Itchy Dog: Causes and Natural Treatments

Our first reflex when we see a pup scratching incessantly is to assume fleas are the perpetrators. But if there are no signs of these springy, wingless insects, or the trademark black flecks known as “flea dirt,” it can be tricky to pinpoint the cause of the itching.

Before you focus on just alleviating your pup’s itchy skin, you’ll want to have a good idea what’s causing the itch so you can do more than treat the outward symptoms. You’ll want to take a holistic approach to alleviating your dog’s discomfort, meaning you may need to make a few tactful, minor lifestyle changes to prevent irritation from recurring.

The symptoms of rampant itchiness are easy to see: your dog will scratch, lick, and bite. The face, ears, belly, paws, and base of the tail are often hot spots, and you may also see inflammation, redness, scaling, or hair loss. Just to be clear, if you see open sores anywhere, notice a swollen eardrum accompanying ear scratching, or see any signs of severity, you should make an appointment with a trusted, holistic veterinarian.

If not, it’s time to do some investigating and eliminating so your pooch can be well again!

Causes of Itchiness in Dogs

First, let’s take a glance at the most likely causes of your dog’s itchiness, and then we’ll delve into each one in more depth below:

  • Mite infestation/mange
  • Food allergy
  • Environmental dermatitis
  • Flea allergy
  • Contact dermatitis (chemical irritation)
  • Bacterial or fungal infection
  • Climate (dry air)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Boredom or anxiety

When paying a visit to the vet’s office, some pup parents discover their dog’s itchiness is a result of a mite infestation, which is also known as mange. Mites are transparent insects too small to be seen with the naked eye, but they can cause visible skin irritation. It’s important to note that skin mites and mange really aren't all that common in the average pet household and it’s worth reviewing all the possible causes of your dog’s itchiness, before suspecting your dog has a mite infestation.

Aside from parasites, food allergies and sensitivities can also cause skin inflammation and itchiness, as well as frequent ear infections. A food allergy will often come with digestive issues like diarrhea and gassiness as well. So many processed dog foods contain questionable ingredients, and even good quality ingredients can provoke a reaction. Common allergens in food include beef, dairy, chicken, eggs, wheat, corn, sugar, beet pulp, and soy. The best way to determine whether your dog has a food allergy is to implement an elimination diet, which we’ll discuss below.

Environmental dermatitis is another type of dog allergy that is triggered by something in your surrounding environment, like pollen, grass, dust, or mold. If you suspect that your pup has environmental allergies, there are steps that you can take to help your pup internally. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, are a great option to help your dog lower histamine in the body. Neem Bark Powder offers digestive and immune support that is high in antioxidants and help to keep a strong immune system.

Remember that good gut health for your pup is the key to good overall health. Healthy levels of good gut flora ensure bad bacteria in the body is inhibited, further improving immune health and helping the body be better equipped to fight off allergy symptoms.

Your dog doesn’t have to be the host for hundreds or even dozens of fleas to have a reaction to them. Flea allergy dermatitis is when your dog is allergic to flea saliva. A single, errant flea may bite your dog and cause a reaction.

There’s also the possibility that your dog’s immune system is responding negatively to products like harsh soap, astringent cleaners that you use to clean your home, or even plastic in toys and food bowls. Consider administering Wondercide’s DETOX (pure bentonite clay) along with your pup’s meal. The bentonite clay pulls toxins and other impurities from the body, helping to improve your pup’s overall immune health.

Bacterial and fungal infections can also cause skin inflammation and irritation that leads to itching. Bacterial infections like impetigo causes red sores, while common fungal infections like ringworm result in a scaly, crusty rash.

If you live in an arid, dry climate, your dog’s skin may simply be reacting to the lack of moisture, or you may not be providing enough fresh water to keep your dog hydrated and their skin nourished.

There’s a possibility that your dog’s itchy skin is caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid. Your thyroid helps regulate hormones, which help keep the skin healthy. If your dog is also lethargic, inactive, or is losing and gaining weight, a thyroid disorder may be the cause. If you suspect this is the case, it’s time to make a visit to a holistic veterinarian.

Lastly, your dog’s reason for licking or biting may be psychological. Dogs who are bored or anxious may be fixated on a certain patch of skin. In cases like this, and even in some where there is a perceivable medical cause for the licking and scratching, the self-trauma can be worse than the actual origin of the itch.

Natural Remedies for Your Dog’s Itching

While you’ll want to find creams and shampoos that help alleviate the symptoms, treating itching as a surface-level issue probably won’t solve the problem permanently. You’ll want to look at the bigger picture.

First of all, make sure that you keep your home and your dog’s coat clean, and do so with gentle, natural products that are canine-friendly. Frequently administer baths with warm water and a hypoallergenic dog shampoo or a natural moisturizing shampoo bar.If you suspect the presence of mites or fleas, be sure to wash bedding, plush toys, etc. with detergent that’s easy on sensitive skin. Treat any other domestic animals so they don’t pass the infestation back and forth.

Use all-natural cleaning supplies in your home and vacuum frequently. Vacuuming can help clean up insects, and if you choose a HEPA vacuum (high efficiency particulate air filter), it will help keep your home clear of allergens. Buy an indoor air filter and make sure you maintain your HVAC system according to instructions to prevent contaminants from making their way into your home. If you can, replace your carpet with tile, linoleum, or wood flooring, as carpet traps allergens such as dust mites.

Whether or not your dog has food allergies, make sure you feed your best friend a well-rounded, nutritional diet that matches the specific needs at play. If you’re looking to pinpoint an allergy, an elimination diet means you eliminate the high-risk foods mentioned here from your dog’s meals (and treats). You may want to choose a different brand that’s organic and all-natural, or you can make meals for your dog yourself. Try a raw, homemade diet for a few weeks. If symptoms clear up, reintroduce suspected allergens one at a time and see which one causes a negative reaction. Try to switch up your dog’s protein source as consistent exposure to the same meat can lead to the development of a sensitivity. Make sure your pal always has access to fresh, filtered water.

Here are a few other ways to help end your dog’s hard feelings with its own epidermis:

  • While you’re trying to figure out what’s going on, make sure you prevent your dog from causing self-trauma. Excessive head shaking due to ear itching can cause a hematoma, while repeated scratching, licking, and biting can lead to sores that increase susceptibility to secondary infections. Try distracting your pooch with something else to gnaw on, which will also help with anxiety and boredom that may be causing self-harming behaviors in the first place.
  • Use skin tonic spray to help alleviate itching caused by anything from allergies to bug bites. The spray contains a powerful, yet soothing neem oil that supports skin health.
  • If your dog suffers from environmental allergies, stop those paws from itching by wiping them with warm water and gentle soap when your dog comes back in from playtime.
  • You may love to take your dog swimming, but moisture and bacteria in the water can both lead to skin issues. If you’re taking other measures and nothing’s clearing up the redness or rash, try staying away from the swimming hole for a few weeks and see what happens.
  • Allergies, even food allergies, can make dogs more prone to ear infections, especially among floppy-eared breeds. Use a natural ear wash for dogs frequently. Drop the solution into the ear canal and massage the base of the ear before wiping with a soft cotton pad. Make sure the dog’s ear is dry when you’re done and never insert Q-Tips.
  • Avoid harsh soaps, and don’t over-bathe your dog. If you take your dog to groomer, try to find one that only uses natural shampoo products that are gentle on sensitive skin.
  • Mites and fleas are transmitted through contact with other dogs or domestic animals, so be mindful of this if your little buddy tends to socialize with furry pals.
  • If your veterinarian seems quick to assume the itching is due to allergies, mention your concerns about mange. Demodex mites can be seen with a skin scraping, while sarcoptic mites are more easily identified by the red rash they cause.
  • Before you jump to your own conclusions, remember that even small issues can cause your dog to itch, like simple bug bites or a tick. Keep a level head and don’t assume the worst, but be prepared to bring your dog to a holistic vet if symptoms become severe.
  • If your dog has recently taken up paw chewing and licking, check for a foreign object like a thorn or a burr. The same goes for ear itching! There may be something caught in the hair inside the ear.
  • Keep fleas and ticks out of your yard and home with natural flea and tick control kits.
  • Regularly exercise your dog. In addition to keeping your pooch in shape, walking and playing at the park are great ways to distract a dog who just can’t leave that pesky itch alone while it’s trying to heal.
  • Brush your dog gently to evenly distribute natural oils over the skin and coat to avoid dry skin.
  • Don’t use harsh chemical dips for fleas or mites; these may get rid of the insect but they can exacerbate skin irritation and discomfort. Many of them also contain artificial fragrances in addition to pesticides.
  • Apple cider vinegar is a great home remedy for an itchy dog and most skin ailments. Mix it with equal parts water to create a cleansing yet soothing wash.
  • Amp up your flea and tick control in the spring and summer when these little pests are more active.
  • If your dog is allergic to something outdoors, procure a vest, sweater, or booties that can help keep sensitive areas like the belly and paws covered. Who doesn’t want an excuse to buy an adorable little pup sweater?

You may not need exorbitant vet bills or irritating chemical shampoos to free your dog from incessant itchiness. While a holistic approach may seem daunting, it’s actually pretty simple: choose quality products that you know are good for your dog’s overall health rather than using mystery concoctions. Be mindful of your pup’s needs and aware of all the potential itch-inspiring factors. You’re educating yourself about your dog’s itching, which means you’re already halfway there!

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