Black dog scratching

You can make your own anti-itch spray for your dog.

© Shutterstock

Why is my dog itching?

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Is your dog itching a lot? And scratching and licking a particular area? Then you'll need to find out what's causing this.

Itching is a terrible feeling for dogs. There are many causes of itching. Some are more common than others and they differ in prevalence depending on the region of the world. The most common symptoms accompanying itching are scratching and licking the area of discomfort. Treatment for itching depends on being able to ascertain what the underlying cause is. Unfortunately, not all causes of itching are curable and many remain life-long conditions for dogs.

Why is my dog Itching?

Pruritus, as it is known, is an experience of itching in dogs. While it doesn’t usually cause life-threatening consequences, it does still cause an incessant and unpleasant sensation within the skin, which if severe can lead to weight loss, self-trauma and hair loss. Pruritus is simply a symptom and not a specific disease. It can be caused by allergies, parasitic/fungal/bacterial infections, bites or contact with irritants. Discovering the underlying cause is the only way in which it can be treated.

Are there remedies for itching dogs?

The best remedy to stop your dog from itching is to discover the root cause and treat that. This might require a trip to a veterinarian for a check-up. There are anti-itch medications that may be prescribed, such as corticosteroids, immune-suppressors, anti-histamines or medicated shampoos. At home, remedies include oatmeal shampoo to soothe the skin and the addition of omega oils into the diet, as these act as natural anti-inflammatories. Flea preventative treatment can also be applied, just in case parasites are contributing to the problem.

Why is my dog itching after a bath?

If your dog is itching after the bath, it may just be because they are unhappy with the water dripping off his body. Towel them down and allow them to dry before you check them again. If they are still scratching, check their coat to see if you have left any shampoo in – this can cause excessive itching as it irritates the skin after a long contact time. Finally, if you cannot find the cause, rinse them off with cool water alone, as they may have been allergic to the shampoo. This will be soothing and will rinse off any remaining residue on the skin or in the coat.

Why is my dog scratching their belly but doesn't have fleas?

One of the most common places for rashes due to contact irritation or allergies is on the belly. For both of these, you are unlikely to see any fleas. Contact irritation is when your dog has come into contact with something corrosive or irritating, such as floor cleaner when he lies down. Hence this is why the belly is commonly affected. Allergies on the other hand usually affect the belly, the inside of the back legs, the armpits of the front legs, and occasionally the paws and ear linings. You should rinse your dog off with cool water to help soothe the skin and to remove any irritants. Yet if they still continue to be itchy, you should take them to a veterinarian for treatment.

Are there homemade anti-itch sprays for dogs? 

A very simple homemade anti-itch spray involves mixing 50% apple cider vinegar with 50% water. Apple cider vinegar has natural soothing properties to it and, while it won’t treat the underlying cause of the itch, it will bring your dog a sense of comfort. It has also been suggested that green tea can be added to the spray. Some people like to add essential oils to the spray, such as lavender, witch hazel, lemon or rosemary, But you should not apply essential oils to your dog without guidance from a vet. Dogs do not tolerate essential oils as well as humans do. They find them overpowering, and if your dog has a liver condition, it can potentially cause him to go into liver failure, as the oils are absorbed and metabolised.

Are there home remedies for dog skin allergies itching?

There are a few home remedies that will help reduce the itching in your dog’s skin. But unless you know what the underlying cause is, the itching will keep returning. The first home remedy is a simple spray, made up of 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar. You can also substitute some of the water for green tea. This mixture can be sprayed onto the itchy skin daily. Another home remedy is oatmeal shampoo. Oatmeal has natural soothing properties and can be found in many dog shampoos. Finally, omega oil supplements can help improve the quality of the skin barrier and also reduce the inflammation in the skin. This in turn helps reduce itchiness.

Why is my dog always scratching itself but doesn't have fleas?

If your dog is always scratching, but you are confident they don’t have fleas, you should visit your vet, as they may be suffering from allergies or a skin infection. These can all cause considerable discomfort and won’t go away by themselves. A vet will probably ask you how long your dog has been scratching for, where he is scratching and what remedies you have tried, if any. As such, have a think about these questions on the way to the veterinary clinic.

Why is my dog so itchy but has no fleas?

There are many other causes of itching other than fleas. Allergies, bacterial infections, fungal/yeast infections and mite infections (known as mange) can also cause itchiness. These might cause changes in the skin, such as rashes, hair loss, scaling and skin discharge, but not all these are always present. A veterinarian will be able to determine the cause of your dog’s itching, which is important as it is unlikely to go away by itself.  

What can I give my dog for itchy skin?

When your dog has itchy skin, you will probably want to give him something to help relieve their itching. It is important that you do not reach for human medicines without the approval of a vet, as some human medicines are dangerous for dogs. You can rinse your dog off in a cool shower to reduce any allergens contacting his skin, which may exacerbate their itchiness. You can also give them an omega oil supplement, formulated for dogs with itchy skin, as this will contain omega oils, which provide natural anti-inflammatory effects. They also help build up the skin barrier. But you should always discuss treatment with a veterinarian, as your dog may need prescription medications or medicated shampoo to stop the itching.

Can you give a dog Benadryl for itching?

You should not give Benadryl for itching without first talking about it with a veterinarian. Benadryl is not a veterinary-licenced medication and has not been formulated for dogs. Therefore, the safety of it has not been determined for dogs. Also, some dogs will not be able to tolerate certain drugs due to underlying health issues. Therefore, you should take your dog to the veterinarian or phone the veterinary practice prior to giving any medication at home.

Should I give my itching dog Benadryl? 

If your dog is itching, you should not immediately reach for the Benadryl. While it has been suggested to be relatively safe for dogs, it is not a licenced veterinary product and, therefore, its true effects are still unknown. There are alternatives that a veterinarian will be able to provide, which are licenced and known to be safe for dogs.

What can I give my dog for itching and biting?

When your dog is itchy, they will probably bite the area that is uncomfortable. You should not give your dog any medication from home without a discussion with a veterinarian, as many human medications are toxic to dogs or may exacerbate any underlying health issues. To effectively treat itching, the underlying cause must be determined. As such, you should take your dog to the veterinarian to know what to give them to stop the itching and biting.

Will baking soda help my dog stop itching?

Baking soda is a popular home remedy for itchy skin. Anecdotally, it will dry out the skin where a rash is, which helps to relieve it. This can be done by mixing 50% baking powder with 50% water, applying the paste to the itchy area and leaving on for 20 minutes before washing it off.

Having said that, this does not come without risk. If ingested, baking soda is toxic and causes nausea and vomiting. Therefore, it should only be used with caution and your dog should be supervised at all times, while it is on the skin, to avoid licking the area.

Can I sprinkle baking soda on my dog?

Sprinkling baking soda onto your dog is unlikely to be effective to treat itchy skin. Not only will it fall off if applied when dry, but if your dog licks his coat, he may ingest it. This will cause them to feel nauseous and vomit. It can be mixed with water to form a paste and applied to the skin, to help with itching. But this should always be washed off again 20 minutes later, to prevent ingestion.

How does apple cider vinegar help dogs with itchy skin?

Apple cider vinegar is a natural skin soother and has anti-microbial effects, which help reduce the burden if your dog’s itchiness is caused by bacterial or yeast infections. It can be sprayed onto the skin daily, when mixed in a 50/50 ratio with water.

How often can I spray my dog with apple cider vinegar?

You can spray your dog’s skin with apple cider vinegar once daily, when mixed in a 50/50 ratio with water.

More advice on...

What did you think of this advice article?

Thanks for your feedback !

Thanks for your feedback !

Leave a comment
Connect to comment
Want to share this article?