Bathing Tips for Itchy Dog Skin

A dog with itchy skin must be treated carefully when bathing him in order to avoid making the condition worse. Causes such as allergies, shampoo residue, dry skin and canine dermatitis must be addressed in order to alleviate the itching. In the meantime, owners can use bathing as a method to ease the dog's discomfort.

Be Gentle

The bathing process must be done gently in order to avoid making the problem worse. Vigorous scrubbing can irritate already sensitized skin so gentle, massage-type motion is recommended. This not only avoids further irritation, it also stimulates the skin cells. If dry, scaly skin is part of the irritation, a bath glove can be worn to lightly rub the affected areas in order to remove the rough skin. Removal of scaly skin may have to be done in stages to avoid over-stimulating the skin.

Mild Shampoo

Use a mild shampoo when bathing a dog with itchy skin. A shampoo with colloidal oatmeal as its base is highly recommended as it is both mild and soothing to the skin. Colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties so will help calm the skin. Allowing the colloidal oatmeal shampoo to remain on the skin for up to 10 minutes allows the skin to absorb the beneficial elements and helps the skin retain moisture. Avoid human shampoos as they tend to be harsh and can increase the itching. Most importantly, be sure to rinse any shampoo completely from the skin and coat. Shampoo residue can be an irritant to the skin.

Water Temperature

All too frequently, dog owners use water temperatures that are too warm when bathing their dogs. This can only serve to increase the skin irritation and make matters worse. Use cool to lukewarm water to bathe a dog with irritated skin. The coolness helps soothe the inflammation and prevents further tenderness. Be sure not to go too far the other direction either. Cold water may not irritate the skin but it can make the dog opposed to getting into the tub or convince him to get out as fast as he can.

Pat Dry

After bathing, pat the dog dry with a towel, don't rub. Rubbing him dry, as with rubbing during shampooing, simply increases the irritation and the urge to scratch. Blow drying should also be avoided as the heat from the dryer can further dry the skin and increase the irritation. If the dog must be blown dry, use the very lowest or the no-heat setting on the dryer.


In most cases, it is recommended that a dog be bathed no more than once a month in order to avoid over-drying the skin and coat. But, depending upon the cause of the itchiness, a veterinarian may recommend more frequent bathing in order to remove the irritant. In these cases, if dry skin becomes evident, a hypo-allergenic after-shampoo skin and coat conditioner can be used.

A dog's itchy, irritated skin can be brought back to healthy condition by using care when bathing him. Gentle cleansing, mild shampoo, cool water temperatures and patting dry all play a part in getting a dog back to being comfortable in his skin.