At-Home Remedies for Dog Itching

Dog itching, also known as pruritis, can be caused by airborne or food allergies as well as insect bites. Once you have identified the cause, dog skin problems can be effectively treated.

Airborne Allergies (Atopy)

Airborne allergies are a common cause of itchy skin and hair loss, particularly around the face, ears, belly and feet. Dogs can be allergic to pollen, grass, trees, dust or other environmental substance. Any breed or breed combination develop allergies, usually between the ages of six months and three years, but some breeds are more prone:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Boxers
  • Dalmatians
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Wirehaired Fox Terriers
  • Shar-Peis
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • West Highland Terriers
  • Lhasa Apsos

Airborne allergies tend to be seasonal. If your dog shows signs of itching, watery eyes and nasal discharge at certain times of the year, allergy testing can be done to identify the offending substance.

Treatment can take three forms:

  • Avoid the substance. Reduce exposure to allergens by thoroughly cleaning all living areas and use air conditioning to reduce infiltration of irritants.
  • Control the symptoms by administering antihistamines or topical anti-itch medications. A cool, colloidal oatmeal bath (with a product such as Aveeno) will sooth irritated skin.
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be needed if your dog is extremely allergic. This solution that will require a long-term commitment to treatment-it may take several months for results.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can cause symptoms similar to airborne allergies, but the symptoms are present year round. Many commercial dog foods contain ingredients that cause allergic reactions.

Common allergens include:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

Your dog may not be allergic to all of these ingredients. Typically, dogs react to only one or two suspected ingredients.

The Elimination Diet

To determine what your dog is allergic to, restrict her food intake. Prescription foods are available from your veterinarian. These formulations are designed for short-term feeding and contain very limited ingredients. Your dog will stay on this food-no treats, substitutions or snacks allowed-for at least twelve weeks. Slowly, foods are reintroduced. When a reaction occurs, the allergen is identified.

The Limited Ingredient Diet

If the elimination diet is not a practical solution for you and your dog, consider a limited ingredient, alternative protein diet. Several brands are now available that are hypoallergenic and formulated for lifetime use. The ingredient lists are very short and they often contain unusual-and less allergenic-protein and carbohydrate sources.

Flea Bite Dermatitis

With the wide choice of insect control products currently available, fleas are no longer the scourge they once were. But for some dogs, a single flea bite can cause intense itching. Flea allergy dermatitis is most common in late summer when flea populations are at their peak.

If flea bites cause a severe reaction in your dog-rash, hair loss and damaged skin-treat your pet, home and outside areas with the appropriate flea control product. Treatment must include all life stages of the flea so be sure to use products that will eliminate adults, larvae and eggs.

Your dog's skin is her largest organ-feed, hydrate and groom your dog to protect her skin and keep her healthy.