Why does my dog scratch and itch? Does my dog have fleas? Does my dog have a skin problem or allergy? Pruritus is the medical term for dog itching.
People often assume that fleas are the cause of the itching (pruritus). There usually are a number of things that interact with each other to cause the itch. While a dog may be scratching, itching and chewing because fleas are biting at him, he also could be scratching and itching because his skin is irritated and/or dry. Allergens can cause itching in dogs. Most often, itching is from a COMBINATION OF DRY SKIN, FLEAS, ALLERGENS, and IRRITATION. The dog has dry skin, allergens get on the dog, a flea bites, and then the skin gets irritated. Mites can also irritate the skin and cause itching.
OK – So how do I stop my dog from itching, chewing and biting? (I summarize the items here - please read this entire article - the details are further down the screen)
--DON’T BATHE WITH TOO MUCH SHAMPOO – Using harsh shampoo or too much shampoo dries the skin and can cause irritation. Dry skin can increase the itch and irritation flea bites and allergens cause. See section on “bathing your dog for healthy skin” below.
--SOOTH THE ITCHY SPOT -- If the dog is scratching, wash the affected area with EPSOM SALT mixed with warm water. Washing the affected area with OCEAN WATER (THE MIRACLE CURE) works even better. See the section on “Home Remedies for Dogs With Itchy skin” below for more information and other home remedies.
--CONTROL FLEAS and MITES -- See "home remedies for dogs with fleas" section below for more information. Sometimes it is hard to see the fleas on a dog and someone may believe their dog doesn't have a flea problem when in fact it does. Flea dirt (tiny dark specks) can often be seen on the dog even if you can't see the fleas.
--CONTROL ALLERGENS in EVIRONMENT and DIET -- See "dog allergies” section below for more information.
--USE AN E-COLLAR TEMPORARILY -- If the dog is biting a hole in himself, this is a good idea until you get things under control. Getting dog itch under control can take some time and involves many factors - please read this entire article to gain more insight - I have a lot more detailed information further down the page!
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HOME REMEDIES FOR DOGS WITH ITCHY SKIN
-EPSOM SALT OR OCEAN WATER -- If the dog is scratching, wash the affected area with EPSOM SALTS mixed with warm water. Washing the affected area with OCEAN WATER works even better – I discovered this by accident with our wonderful old dog when his hot spot got accidentally soaked in sea water.
Sinatra was an old dog. Old dogs tend to suffer with itchy dry skin more then younger dogs. I had been giving him a bath with too much flea shampoo and he was itching like crazy. He was on a flea medication but was still scratching. I had resorted to putting an E-collar on him to keep him from chewing on himself. Then one day I took him out in our kayak and his bottom, where he had been biting and itching, got soaked in sea water. We went home and lo and behold he didn’t bite at himself. After that, whenever he started to itch, I would take him down to the ocean and give him a sea water bath. Epsom salt mixed with water also seamed to work, but not as well as ocean water. OCEAN WATER – THE MIRACLE CURE FOR ITCHY DOGS! See more discussion about this in epsom salt and ocean water bath tips and comments.
-DON’T BATHE WITH TOO MUCH SOAP OR SHAMPOO – Using harsh shampoo or too much shampoo dries the skin and can cause irritation. When a dog has dry skin, the skin is easily injured and / or irritated because dry skin loses it’s protective oils. Dry skin can increase the itch and irritation flea bites and allergens cause. See section on “bathing your dog for healthy skin” below.
-VINEGAR -- Mix vinegar with water and pour on area where dog is scratching. Some people claim apple vinegar is best and repels fleas. This is particularly effective if the dog was bitten by a flea. Please note that vinegar tends to dry the skin so I recommend that you use epsom salt or ocean water instead of vinegar unless you are certain that the dog has numerous flea bites.
-DOG DIET -- Make sure the dog has a good diet with enough fat (but not too much). Fish oil is an excellent supplement. Feeding a variety of vegetables to your dog helps supply nutrients and antioxidants. You can add olive oil as a supplement to your dog’s food. Food allergies can also cause dog itch.
-COOKING OIL -- See sections below on fleas and bathing for information about cooking oil. You can rub olive oil onto dry patches on your dog’s skin.
-THYME TEA - A tea recipe to treat dry patches on a dog’s skin is as follows: Prepare a cup of Thyme tea. After the Thyme tea cools, pour it into a spray bottle and spray on the dog’s dry patches. (I haven’t used this myself)
-OTHER HOME REMEDIES - Calendula extract applied to dry patches on the dog’s skin. Tea tree oil can also be rubbed on dry spots. Oatmeal added to bath or oatmeal shampoo. (I haven’t used these myself)
-OVER-THE-COUNTER DOG ITCH OINTMENTS, CREAMS, SPRAYS, AND RINSES -- While these may not technically be a home remedy, over the counter dog itch ointments, sprays and rinses can in many cases help relieve dog itching. (Some people claim these work much better than what the vet prescribed and claim to have spent hundreds of dollars on vet bills before discovering these products) Here is our web page with many over-the-counter dog itch ointments, creams, sprays, and rinses
HOME REMEDIES FOR DOGS WITH FLEAS (also home remedies for dogs with mites)
-COOKING OIL -- HOME REMEDY TO KILL FLEAS IN THE BATH: A drop of cooking oil mixed with just a few drops of inexpensive dog shampoo and about 5 cups water will kill fleas (5 cups water for small dog -- increase the amount for bigger dog) See the “bathing your dog for health skin” section below for more information on how to apply this. I have verified that this works! The cooking oil with shampoo combination will also kill mites - microscopic creatures that irritate dogs skin. The cooking oil and shampoo works better then just shampoo because you can use less shampoo and keep from drying out the dog's skin. The cooking oil also helps replenish oil in the dogs skin.
-LEMON SPRAY: Take a half of lemon. Squeeze the juice into a spray bottle and the drop the lemon into the bottle. Fill with water and let it sit overnight. Spray onto the dog. Fleas don’t like the lemon. I have been unable to verify how well this works but my dog sure smells good. (Using too much lemon might tend to irritate a dog's skin so don't go overboard with this)
-DIATOMACEOUS EARTH: Diatomaceous earth is sold at the pet store to kill fleas. You can also let your dog roll in the dirt to get a similar benefit. Don’t let them roll in dirt after the bath because flea eggs could be in the dirt.
-VINEGAR -- Mix vinegar with water and pour on area where dog is scratching. Some people claim apple vinegar is best and repels fleas. This is particularly effective if the dog was bitten by a flea. (Please note that vinegar tends to dry the skin so don't go overboard with this, particularly if your dog is suffering from dry skin)
-GARLIC - Another home remedy to help prevent flea bites is garlic added to the dog’s food. (Don't feed excessive amounts because it can be hard on the dog's digestion)
-ROLL IN THE DIRT: Dogs have already figured out this home remedy. Dust and dirt can actually kill fleas, so rolling in the dirt can help your dog. Don’t let them roll in dirt after the bath because flea eggs could be in the dirt.
-FLEA COMB: A flea comb is a very fine toothed comb that can be used to remove fleas and flea eggs from dogs, cats, and other animals. For more information about flea combs, how to use a flea comb and to purchase a flea comb, please read this page I have created about flea combs.
-REDUCE FLEAS FROM HOME:
Vacuum the carpet and furniture. This sucks up the fleas and eggs. It also sucks up mites.
Shake bedding outside or wash bedding. Shaking will shake off the fleas, flea eggs and mites. Washing is even better.
** NOTE at certain times of year fleas can be more of a problem, it is sometimes beneficial to use a commercial flee product. Personally I prefer to use home remedies unless there is a problem (maybe for a month or two in the spring or summer) Of course if your dog is already on a commercial flea medication then the problem is most likely irritation and you should focus on my sections about itch and bathing your dog in this document. If the dog is on a commercial flea medication, the problem might also be mites because not all commercial flea medications will kill mites.
Dog allergies from the environment or diet is something to consider when trying to relieve dog itching.
Environmental allergens can land on the dog’s skin and cause irritation and itching. Environmental allergens tend to cause more problems for the dog if the dog’s skin is dry. Environmental allergens can combine with other factors like fleas, mites, etc. to make dog itching more of a problem.
Bathing your dog can help remove allergens from your dog’s skin. However, using too much or harsh shampoo can contribute to dry skin and make the itching worse – see section on bathing your dog for more information.
Regularly shaking dogs bedding outside and periodically washing bedding will help reduce allergens that can get on the dog. I put a sheet over our sofa where our dog likes to lounge – this allows me to shake off or easily wash the area where she lounges (it also keeps our sofa clean!). Vacuuming, and other tips I previously mentioned for reducing fleas in the home will also help reduce environmental allergens in the home.
Allergies to foods can cause itching in dogs. You want to make sure your dog is eating a healthy diet. Adding some vegetables and fish oil to the diet can sometimes be beneficial. Here is a web page with more information about dog diet.
Keep reading - I have more information further down the page!
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BATHING YOUR DOG FOR HEALTHY SKIN
--DON’T BATHE WITH TOO MUCH SOAP OR SHAMPOO – Using harsh shampoo or too much shampoo dries the skin and can cause irritation.
A drop of cooking oil mixed with just a few drops of inexpensive dog shampoo and about 5 cups water will kill the fleas and mites (5 cups water for small dog -- increase the amount for bigger dog). Mix the oil, shampoo and water in a container. You can test to see if the mixture will kill bugs by pouring a little over a few ants. IMPORTANT -- Only use a small amount of shampoo so the dogs skin doesn't loose it's natural oils and dry out. The main reason to use the shampoo and oil is to kill the fleas and mites, otherwise you could bathe the dog with only water. You don't need to have lots of suds. Lots of suds means you are using too much shampoo -- Most people use way to much shampoo!
The cooking oil with shampoo combination will also kill mites - microscopic creatures that irritate dogs skin. The cooking oil and shampoo works better then just shampoo because you can use less shampoo and keep from drying out the dog's skin. The cooking oil also helps replenish oil in the dog's skin. If you put too much cooking oil in the mixture, it wont hurt the dog. However if you use too much cooking oil the dog will get dirty faster because dirt will stick to the residual oil.
Pour the mixture over the dog starting with the neck and working down to the tail. You start at the neck so the fleas don't all move up to the dogs head while you are washing. Make sure you slick the dog down and get the mixture in all the dogs cracks and crevices. The cracks and crevices is where the fleas like to hide. Have the dog stand with the mixture on them for a few minutes and continue to slick down the mixture and scrub the dog. It is important to leave the mixture on the dog because it takes a little time for it to kill the fleas.
Rinse off the dog – IMPORTANT – don’t let the dog roll in the dirt or grass after they take a bath and especially while they are still wet. This is because there are often fleas and flea eggs in the grass and fleas love a wet dog. It is OK and even beneficial for them to roll in dirt BEFORE they take a bath.
I prefer to give my dog a bath outside because it makes less mess. I give her a bath about once every week or two with my cooking oil/dog shampoo mixture -- this kills the fleas and can often eliminate the need for a commercial flea product. Oftentimes when it is warm, instead of giving my dog a bath at home, I take her down to the beach and she gets an ocean water bath.
After the bath, I encourage my dog to shake and then take her for a run so she doesn’t get cold:
She is amazing and beautiful to see run...
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Is this a dog trick or a people trick ? -- I'm not quite sure who taught who!Click here to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFqWA7Dk8vk
A Few More Itchy Dog Tips:: Getting dog itch under control can take some time and involves many factors. In fact dog itch and itch related problems is big business for veterinarians. Working to eliminate or reduce dog itch is a balancing act with many elements involved. However, simple home remedies often work better and have less side effects than expensive commercial treatments. Some of the methods I have discussed work very well - I have used them in the past and continue to use some of them on my own dog. I was prompted to write this article so I could share some practical tips with others - I hope I have helped you and your dog!
Other Things To Consider: You should also consider dog diet, dog stress levels, dog boredom, life style, overall health and dog exercise. While I am on the subject of dog exercise - please watch some of our videos and see our exercise routine!
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SOME OF THE ITEMS COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE: DOG ITCHING, BATHING YOUR DOG FOR HEALTHY SKIN, DOG SKIN PROBLEMS,
FLEAS ON DOGS, ITCH AND SCRATCH BITE AND LICK!, ITCHING AND SCRATCHING IN DOGS, ITCHY SKIN DOGS, HOME REMEDIES FOR DOG ITCH, HOME REMEDIES FOR DOGS WITH FLEAS, HOME REMEDIES FOR DOGS WITH MITES, HOME REMEDIES FOR DOGS WITH ITCHY SKIN, THE MIRICLE CURE FOR ITCHY DOGS, HOME REMEDY DOG ITCHING
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