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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
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Submitted by debbie | October 9 2013 |

I have a 2 yr. old Blue Nose Pit Bull with food and environmental allergies. I finally spent almost $500 for the allergy testing after $1900 in vet bills for chronic ear infections, and skin bumps, rash.

Even after finding out what he is allergic to, he still has outbreaks. I started doing research online and began giving him daily 2 Zyrtecs, Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar in his water, Digestive Enzymes with Pro/Prebiotics and Omega 3 fish oil. So far, so good!

It is a lot better for him than the prescribed steroids and antibiotics.

Submitted by laurie | September 24 2013 |

Old fashion pine tar soap found at most health food stores may help. It not toxic derived from natural ingredients. It costs about 4 dollars for one bar but it is rock hard soap and goes a long way. It may not cure the problem but will help with the itching and promote healing. My family has used it for years on ourselves and pets. Its a icky brown color and smells a little strange but really saves the day when it comes to relief. Only warning is as always do not get it into your eyes. The only soap safe for eyes is Johnson's no tears baby shampoo. I use a very small drop on a wet warm cloth to clean my dogs eyes. I also do the same thing to remove makeup from my eyes. It really works and does not hurt or harm your eyes. Good Luck.

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 Sandy | August 13 2014 |

where can I purchase Dinovite ?

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 Linda | August 6 2014 |

I was fostering a tiny ShihTzu puppy @ he had mites scabies( the bad ones) I was itching like crazywith red tiny bumps..had to gt Rx for puppy & myself...Vet did not identify the mites...

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 charlene | August 15 2014 |

I was a hairdresser and shampoo is shampoo it is all made with sodium laurel sulphite and perfumes and emulsifiers can't see it making allot of difference the science says it is bassically the same thing

Submitted by bibi | August 19 2014 |

No, dog shampoo is for 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 charlene | August 15 2014 |

The same thing happened to me with the panteen shampoo.I am on here again because ever since I shampooed her I can't stop the itchy s I tried water and calomine lotion in a spray bottle but leaves hair feeling funny and didn't stop the itching .Did you find anything that worked.

Submitted by Melanie | August 1 2014 |

Massage pure coconut oil into their skin. I have done it for both of my Bulldogs. No more scratching or raw, flaking skin. It's completely natural, inexpensive and NO DRUGS! And the best part is it's pretty much instant relieve for them.

Submitted by charlene | August 15 2014 |

One time when I was packbacking through central america I noticed I had got some kinda crap bug in my hair and I was in a remote area so I used a can of raid on my hair wrap in a towel and then used coconut oil .It took the itchy s away and I was told that mites and bugs can't live on your hair or scalp with the oil on it.It work from personal experiance

Submitted by bibi | August 19 2014 |

Totally agree with that I use it all the time.

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 Helene Gorman | July 31 2014 |

My Frenchy has been having the same problems. What I've found is that eliminating all grains, and following a diabetic diet helps, along with supplements like probiotics and digestive enzymes, and oils helps. i feed only canned dog food with only one protein product and no other products. I will add soft cooked fresh veggies that are safe for dogs and low in sugar. I will do this one veggie at a time to watch for reactions-have fed some that did not not agree with my dog. Cranberries, blueberries are also good with no sugar added. I stay away from shampoos with oatmeal, it is a grain and really irritates the skin. I use a herbal shampoo that is anti-fungal and has tea-tree oil as a main ingredient. I've also found that apple cider vinegar is helpful as talked about in one of the other posts. the big thing is to stay on top of things--food is very important and baths--can be given every other day and using the apple cider (mixed 1:1 ratio with water) is a very good conditioner. Makes the dog very soft and shiny. The vinegar is also supposed to help with fleas . A friend will wipe her dog down every-time it comes in from outside

Submitted by sheila | July 26 2014 |

Maybe you need to ask a vet about the raw meat. I just read, on a list of things not to give dogs, is ANY raw meat.

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