Why dogs itch
A little bit of itching is normal for dogs — you’d probably itch a little bit too, if you only bathed every so often! But itching can sometimes be a symptom of something larger, especially if it’s focused on one area.
Dog skin allergies, infections, wounds, dryness, parasites (like fleas), and anxiety are a few common culprits of canine itching. Repeated scratching at an area can break the skin, which can then become painful and infected. For this reason, it’s important to address habitual itching, whatever the cause.
How home remedies can help
Before turning to antibiotics or other medication, pet owners often want to try out some natural remedies. Whether you’re hoping to save some money or avoid medication, there are several at-home treatments known to alleviate a case of the itchies.
🚨In many cases, an anti-itch spray is enough to soothe itchy skin. But sometimes, like in the case of a skin infection, the underlying cause of the itching needs to be addressed, separately.
When you should be concerned about your dog’s itchy skin
Nearly all dogs go through itchy phases. It’s usually a quick fix, but prolonged skin irritation or itching that is so intense that it breaks the skin is cause for concern. If your dog seems perpetually itchy or scratches their skin so hard that it bleeds, you need to take your dog in for a veterinary wellness exam. Broken skin is a breeding ground for infection, which can be serious.
Also, keep an eye out for other changes, like loss of appetite, restlessness, or depressed mood. If your dog’s itching doesn’t improve or if it’s accompanied by a change in behavior, it’s a good idea to have a veterinarian do an exam.
How to make a homemade anti-itch spray for dogs
If your pooch is going through an itchy spell, there are several tried-and-true DIY solutions you can try. We’ve broken it down by what each itch relief remedy is best for to help you decide which one to try.
🚨 Always consult a veterinarian before trying a natural remedy you read about.
Best overall: Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is hailed as a superfood, but did you know that it also has antifungal and antibacterial properties when applied topically? That’s why it’s great for soothing especially dry skin and mild poison ivy exposure. It’s even a natural flea repellent! Whether you want to get rid of fleas or soothe itchy skin on your fur baby, ACV has you covered.
Homemade apple cider vinegar spray recipe
First, create a mixture of ACV and water using a 1:1 ratio. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and mist over affected areas daily.
🚨 Never use apple cider vinegar on open wounds, hot spots, or raw skin. This will be very painful for your pup and possibly even worsen symptoms.
Some suggest that essential oils, like lavender oil, also have antibacterial, antifungal properties. However, there’s not a lot of evidence to back this up, and many essential oils are toxic to dogs. If you’re looking for an antifungal, antibacterial solution, apple cider vinegar is probably the most effective and safest approach.
Most gentle: Colloidal oatmeal bath
A colloidal oatmeal bath isn’t just a human treatment for eczema. It can also help draw out allergens and irritants from your dog’s coat. The anti-inflammatory properties can soothe inflamed, hot skin in the gentlest way.
You can buy pre-made colloidal oatmeal, or you can simply grind unflavored, unsweetened oats into a powder yourself using a blender or food processor. Then add a generous amount to warm bathwater. Yep, it’s that easy! Have your dog soak in the bath for 10-15 minutes to make sure the oats have time to do their job and alleviate that itchy feeling.
Make sure that the water reaches every crevice, including the paws and area between your dog’s nails. If your dog likes to sneak a gulp of bathwater, you don’t have to worry about them getting sick — oats are not toxic to dogs.
If getting your pup to sit still for 10-15 minutes sounds like a challenge, bring some dog treats to occupy the time. While a bath is probably the best method, it may not always be the easiest or quickest method. You can also create a paste for spot treatments. Mix the ground oats and warm water together to create a paste, then apply as needed.
Best for dry skin problems: Coconut oil
Coconut oil has been linked to a number of health benefits in humans, but it can actually help our canine friends, too. If your dog has very dry skin from weather exposure, allergies, eczema, or another cause, coconut oil can provide soothing moisture. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which can help ward off hot spots and infections. Coconut oil can also give your dog relief from itchy, mild insect bites.
Application is as easy as massaging the oil into the affected areas on your dog’s skin or coat. It’s okay if your dog ingests a small amount, but you can use an e-collar (cone) to prevent excessive licking.
🚨 If your dog has developed a hot spot or infection due to itching, coconut oil may help. However, it may be better to let the area dry out instead of creating more moisture.
Best for cooling hot patches: Peppermint, chamomile, and green tea
Chamomile, peppermint, and green tea are known to have cooling, soothing properties. If your dog is beginning to itch an area raw, this method can help cool the skin.
The most effective way to apply the tea is basically brewing a giant cup of tea! Fill your tub with warm water and several bags of herbal tea — you can mix and match the three. Remove the bags before you bathe your dog. Allow your pup to soak for 10-15 minutes before patting them dry.
You can also steep a cup or two of tea as you normally would, then mist it over their coat using a spray bottle.
Runner up: Aloe vera
In the same way that aloe vera can heal human sunburns, it can also draw out redness and heat from irritated dog skin. If you do go this route, make sure to find 100 percent natural aloe vera without alcohol. If it contains alcohol, it will burn any open wounds or rashy areas, potentially worsening the problem.
Best for digestive health: yogurt
If you suspect the cause of your dog’s itching to be internal, rather than due to an irritant, yogurt may help. For dogs with certain types of hives or rashes, yogurt can improve digestive health. It also may help prevent yeast infections.
According to AKC, one teaspoon of plain, sugar-free yogurt per week for small dogs may do the trick. For large dogs, use two teaspoons per week.
Best for drying out moist rashes: Baking soda
Chances are, you probably have some baking soda lying around. A household jack-of-all-trades, this substance can actually help relieve your doggie’s itchy skin, too. If your dog has developed a mild rash that’s beginning to moisten, baking soda can help dry it out and reduce the chances of infection.
To apply, you’re going to create a paste using a 1:1 ratio of baking soda to water. Then, gently apply the mixture to the skin, making sure not to rub too hard since the mixture will be slightly gritty.
🚨 If the rash is already infected or oozing, you should take your dog to the veterinarian for an exam.
Other ways to help relieve your dog’s itchiness
If you don’t see quick improvement with a DIY method, talk to your veterinarian. They can help you create a personalized treatment plan, which may involve giving your dog Benadryl, antibiotics, or other medication. Some other methods of treatment they might recommend are:
If your vet is able to rule out external irritants, they may conclude that the itching is due to a dog food allergy. They will probably recommend a food elimination trial, which aims to discover which food in your dog’s diet is giving them trouble.
Vitamin and supplements
When there’s a gap in your dog’s nutrition, they may experience coat problems, including itching. Vitamins and supplements are becoming a regular part of pet care because they can help with some natural deficiencies and boost your pup’s immune system. The pet supplement industry is not well-regulated, so do your research before purchasing a product. Here are two of our vet-approved dog vitamin recommendations:
- Natural Dog Company Multivitamin Supplement — A high-quality multivitamin.
- Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength (DS) Plus MSM Chewable Tablets — Omega 3 helps reduce itchy skin.
If your dog experiences chronic dry skin and itchiness as a result, you might try a moisturizing shampoo. Read our guide to the best dog shampoos, or check out our top recommendations below.
- Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo — best for itchy, dry skin.
- Natural Dog Company Silky Soft Shampoo Bar — soothes rough or chapped skin.
A trusty dog balm is essential, especially for those that live in harsh climates. They can prevent excess dryness, which can cause itching. They’re also effective at healing and preventing hot spots. Read our guide to the best dog paw balms, or check out a few of our favorites below.