This is article two in a series on itchy dogs. Previously I covered several common reasons why your dog is always itching. Now that we know some possible causes, let’s look more in-depth at the solutions. If you’re curious why your dog won’t stop scratching and looking for remedies, read on!
First, let’s remember that there are many reasons your dog may be itching. Reasons your dog has itchy skin may include:
- Seasonal dryness and/or allergies
- Food and/or environmental allergies or intolerances
- Injury or wound to the skin
- Reaction from bugs, fleas, etc.
Use these tried and true Dog Itching Remedies to help narrow down and treat what exactly is making your dog itch! Knick-knack, paddy whack—give your dog a bath! This go-to home remedy is so easy—so cheap—and usually highly effective! Regularly bathing your dog (with an acceptable shampoo PH balanced for a dog’s skin) will take care of and in many cases completely solve your dog’s itching problems. Oatmeal and baking soda shampoos work well and are great at soothing a dog’s itchy and irritated skin. Next, a good conditioner like Espree’s Luxury Remoisturizing Conditioner will add moisture back into your dog’s skin. You can even come to our self-serve bath station and save yourself the hassle at home. Or view our video: quick tips for washing your dog. Healthy skin means no more itching!
Why might a bath be the answer to your pup’s scratching woes? Let’s take a look: If seasonal dryness is the reason your dog won’t stop itching, hydrating your dog’s skin with a quality dog-shampoo will work wonders. Many people in the US will see this around the time they turn their heat on in their homes in the fall or winter. Just as you might notice dry eyes or skin when the heater kicks on, your pup might too. Tip: If your home is dry in the winter (or summer, I suppose) you can also try a humidifier in the room where your dog sleeps. Keeping her skin hydrated can definitely help prevent her from itching!
Another reason a simple bath is such an effective remedy is that many irritants are introduced when your dog is walking or rolling around in some sort of environmental intolerance (link to what an environmental intolerance is). Here are some common culprits:
- Different types of grass like Bermuda or fescue
- Geese, mouse, rat, or duck poop (and many more)
- Certain trees and leaves Fruits that could be growing in your backyard (or your neighbor’s)
- Other animals (and even their feathers!)
A good wash can help remove any possible irritants – and it’s easy, simple, and fast! We were able to cut back one of our dogs’ (Olive’s) itching by washing her feet each time she came in from outside, and this may help your canine too if he is often chewing on his paws. In fact, Katie and I actually received Olive’s Intolerance results**link to results back today (Jan 29, 2019). What is one of her intolerances? Bermuda grass. What was growing in my backyard? Bermuda grass! How often should you bathe your dog? If your dog has no known skin or coat issues, washing him every four weeks or so is perfectly acceptable. We have Dog People that clean their dog in our store every week, and that’s fine too for some dogs. Many of those customers have furry friends with skin sensitivities or chronic dry skin; Doberman Pinschers are known for their dry skin, for example. These owners use specialty shampoos to keep their dog’s skin hydrated, and for them frequent bathing helps protect their dog from severe or constant itching, especially in the winter months. Can you wash your dog too often? [Link] Yes, you can. However, the type of shampoo you use is actually more important than frequency. Human shampoos and Dawn dishsoap, can really dry out a dog’s skin. In that case, even one bath can be too much.
1. Isolate food and treat intolerances
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the two most common issues we speak to people about in our store are 1) why is my dog a picky eater? (link) and 2) what food will stop the itching? Here’s an interesting fact: we’ve noticed that less than 10% of people telling us their dog has an ‘allergy’ have proof or tests to corroborate their suspicions. Why does this matter? Although our observations are on a local scale, it means the vast majority of pet owners seem to be blindly (and hence frustratingly) selecting foods by reading ingredient panels and, without evidence, selecting foods based on what they think their dog is allergic or sensitive to. Maybe. So how can you narrow down food options and isolate the ingredients that are causing an allergic reaction? Take an intolerance test! Stop guessing! Take the test (link) and in about two weeks you’ll have a better idea of what could be making your dog itch. An intolerance test will help identify which (if any) of over 300 possible irritants your dog may have an intolerance to! A single test covers both food and environmental causes.
2. Try a Limited Ingredient Diet (LID)
Although this option may take considerably more time, it often meets with great success. You can eliminate ingredients in your dog’s food that may be causing her to itch and carefully monitor your dog over an extended period of time. How much time? It’s hard to tell. Intolerances and sensitivities can take weeks or months to work their way out of your dog’s system. This makes finding the actual ‘intolerance’ very difficult. Often we see dog owners switching their dog’s food far too often. Not only do frequent changes make it hard to find out what’s making your dog itch, but it’s also one of the three main ways we unconsciously create a picky eater! (link) If you’d like to learn more about using an LID diet to narrow down what could be causing your dog to itch, check out this article!
3. Change your lifestyle
Another phenomenon we see at Just Dog People is that few people ever consider environmental issues that cause their dog to itch. If your dog could be itch-free by keeping him away from Bermuda grass, would you clear a patch in the yard for him so he could do his business? What about planting a different kind of grass? If you found out your dog was intolerant to the leather couch she spends 8+ hours a day lounging on, would you cover the couch with a blanket? Maybe purchase a new couch? If you discovered your best bud was intolerant to peanut butter and cheese, would you stop using them to administer their prescribed allergy medication? Think about that for a second, friends—this happens more often than you think. Without knowing exactly what your dog is intolerant to, you could be inadvertently hurting your dog as you try to help him. This is a real story, from a real customer, with a real dog!
4. Keep your dog engaged and entertained
A lazy dog has time to waste. And how do some dogs spend their free time? By chewing or gnawing on their feet, legs, tail . . . you name it. This is especially true if your dog has a specific sensitivity that could be avoided by a lifestyle-change and/or frequent bathing. When your dog is cooped up in the house all day with little or nothing to do, they may begin to ‘self-soothe.’ Some dogs take to a specific toy or blanket, while others focus on themselves. These pups nibble and itch their paws, legs, or tail; or they rub up against the wall or furniture. Such habits cause two problems: Hot spots: Just like any other ‘worry spot’, constant chewing and licking can create hot spots on your dog. These hot spots obviously irritate your dog and can cause them to focus on that area even more, which is probably the point when you notice your dog itching. Damp/moist skin: As your dog itches, chews, and licks at a particular spot on his body, over time that damp skin becomes very uncomfortable. The moral of the story is to entertain your dog, give her plenty of exercise, bathe as frequently as reasonable and keep your dog’s skin healthy year-round. These will not only remedy but also proactively prevent your dog from itching.
5. Treat for fleas
Why is your dog itching? Well, have you checked for fleas? This is the first thing many dog people contemplate upon noticing their dog’s frequent scratching. What to check for: Fleas are pretty easy to spot. You’ll either notice them hiding on your pup, or you’ve found one on yourself. YUCK! The best place to look for fleas is on your dog’s rear-end, at the base of his spine where the tail begins and about 4-6 inches up the spine (depending on the size of your dog). Run through the fur in this area a few times with a flea comb; 3-4 brush strokes should be enough. Even if you don’t see fleas on the comb, you’ll probably notice some “flea dirt.” This is flea dander and flea poop! If you find out that fleas are the reason your dog is itching, take the time to thoroughly flea bathe your pup, clean his bedding and toys, and possibly even your own bedding, carpet, etc. Link to proper way to give a flea bath (video??) These are the most common concerns and dog itching remedies we talk about each week at Just Dog People each week. The causes can be numerous, and in no way is this list complete. If you’ve tried all of the above with no positive results, please consult your vet for further options. Sure, many pet-parents want to avoid medications at all costs, but sometimes medical intervention is the only way to seek relief for your dog. Our advice to you is this: arm yourself with knowledge (not suspicions), use reasoning to narrow down possible reasons your dog is itching, and work with your vet and/or specialist to ensure the best life possible for your dog. Until next time— Jason