help sooth the hot spots he has. When he's chewing at his paws its bc of grass usually but he is also allergic to his own yeast so we have a pill for that too (Ketoconazole). In home remedy soothing I've noticed giving him wet food helps a lot with dry skin and I give him the Natural Balance limited ingredient with fish as the main protein. NO CHICKEN! It always makes him have a flare up, that includes treats! He only weighs 32pds, but Vet said I could give him 3 benadryl in morning and at night. Even that doesn't seem to help him though.
If I try anything else it will probably be to get a humidifier and give him fish oil. As for pollen/grass issues- steroids is his only help with that. Even though it could later in life be bad for him, I do know its better that he's happier now and not constantly miserable 9 months out of the year bc he can't stop itching.
Don't forget they are more miserable by itching than you are annoyed by it. Spend the extra money and take your pup to Vet. They are the pro in the end. Hope some of my experience has helped someone!

Submitted by Joyce | February 5 2014 |

We finally figured out why our dog itched so much and that was his allergy to any food that contained chicken in any forms. (also wheat) He used to scratch incessantly, now he barely does. This works. Food recommended is BLUE BUFFALO fish formula. We put a bit of vegetable or beef broth (low sodium, organic) in it and it goes down like magic!

Submitted by Socir | February 20 2014 |

I started feeding my lab/pitt bull mix- boiled chicken w/ his dog food about a month ago. Three weeks ago Eli started scratching endlessly. My gut feeling has been telling me it's the chicken. I will stop immediately. Thanks : )

Submitted by Susan in Colorado | February 11 2014 |

My dog was "dumped" on me by a CL owner. Within a month he had torn up his face from itchiness. After two years of shots and pills with the vet, itching so bad he had sores and was crawling out of his skin, wearing a cone nonstop for a year and a half and ear infections we have 90% relief. Grain free food, fish oil, and scrupulous attention to keeping ears clean. My dog now rarely scratches, has reduced paw licking, occasional minor eye swelling with minor head rubbing, and best of all - no more cone! We have a real dog now.

Submitted by cynde white | February 12 2014 |

What about yogurt or sardines in oil?
Would that help my dog and be safe?
And what type of gold bond powder do you use
Her belly licking and itching is causing
Severe sores especially up to her belly button

Submitted by Paula | February 15 2014 |

I have an elderly Jack Russell. She has two huge wart like itchy spots on her neck. It erupts periodically, scabs over then calms down. I have been using Rescue Remedy cream, diluted essential oils such as lavender and frankincense. She also has two spots that look like bites but is losing hair around it forming a circle. I don't like the vets ideas of antibiotics, steroids and then meds to calm the side effects. Any advice is welcome. Please email me with "Skin Issues In Dogs" in subject line. Thanks

Submitted by Lauren Short | February 25 2014 |

I gave my pit bull/ jack russell mix dog a bath the other night and hes still super itchy but his coat is soft and its a little flaky on the surface but if you look at his skin it doesnt look dry and its not tough. i feed him spots stew lamb formula dry food, he has a very sensitive tummy. what can i do to help relieve his itching, its only recent he started doing it so much. i hate for him to be uncomfortable so any suggestions would help. thank you

Submitted by David B | March 8 2014 |

Hello, I have a silver lab who has had an itchy body his whole life. Ever since we brought him home, he has always been obsessed with water. Every summer, he goes bald because he scratches and scratches until he has no hair. During the winter, he gets a light fluffy coat of hair but does not pull it out. He still scratches but it's not nearly as bad. Early on, he had a bark collar to try to ease off of his barking at strangers/neighbors, this did not help but where the collar was, he has never grown back hair. The skin cells look almost like honeycomb or enlarged compared to other parts. So we have tried different foods, no difference in condition. We have done multiple allergy tests with no allergies found. We have done skin scrapings but no mites and anything living in his skin. We have tried bathing with special shampoo multiple times a week and then using a conditioner, this seems to help a little bit but only for a few hours after. Steroid shots did nothing once so those are off the table. He gets really red and is always hot unless he just came in from outside(live in wisconsin) where he looks like a normal skin tone then. Benadryl does nothing as well.

Any ideas anyone?? PLEASE HELP. Thatcher is now 6 and would love for any relief for him.

Submitted by Patricia | April 3 2014 |

I have Aveeno calamine & pramoxine hcl anti itch cream. Does anyone happen to know if this could be used on my 10lb morkie for itch relief?

Submitted by Linda | April 8 2014 |

Hi, yes, you can use anti-itch cream, hydrocortisone, calamine lotion. Lots of things people use, dogs can use! That's why vets prescribe benedryl, etc or prednisone , stuff like that. Just remember ...topical creams, shampoos, and other external items are only temporary relief for your pet. You need to find the reason for the itching/ irritation. I just discovered dogs COULD have itchy skin because of a low thyroid hormone production. There is a grocery list of things that could be the reason for your itchy pet. Food allergies (like everybody already knows), flea allergies, grass allergy, yeast...which is in most every single commercial dog food, mites (external or under the skin), bacteria build up on plastic food or water dishes, on and on. I have 3 English bulldogs, all itchy! Food changes are first! And changing food/ water dishes to glass or stainless. My middle 3 yr old male is on a raw food diet.(he needed low/no purines due to bladder stones) Unfortunately, I started him on chicken, YEAH, now I know, chicken may be the problem. AND, FYI...raw uncooked chicken bones are fine. How many chicken coops were robbed by coyotes, and they never got bones stuck anywhere! His breakouts on his back got better at first, but then didn't go away like it should have. We started beef today. We'll see how that goes. No grain, just potato, raw eggs /crunched up shell about 2/3 times a week, and blended veggies , fruits and nuts for a treat. His fur is super soft now, was real stiff before. But still has skin eruptions :( The other 2 eat Natures Recipe, no grain, fish based. They may need a little time to adjust to that change. So no more rice, oats, barley and definitely no wheat or corn! Try adding ground flax seed, acidophilus , aloe Vera, and fish oil to your pets diet. I give those plus kelp, vitamin E and D and glucosamine /MSM, for their joints...all human grade supplements. I hope I helped. Oh, and don't bathe them too often, makes for dried out skin and coat.

Submitted by mike | April 14 2014 |

Hi. i saw my dog itching and shedding. it is summer today in our country. does shedding cause itchiness? I bring my dog to the vet and she said that it is due to mange. So my dog was given an injection for mange and it will last for a month. but my tita said that her dog was treated with mange for 6 months and her dog was given also liver treatment because the medicine can cause liver damage. why is it that my dog was not given that kind of treatment? Is my vet following the proper treatment procedure? or she is fooling me?

Submitted by Help me | April 28 2014 |

Help. My chihuahua scratches until she makes her self bleed on her back and her hair falls out. I've treated for fleas etc. Help. Poor thing is going crazy.

Submitted by michealle | May 10 2014 |

We tried Atopica and aside from being very expensive, it made our dog sick. Baking soda baths provide a lot of relief. We found Dermapaw salve on the internet and it relieved the itching completely

Submitted by michealle | May 10 2014 |

I don't mean to post this twice but I don't think it worked the first time. We tried Atopica and it made our dog sick and is very expensive. We do baking soda bath rinses and it helps a lot. We found DermaPaw on the internet and their salve and socks have basically eliminated our dog's problems completely. I also use baby shampoo because the expensive vet shampoos didn't help at all.

Submitted by Tracey Mason | May 15 2014 |

Hi. I have a 4 year old Staffordshire Bull terrier. She is itchy hrr fur in the same place all the time. She has 2 big patches at either side of her body where all her fur is thinned. And it is now startind at the base of her tail. What can I do? Im getting very worried as she will have no fur soon.

Submitted by berenice rios | May 18 2014 |

i have a chiwawa and he has scratched to the point where he no linger has fur around the eyes we took him to the vet and she gave us eye drops but they havnt had an efect on him.

Submitted by Chad Stone | May 23 2014 |

I have a aussie sheppard mix with extreme itching and a dry coat. We live in northern Arizona where it can be extremely dry. We have her on a natural balance diet grain free with high fish oil. This has not been working and she is obviously suffering as we are at night. We have given her Benadryl and it doesn't seem to help either? She is a gorgeous fun loving dog that is suffering? I need suggestion so as the vet gave her a steroid shot that helped a little but I can't keep giving her those expensive shots! Confused and sad for her......

Submitted by Jane | May 25 2014 |

I used to care for a German Shorthaired Pointer with "allergies" so bad that her nose had turned dry and scaly. She had red spots all over her belly. She came with strong medications and a commercial "anti-allergenic" dog food, both of which I threw out immediately. I put her on an elimination diet but eventually she ate everything my dog ate without any repeat of the allergy. This is my treatment:

1. Wash the histamines off the skin, using plain soap ("Sunlight Soap" or "Lux Flakes" in Australia) with no perfumes, additives etc. and definitely not detergents i.e. no shampoos. Soaps denature if they are accidentally left in the coat but shampoos don't and they can irritate the skin.

2. Apply aloe vera, which is soothing and cooling and the dog loved it. She used to sit on her haunches and stick her belly out for me to apply the gel, watching as I did it. Darling one! With each bout, at first I use soap to wash, but afterwards it's not necessary: just use warm water and nothing else.

3. Repeat 1 & 2 every time you see your dog licking the spots, when they itch. Initially this will happen very soon afterwards but the time between attacks of itching extends a lot every time. Eventually you will only need one treatment, but the first time you will need to monitor the situation continuously until there is no more itching. This might take a day or more.

4. Feed fresh natural food: liquidised vegetables and various bones including chicken wings, lamb ribs, leg marrow bones, anything you can get your hands on, and definitely no canned or packaged food of any kind. Add eggs and oils for skin health, and linseed oil if you have it. I use to also gave huge quantities of vitamin C but I don't know whether this is recognised as being effective for dogs.

That's it. She was healthy and so clever and strong for the 10 months I had her, but a couple of months after her owner was able to take her back he was on the phone asking what I had done to get rid of the itching, because it was back with a vengeance and the medications didn't help. He had been very much against my treatment and feeding style while I had her, but changed his attitude when the drugs and "scientific" packaged food just brought back the old problem.

Submitted by Cassandra Lopez | May 29 2014 |


I have a blue noise pit bull, she is about 2yrs old. She is forever scratching herself, on her right side next to her doggy pit. It looks like a light pink rash, she even scratches herself on the grass for her tummy.. please HELP!!!

Submitted by rosiejuno | May 31 2014 |

I have a French bulldog with allergies since she was 1year old. in and out of the vets for a few years. her scratching would cause infections she had red blotches all over that were infected. The vet provided steroids, antibiotics, and special shampoos. I started making my own food found it on YouTube 'Feed your Pet to avoid the Vet' place meat veggies liver gizzards some fish and rice or oatmeal in a crock pot and let it cook on low for about 16 hours, mash it remove big bones. no more infections no more visits to the vet, no more antibiotics. she is almost 4 and still has issues but greatly reduced. periodically I have to give her steroids. now I am trying additional supplements: fish oil and probiotics so we will see.

Submitted by Amy | June 1 2014 |

Hello! My dog Clide has had issues with scratching for several years now. The first vet told us that it was a flea allergy and the next told us that he had staph and a yeast infection on his back (it's always the tail and the very rear of his back that we have issues with). I spent $400 getting medication for him, a new dog food that was called HA (hypoallergenic) that costed a fortune. I find that the only time he doesn't dig himself into a bloody, bald mess is when he's on steroids, but I feel bad doing that to him all the time. He's an older dog. They put him on a thyroid pill and recently I've taken him off of the HA and started giving him moistened Rachel Ray's grain free dog food. I'm at my wits end, he's wearing a cone and in misery. Is there something you all think I can do?? He's my best friend and I'm scared this is going to end up killing him or making him just live in misery.

Submitted by Jason Sroka | June 2 2014 |

During the winter months when the air is more dry I've noticed dry,itchy,flaky skin on my dogs. A good home remedy for this is puting a teaspoon of 100% extea virgin olive oil on there food. The brand doesn't necessarily matter,I use the Great Value brand from Walmart. Be sure to use 100% extra virgin olive oil and not just olive oil.

Submitted by Jonathan | June 11 2014 |

I have a shitzu/Maltese who is 10 months old and she started scratching, licking and biting herself about a month ago and it's freaking me out! She also has a few little red bumps on the inside of her front leg and has shed more frequently. I don't know what to do. I made an appointment to see the vet tomorrow but just wanted some feedback on what the problem is. Thanks!

Submitted by Hetty | June 13 2014 |

Hi just wondering if the apple cider vinegar and water solution would work with just normal vinegar??? or white wine vinegar as this is all we seem to have!

Submitted by Chuck | June 14 2014 |

HELP!! I have a Jack Russell that lives in a cone. We live in Florida and he takes Trifexis for fleas and heart worm. I have tried borax water and peroxide mixture that seemed to help but I am afraid to try it again because his cone has rubbed his skin raw and am afraid it will burn his skin and make it worse on the poor thing. He is on a no grain dog food and I give him Benadryl. I heard Gold Bond powder could work but will it dry is skin more? I just saw where oatmeal might work but there is a chance of a yeast infection. I a going to try the apple cider and water treatment and hope it will help. I wil try almost anything to help my little buddy except steroids I have heard to many horrible stories about those and will not put him thru that. Any suggestions will be helpful

Submitted by erin | June 20 2014 |

I'm a dog groomer and most of us actually use cold air dryers. Also ask your groomer to use a hypoallergenic shampoo with a good conditioner that may soothe the skin. Don't shave your dog down all the way because it leaves him more vulnerable to airborne allergens.

Submitted by misty | June 25 2014 |

So is there anything over the counter we can use for our dog. She itches to the point of rubbing herself raw on the cement. What can we use for relief for her.

Submitted by jill | June 29 2014 |

Hi everyone I have a part border collie and Australian shepherd mix that has lost the hair on his back and stinks really bad. He scratches constantly and feels like he might have fever somtimes. What could this be? The vets in my town are soooo expensive. Please somebody help me get him back to normal .

Submitted by Jacqueline Clark | July 11 2014 |

Two of my three dogs have fleas. We put flea and tick repelant on all three and it worked for one but I think the other two got the wrong dose. I gave them a bath and a week later I put more of the right dose on the other two today. I also gave them both two doses of benedryl a few hours apart. I can't tell if it's helping and I saw where someone was told vinegar and water helps the itching and to keep the fleas off. I can't afford to do much at the moment but I desperately want my itchy babies to have relief. Please help ASAP!!! Is there anything I can do to help them in addition to these things?

Submitted by Tiffany | July 13 2014 |

The apple cidar works i have a 2yr old american bully half bull dog have pit and she has been digging at herself for wks i use aloe vera gel and A&D along w the half apple cidar and half water ive tried olive oil in her food and it made her have diahrea and i also tried puttin a raw egg her food and she had the same effect every remedy works differently on every dog

Submitted by Patti | July 14 2014 |

My small dog has very dry skin, he's a Chihuahua long haired.He has very dry skin. I have changed his food I even gave him Blue Buffalo it seemed to work for a short time. I will try the oils in his food, my question is should I also use a conditioner as well as the medicated shampoo.

Submitted by Daniel | July 15 2014 |

Hi all, read some interesting comments on here about remedies for dogs, my mum has a 14 year old mini yorkshire terrier, who I think does suffer from flea's but he we use frontline for that and he still itches, bites and scratches a lot. I think he does suffer from dry skin as sometimes I can see the flakes in his fur and he has lost some of that on his back. Can anyone recommend some idea's apart from the apple cider vinegar and water or the aloe vera plant gel? thanks

Submitted by Sam white | July 22 2014 |

Hi please can someone help! I have a westie she is now 11, for the past 9 months she has been licking her back paws raw! A visit to vet & injection stops her licking obsessively for bout 4-5 days only. I have tried anithistermines, change of good to wainwrights potatoes & salmon to avoid cereal & grains, no treats or snax. I am now tryin natural yogurt & raw meat diet. She will claw the cone off if left with it on! I hav not done allergy testin coz of the cost. I hav bought stop paw lick from amazon.com. I am now presuming she has a yeast infection?! The vet is not solving but happy to keep taking my money. Has anyone had similar they hav solved? Any more suggestions? Sam white

Submitted by David | July 24 2014 |

I have a Black lab . And he is almost bald, he scratched so much. This happens every summer, but not to this extent. Is there anything I can do to help him. I was told olive oil in his food will help. It hasnt so far.

Submitted by Kelly | July 25 2014 |

Try baking soda in the water, 1/2 to 1 cup. And let your dog lay in it for 10-20 mins. Worked wonders for my shitzu-poodle

Submitted by venetia baldry | July 28 2014 |

Hi there my ridgeback keeps scratching and his skin has gone dark under his legs and groin due to his scratching. I've flead him but he still scratches. I saw on the site about giving your dog antihistamines, is that a special antihistamine for dogs or can it be one humans take.
Many thanks

Submitted by Karen Bierman | July 29 2014 |

I have a 3 year old shepherd lab. He hasbeen on Many different medications and was mis diagnosed with dry skin when he had a skin infection. He had 4 steroid shots in 5 months. I changed vets, treated the skin infection and he appears to be getting better now. I don't bathe him I just rinse him. The only problem is that on the inside of his thighs and groin area gets super hot, not warm, but hot. It is only raw skin and it seems that when new skin starts to grow it just peals off. I have spent thousands of dollars on guesses of what it might be from different vets. Any suggestions? It is not a hot spot and there is no sign of infection and he has no temperature.

Submitted by Donna | August 1 2014 |

I recommend a product called, The Missing Link a supplement you put in your dog's food. Flax Seed, High Omegas, all kinds of excellent ingredients, keep it refrigerated too. A patented Skin & Coat supplement for dogs developed by a Vet. I started our new Lab pup on this, she's 9 mos old, weighs 63 lbs. Came from people who fed her garbage food, her diet is now excellent. Her staph infection around the belly is gone. She's on a regime of Clyndamycin antibiotics and Chlortrimeton antihistamine for 3 weeks due to itching. Her food is a Fresh kibble called NOW for large breed puppies. and she loves it.

Submitted by loretta haase | August 6 2014 |

This article left out many factors, but the main two are YEAST ALLERGY
& more than anything dog food with CORN in it.
No matter what, corn is not good for dogs & so many vets seem to be unaware of yeast issues in dogs.
Corn or anything that turns to sugr, a piece of pizza crust, etc.. can make yeast flare up & cause terrible itching.
If your dog does have yeast issue then whatever you do, don't give oatmeal bath!
The apple cider vinegar route is the best.
And if your dogs ears are itching, a solution of 3 tablespoons apple cider to 3 tablespoons of spring water on a cottonball ^ squeeze the liquid into their ear, rub ear against head & then let the dog shake it out.
You can gently swab after.
AAnd to the person with the dog that "lives outside"
What the heck is with people who insist on having a dog & then leave the poor dog to just live its life alone.
Why it never seems to occur to these idiots that dogs get depressed, I'll never understand. Denial & insensitivity.
And for those who wonder why your dog has too much energy in the house?
Get off your butt and give your dog the only thing it truly longs for everyday;
a REAL walk so that he can "get the news in the neighborhood" by sniffing.
I sadly live in a redneck area where they will keep dogs tied out or locked inside small cages & of course you can't talk to them becuse they will take instant offense to any help due to their inferiority complex & ego.
The dogs suffer and it is devastatingly sad.
So many itching, suffering dogs & their owners dont even know because the dog lives outside...

Submitted by Mama Jett | August 9 2014 |

Finally!!! A page that gives multiple solutions to this problem we've been having with our new pup :) Thank you so much and for the duration of our puppy Teeth's long life we will continue to reference The Bark for any puppy needs :) Getting a goat soon too… maybe you guys should start another pae called The Baaahhhhh incase we have problems with him :) Thank you!

Submitted by Grace | August 11 2014 |

Hey, I have a 4 yr old blue Staffordshire terrier, she has skin problems since she is a couple of months old. Constant scratching, dry skin and always irritated by her ears to the point of bleeding. I have tried everything for her and have spent hundreds on different remedys and different vets. All if them say she has an allergy similar to hay fever which can't be cured with anything but it's awful watching her suffer! Anyone have a similar problem they found a remedy to?

Submitted by tony burn | August 12 2014 |

my dog della seems to be very tickelish,,,shes 11 month old who has just been spaded,,,could this be a allergic reaction or could she just be tickerlish

Submitted by Cynthia | August 13 2014 |

Try a protocol of products called NZYMES. They are on the internet. They have helped my red heeler who is very allergic.

Submitted by Tracy Caudill | August 15 2014 |

I have a siberian husky and she has extremely dry skin. I was wondering if i can put something on her like...... Baby lotion, conditioner??? Can someone please answer this? Thank you for your time.

Submitted by alex pena | August 18 2014 |

My dog recently got groomed, and has been itching all over ever since, its getting to the point where he is bleeding, and has bumps all over. Do you know of any remedies? or maybe what might be wrong with him?

Submitted by Susan | August 20 2014 |

Great article except for the recommendation of flax seed and flax seed oil. Can the author give credible/scientific references for this recommendation? I did not think so. Carnivores (and omnivores and herbivores) did not evolve to eat any sizable amount of flax seed. Converting the short chain omega 3 fatty acids to the long chain omega 3 fatty acids requires enzymes that are not present in the cells of animals who eat high on the food chain. The whole flax seed craze was created by propaganda from the food industry of the US that wants to promote this cash crop. Flax seeds contain primarily omega 6 fatty acids and lots of lignins that are irritating and inflammatory to the GI tract. Please don't give your dog flax seeds or concentrated flax oil. Dr. S. Porter

Submitted by Jade | August 20 2014 |

My dog does have skin allergies but is maintained by keeping his hair short and bathing him with oatmeal shampoo. He has started to bite one are of his thigh so I gave him a bath using the oatmeal and also seeing if he had fleas which he did not. He had just gotten cut by the groomer a week before and if she uses perfume on him it makes if itch all over not in one spot. He is biting to the point where he bleeds. How can I help relieve his itching?

Submitted by Ivonne | August 24 2014 |

I just got a BlueNose PitBull she is 3months and she constantly scratching her side and it looks like a little red rash, seems to me that its obviously irritated, so my question is can I use a little of eczema cream or neosporin to ease her itching since its not too bad..

Submitted by Cassey Phelps | August 26 2014 |

THANK YOU, THANK YOU to The Bark website, this article finally provided me the specific information I needed to find a remedy for our lab's itching, basically suffering from soars on her skin. After our vets recommendations failed to offer any real fix, I utilized the printed article to find a supplement with flax and the probiotics mentioned. The VitaHound supplement's description was a match. Our dog Sandy is now completely healed after adding the supplement into her diet. We also changed her food from the dry prescription food to Instinct from Natures Variety, the raw beef texture provides the right amount of moister to mix the supplements powder in.

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