Got an itchy dog on your hands? If your dog’s skin is dry and itchy, it can drive you both bananas as you watch him drag himself back and forth across your carpet, desperately trying to make it stop. It’s normal for a dog to scratch from time to time, but if he seems overly bothered, here’s what you need to know.
Why is My Dog So Itchy?
If your dog is constantly scratching or licking, he’s probably suffering from itchy skin (also called pruritus). An itchy dog is a reaction to a symptom, not a problem in and of itself. There are a number of reasons a dog might be itchy, so it’s important to figure out what’s really bothering your pup first.
According to Dr. Emily Rothstein of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, the most common causes of dry, itchy skin are flea allergies, environmental allergies (like pollens and house dust) and food allergies. Certain breeds, like Retrievers, Setters, and Terriers, are more affected, but all dogs are potentially prone.
If you have an itchy dog, the first thing to do is rule out a more serious issue. It’s possible that your pup is suffering from a parasite like heartworm, skin disease, a tick infection, or in rare cases, skin cancer. Talk to your vet to discuss if your dog needs an appointment or blood work done. If dry, flaky skin itself is the problem, here are a few things you can do.
Natural Cures for an Itchy Dog
#1 Add Oils and Omega 3’s To Your Dog’s Diet
Coconut oil can improve your pup’s skin and coat quality and reduces allergic reactions. Let your pup lick some straight from the spoon or mix in a small amount into their food twice a day—start with a quarter teaspoon per day for small dogs and puppies and one teaspoon for large dogs, eventually you can work up to about one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.
Dr. Rothstein also says that omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in combating itchy skin: Olive oil is a great way to add them to your pup’s diet (around five to six drops in your pup’s food twice a day until you notice a difference and then reduce it to a few). Other great sources are flax seeds, fish oil, and sunflower oil.
#2 Eliminate Grains, Corn and Wheat From Your Dog’s Diet
Some dogs are allergic to corn, wheat, and other grains, which can cause irritated skin. Dr. Rothstein says the other most common allergens are proteins that dogs are exposed to. (Read: “Is Limited Ingredient Food Right for Your Dog?”) Eliminating these foods can help to treat and relieve reactions that may be causing your pup to have itchy skin. However, it’s important to talk to your vet before eliminating any food completely. Food allergies in dogs are rare, and it’s often not necessary to go completely grain-free, for example.
Many commercial pet foods are loaded with processed and genetically modified ingredients, which can irritate your dog’s skin, as well. A natural, low-processed diet (like Ollie’s) that is free of chemical preservatives and artificial fillers can help fight your pup’s itchy skin from the inside out.
#3 Try Natural Topical Treatments to Help Your Itchy Dog
Oatmeal is a reliable nourishing and moisturizing ingredient—it can also relieve irritations and balance pH levels, giving your dog immediate relief. You can use an oatmeal shampoo or make your own oatmeal rinse by grinding up oats in a blender until it reaches a flour-like consistency. Add the oatmeal mix to your dog’s bath water and mix thoroughly until it turns milky. Soak your pup then rinse them off gently.
Another great topical solution to calm your pup’s irritated skin is to make a baking soda paste that you can apply to the affected area. Just mix together a solution of baking soda and water in equal parts, creating a thick paste. Apply it to your dog’s skin where they are irritated, leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse it off. Dr. Rothstein also reminds us that skin can be kept healthy with regular brushing and bathing. Read: “How Often Should You Give Your Dog a Bath?”
#4 Add Supplements To Your Dog’s Diet
If you've tried all of the above and your pup still has uncontrollable itchy skin, you might want to consider some supplements: Digestive enzymes help in the breakdown and absorption of food in your dog’s gut—and when they're better able to absorb the nutrients and vitamins from their food, it can help prevent allergy symptoms.
Digestive enzymes also help your dog eliminate toxins and waste from their body, resulting in an overall healthy skin and coat. You can find digestive enzymes at your local health and pet foods stores, just make sure to buy vegetarian enzymes that are formulated for animals.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.