Think of how miserable it is to have a persistent itch, whether from dry skin, a bug bite, or a rash. It's hard to focus on anything other than the itch, and while scratching might provide momentary relief, it can ultimately make the itch even worse. Your dog feels just as miserable when an itch just won't quit. Luckily, there are several home remedies to relieve your dog's itchy skin.
Not every cause of itchiness requires a prescription medication or treatment. Colloidal oatmeal baths, fish oil, and baking soda are among the items you can use for home remedies. But though you can offer some relief and lessen the urge to scratch, it's important that you eventually treat the underlying cause of a persistent or chronic itch, whether it's an allergy, flea bites, or an autoimmune disorder.
When Should You Call the Vet?
Mild itching every now and then usually isn't a sign of serious health conditions, but if your dog starts to develop other symptoms like frequent or persistent itching or licking, difficulty getting comfortable or restlessness from itching, loss of appetite, or a depressed mood, talk to your vet ASAP.
It's important to treat the underlying cause of your dog's severe, chronic itchiness to avoid the development of open wounds, hot spots, or infections in the skin. Depending on the cause, your vet may prescribe oral medications, medicated shampoos, prescription ointments, or other drugs and/or treatments to relieve the underlying cause of the itch while soothing the inflamed skin.
If your dog's itchiness is occasional or mild, however, there are plenty of totally safe, all-natural ways to treat occasional or mild itching at home. In fact, you probably already have most of the remedies in your pantry. Read on for seven simple remedies that can give your itchy pooch some real relief.
Consult your vet before starting any skincare regimen for your dog, and stop the treatment if your dog's symptoms remain the same or worsen.
Colloidal Oatmeal Baths
This age-old remedy isn't just an old wives' tale—a colloidal oatmeal bath can seriously soothe your dog's itchy skin by reducing inflammation and washing away allergens that get trapped in the fur. Whether you buy premade colloidal oatmeal (it's produced by grinding the oat into a fine powder and boiling it to draw out the colloidal) or grind plain, sugar-free oatmeal into a powder yourself, colloidal oatmeal's anti-inflammatory properties can ease redness, swelling, and itchiness, and cool your dog's hot, uncomfortable skin. What's more, oatmeal is totally non-toxic, so you don't have to worry if your dog gets a lick.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Sure, apple cider vinegar is a tasty ingredient in homemade salad dressings, but did you know it can be used to treat mild yeast infections on skin as well? Simply combine a mixture of 50-percent apple cider vinegar and 50-percent water in a clean spray bottle, and then spray your dog's itchy spots with the solution. If your dog's paws are irritated, you can use the mixture for a nice, relaxing paw soak for up to five minutes. Don't use apple cider vinegar on broken skin, however, as it can cause further irritation. There is not a lot of published research regarding efficacy or safety with the use of vinegar and dogs, and there is the potential for GI upset and enamel damage to teeth if they are fed vinegar, so feeding or adding vinegar to their water is not recommended.
Apple cider vinegar should never be used on raw skin or open wounds—it can be extremely painful for your dog and worsen symptoms.
Fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help improve coat heath and reduce body-wide inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids are typically dosed via capsules or liquids, have minimal side effects (occasional pets may be more prone to gas or soft stool), and have published data supporting benefits for coat health, joint health, heart, kidney, and brain health.
In contrast to fish oil, while there is some anecdotal evidence for coconut oil use in dogs, there are no research studies backing up the claims of itch relief or improved skin health. Plus, coconut oil and other fatty foods may make some dogs prone to GI upset or pancreatitis if they lick it off their skin, or add unneeded extra calories to their diet.
Chamomile and Green Tea Soaks
Chamomile and green teas are well-known for their soothing, anti-inflammatory effects in humans—but they work just as well for dogs, too. If your dog is dealing with hot, itchy patches of skin, try giving it a soothing soak in a chamomile or green tea bath.
Here's how to do it: Fill your bathtub or sink with lukewarm water and let several green-tea bags steep for three to five minutes. Then, remove the tea bags and let your dog soak in the mixture for at least five minutes. If you want to spot treat your dog's skin, steep a tea bag and let it cool completely before applying the tea directly to affected areas.
If you've ever had a sunburn, you know all-natural aloe vera can be a lifesaver. Not only is aloe vera a powerful healing agent, but it can also reduce redness and draw uncomfortable heat away from the skin. You can apply aloe vera gel directly to your dog's affected spots. Most grocery and drugstores sell 100-percent natural aloe vera, or you can harvest it from an aloe vera plant if you have one at home.
Be sure to use an aloe vera gel that doesn't contain alcohol—otherwise, you risk burning your dog's skin and worsening its symptoms.
A pantry staple, baking soda can do much, much more than make your baked goods rise. When combined with water and blended into a thick paste, baking soda can dry out rashes on the skin, alleviate itching, and reduce redness and inflammation. All you have to do is combine 50-percent baking soda with 50-percent water and apply the paste to the itchy areas of your dog's skin. After about 20 minutes, rinse completely. For a more moisturizing blend, add a little bit of high-quality coconut oil to the mixture. And if your dog is experiencing body-wide itchiness, you can also add some baking soda to its bath.
A Balanced Diet
Feeding your dog a balanced diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and healthy carbohydrates can help soothe and heal its skin from the inside out. How? Many dogs are allergic to the ingredients found in standard chicken, beef, or turkey-based dog foods, as well as wheat or gluten ingredients. Swapping in fish-based foods or foods containing sweet potatoes can alleviate the symptoms associated with doggy food allergies. Plus, fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven to reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and promote skin health. Just remember: You should always consult your vet before changing your dog's diet or adding any new supplements.
Why is my dog itching so much?
Dogs are itchy creatures for so many reasons: fleas, allergies, dietary issues, and possible skin infections. And the more your dog scratches, the more it may inflame or irritate its skin, leading to even more itchiness. That's why it is so important to take action and relieve a persistent itch as soon as possible.
What can you give a dog for severe itching?
There are many treatments for your dog, depending on the diagnosis. This is why it's imperative to see your vet. Aside from flea and allergy shampoos, there are medications—antihistamines and steroids, for example—that will get to the root of the problem.
Why is my dog itching and losing hair?
Chronic scratching due to an itch can lead to bald spots, as well as inflamed and irritated skin. Some parasitic infections, as well as other types of skin infections, can also lead to bald spots.
A visit to the vet is in order if your dog is losing its hair, as there are many causes, which range from mild to very serious. The vet will do diagnostic testing to find the cause and treat it accordingly.
Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, et al. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(1):43-48. PMID: 25607907
Gopal J, Anthonydhason V, Muthu M, et al. Authenticating apple cider vinegar's home remedy claims: antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties and cytotoxicity aspect. Nat Prod Res. 2019;33(6):906-910. doi:10.1080/14786419.2017.1413567
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard School of Public Health.
Bhaskaran N, Shukla S, Srivastava JK, Gupta S. Chamomile: an anti-inflammatory agent inhibits inducible nitric oxide synthase expression by blocking RelA/p65 activity. Int J Mol Med. 2010;26(6):935-940. doi:10.3892/ijmm_00000545
Surjushe, Amar et al. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian journal of dermatology vol. 53,4 (2008): 163-6. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.44785
Lachenmeier DW. Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2008;3:26. Published 2008 Nov 13. doi:10.1186/1745-6673-3-26
Baking Soda, The Everyday Miracle. University of Wisconsin.
Mueller, Ralf S et al. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC veterinary research vol. 12 9. 12 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12917-016-0633-8