OK your dog is itching like crazy. We get this all the time. Here’s 10 great tips for an itchy dog for you to consider before a trip to the vets for the powerful, synthetic, expensive, not harm-free but lets face it very effective, drugs.
1. Check for Parasites (Fleas etc)
Most people reading this are past this point but, just to reiterate, fleas, mites, sand flies etc. are really itchy. We strongly recommend a good dust bath such as D.E. Flea Naturally. It’s great stuff. It kills all sorts of parasites (fleas, mites, ticks, even worms when used internally). It is an entirely natural product made up of the crushed remains of marine organisms. It’s almost like talc. It works mechanically, puncturing the bug and then dehydrating it. It contains no chemicals, so it is safe for you and your pet. We really do not like chemical flea and worm control, so we consider this to be an excellent alternative.
2. Remove the Cause of the Itch (or Inflammation)
As with recurring skin and gut conditions, arthritis and any other condition caused by inflammation, the number one thing that needs to be done before putting stuff in is what needs to be taken out. Everyone wants the quick fix, “what can I put in to stop this happening”, but that’s just treating the symptoms without paying attention to the causes.
For example, consider someone with a pollen allergy. If pollen is blown in their face every day, then they will continue to have itchy eyes and they will need to have steroids daily and to get the immune system to quit complaining.
With itchiness, including nibbling at the toes, scratching with the paw, tearing the skin away at some points, the number one cause is food sensitivity in dogs and the number one offending food is wheat (this will cause the dog to nibble at their feet or to have sore, waxy ears, or both).
Thus you need to ensure to remove the following from their diet::
- Wheat: Most dry food, dental sticks, many dog treats, bread, pasta.
- Dairy: Except for goat dairy
- Carbohydrates: From cereals, potatoes, rice
- Sugar: This means all fruit and any white foods (rice, potatoes)
- Cooked meat: Most importantly chicken and beef.
- Unnecessary chemicals: flea and worm control, annual boosters
Essentially this means cut out dry food and the majority of pet store treats. Consider a nutritional rule for children with itchy sore skin, “if you can’t pronounce it don’t feed it”, which rules out almost every single manufactured product.
3. Feed a Fresh, Plain, Hypoallergenic Dog Food to an Itchy dog then run an Exclusion Diet
The dogs diet needs to be changed to a fresh, easy to digest, hypo-allergenic (this means food that won’t cause inflammation in the dog) diet. For more on feeding a hypoallergenic diet please see our articles on hypoallergenic dog diets. The best hypoallergenic diets I can find are either the fresh turkey or duck meat mixes from carnivorekellys.ie. To these I would add a cod liver oil tablet per 20kg of dog per day and nothing else. If the duck doesn’t work in a week, try the turkey. If the turkey doesn’t work then might try tuna or salmon and brown rice. Find one diet that works and build the safe list from there.
Most importantly, keep it simple. Don’t mix meat proteins. Something is causing the itchiness and necessary to establish what that is. Learn how to conduct an exclusion diet in dogs to show what might be the cause of the itchiness, food-wise.
4. Add Anti-Inflammatory Additions To Their Food
An excellent anti-inflammatory addition is cod liver oil (much better than fish oil) as it is great for cooling itchy skin. Dose according to body size.
Another is Calendula which is possibly the strongest natural anti-inflammatory out there and very easy to make at home.
5. Great Home Made Spray for That Itchy Dog
Find out how to make a fantastic anti-itch spray made from apple cider vinegar and green tea. It’s easy to make, keeps in the fridge and really works. No need for expensive shop sprays. You can even turn this brilliant home made anti-itch spray into a shampoo by mixing it with some pure, organic castille liquid soap (available in all healthy stores). Mix in the ratio 1 for 1!
The dog may have some form of pollen allergy and human anti-histamines could take the edge off of it. Zirtec or Piriton works great in dogs and is much cheaper. Remember to dose according to body size.
7. Seasonal Itchiness: Wipe their Faces and Bathe Feet After Contact (aka The Finnegan Wipe)
While the majority of itchiness in dogs is a result of food sensitivity (we know this from the multiple cases we have encountered that have been taken care of by simply cutting out dry food and feeding the dog fresh food) many sensitive dogs can show seasonal allergies to pollen. This always starts around May and continues through to September depending on the dog, the garden and the type of walks.
Bathing the dog after every walk is preferable but can be very time consuming and not always possible. Thankfully, many dog owners have reported success in reducing problems from contact allergens, by wiping nosey faces down after a walk with a wet towel (maybe put some of the anti-itch spray on it) and bathing the feet (add anti-itch spray to this).
8. Has Your Dog Got a Yeast Infection?!
Dogs suffer yeast blooms just like humans. Yeast infections often pop up in warm and moist areas such ear flaps, between well-licked toes or vaginal areas. You’ll know it’s yeast by the smell which is a horrible, rank cheesy smell. Lovely!
The general route to these yeast infections is when your vet, on noticing a flaming skin condition in your dog, will treat the symptoms with steroids and antibiotics. The steroids tell the immune system to quit complaining, the symptoms of the immune action (itch, rash, pain, inflammation, all stuff that was actually trying to sort the issue out) will evaporate and the drugs hailed a success. By never actually treating the cause you and your dog become a hooked on this steroid therapy. Moreover the immune system is paralysed, it can no longer do it’s job of regulating and balancing flora levels, so yeast is free to bloom where it likes. The antibiotics then kill all the good bacteria about the place, further exasperating the issue. Double whammy.
Yeast needs sugar to grow. Carnivores don’t eat carbs and yet dry food is 50% carbs (sugar). Thus step 1 in treating a yeast infection in your dog is to remove dry food, cereal based pet store treats and junk food as a whole. Remove all fruit and sweet veg likes carrots and potatoes. Keep it fresh meat and a little veg for awhile.
You can help redress the pH balance of your dog’s skin (which is chiefly to blame for the issue) by giving your dog Grapefruit Seed Extract (1-2 pills a day depending on severity). GSE is expensive but better than steroids! It is also the bitterest taste on the planet so do your best to avoid the dog chewing it. Offer him one piece of meat with the pill in it and another straight away afterwards so he swallows quickly! A capful of apple cider vinegar in food (not water) works also but it too is very bitter and may put them off their grub.
To clean yeast0affected ears or paws make up a cup of 50% olive oil and 50% apple cider vinegar. Vinegar kills yeast by sucking water out of it. Heat your mixture gently. Use cotton swabs. Wipe the affected ear and throw away. Do not use twice or in different areas as you could be spreading the issue.
9. Bathe them in Oats or Use an Oat Poultice
An oldie, but goodie, is an oatmeal bath. Oats contain skin soothing elements that have been used the world over for their skin salving properties and the science is strongly behind their anti-itchy qualities. Use on it’s own or make a thick stodgy poultice and place it on the affected area for as long as they don’t lick it off. Rinse off lightly when done. Oats are good but there are other products you can use in the bath…
10. Other Products
If all of the above has been exhausted, and the home-made spray doesn’t work, then it is time to think about other products. One we recommend is “Soa+ Itch Be Gone“. It is an all-natural soap bar, originally made for horses but now available for dogs. In times of need bathe the dog and scrub them down with the bar before washing it off. The reports are really good.
There is loads of “anti-itch” cures out there, many of them completely ineffective, though many seem to have beneficial effects. With any product it is a good idea to check out the customer reviews, make sure they are on other selling platforms though.