It’s not abnormal for your dog to give herself a long, relaxing scratch behind the ears once in a while. But how much itching and scratching is too much?
If your dog’s skin is becoming red, raw and hairless, they’re mostly likely scratching because of an underlying condition. A few possibilities include food allergies, environmental allergies and fleas.
There are several things you can do at home to soothe your itchy dog. If these methods do not help, or if the problem gets worse, consult your vet for an examination.
Soothing the Allergic Dog
Allergies are one of the most common causes of itching, watery eyes, ear infections, dry skin and hair loss in dogs. Your dog might be allergic to an ingredient in her food or something in the environment.
Common food allergies include corn, wheat, soy, chicken, beef and pork. If your dog has been eating the same food for a while, they may have developed an allergy to some of the ingredients. Change to a very different formula – if they eat chicken and corn kibble, try a kibble made with lamb and sweet potato. Always read the ingredients list; some foods use chicken meal as a secondary ingredient, even if the primary protein is, say, fish.
Environmental allergies could include dust, pollen, mold, fabrics or perfume. You might see irritation on the area of your dog’s body that comes in contact with the allergen. Or, their pollen allergy may come and go as the seasons change. If eliminating the environmental allergy isn’t possible, soothing your dog’s itch will be tricky, possibly requiring medication from your vet.
Does Your Dog Have Fleas?
Fleas look like black specks, smaller than a grain of rice, crawling through your dog’s coat. They jump when you try to grab them. If you’re able to squash a flea and look at it up-close, you’ll notice that it’s shaped like a tiny kidney bean with legs.
You can’t always see fleas, especially if your dog has dark fur or a thick double coat. If you’re unsure, dampen your dog from head to toe, and then create a thick lather with flea shampoo. If you don’t have flea shampoo, dish soap is highly effective at killing fleas, but may dry out your dog’s skin. Allow the lather to rest for at least five minutes as the fleas, if present, begin to crawl the surface of your dog’s coat as they die off. Fleas tend to crawl towards the base of the tail, the legs, neck and face, so make sure you lather your entire dog.
Once your dog is bathed, you’ll need to use a topical treatment like Frontline to keep fleas off your dog. You’ll also need to treat your home and garden, especially linens and your dog’s bed with a pet-safe flea repellent.
At-Home Itchy Skin Soothers
Regardless of what is causing your dog’s itch, you need to help them find relief as soon as possible.
- Bathe your dog. If no fleas are present, use a medicated antifungal, antibacterial shampoo. Oatmeal shampoo can make allergy-related itching worse.
- Rinse with an apple cider vinegar dilution. Mix equal parts of organic apple cider vinegar with water. Pour over affected areas after a bath or use as a spray any time your dog itches.
- Condition with coconut oil. Coconut oil moisturizes dry skin. It has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that relieve most skin issues.
- Wrap your dog. It’s safe for your dog to inject coconut oil and apple cider vinegar in small amounts, but licking can worsen skin conditions. Cover your dog in a t-shirt or wrap them in a blanket. You can also give them a chew bone to keep them occupied while the treatment dries.
- Use a cone. If you have one handy, have your dog wear a surgical cone or a cone alternative so they cannot lick and irritate affected skin.
How NOT to Soothe an Itchy Dog
Some online guides say it’s safe to give your dog Benadryl, but you should never do so without guidance from your vet. These guides typically will give you a dose based on your dog’s weight, but there may be other factors that influence how much is safe for your dog to take.
Your veterinarian may prescribe steroids to control inflammation, but this should be a last resort, in case of severe symptoms. Steroids can cause dependency and behavioral issues, and do not treat the underlying condition. Talk to your vet about a more gentle treatment.