Did you know that almost a quarter of all vet visits are due to skin problems like itching and allergies? It’s the number one reason for a trip to the veterinarian. Dogs can suffer all sorts of skin-related problems, and itchiness and discomfort are just the beginning. Wounds that won’t heal, such as hot spots or lick granulomas; chronic yeast or bacterial infections; and even hair loss can result from itchiness and allergies.
Listening to your dog scratching all night long or watching their misery during the day can be frustrating to you as a pet parent. You want your dog to have the best life possible, and a life spent scratching, licking, or biting itchy skin was nowhere in your plans for a long, happy life for your dog. Luckily, there are a lot of natural remedies available on the market to help relieve your dog’s suffering. Here’s our guide to natural remedies for itchy dogs and dogs with allergic skin reactions.
Determining The Problem
Natural Remedies For Rashes & Scratches
Determining The Problem
Time for a trip to the vet
It can be very difficult to pinpoint what’s causing your dog’s itchiness, and you will probably need to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The vet will also help you formulate a thorough treatment plan for the actual cause of the itching rather than just healing your dog’s skin after they’ve been scratching it.
There is one cause of itching that you can check for yourself, however.
Parasites such as fleas, lice, and mites are one of the most common causes of itching in dogs. Luckily, with a thorough look at your dog, you can usually spot them, and getting rid of the parasites should stop your dog’s itchiness.
Fleas like to congregate around a dog’s ears and the base of the tail, although they can be found anywhere on a dog. They will typically be directly on the skin of the dog, so you’ll need to look underneath the hair to look for them. A better way to detect the presence of fleas is often to look for “flea dirt.” If you see black specks that look like pepper flakes, put a few onto a damp paper towel. “Flea dirt” is actually the excrement from fleas. Since they drink your dog’s blood, that’s also what they poop. Flea dirt will appear to bleed when it gets wet.
Lice are a very small brown or black parasite that tends to cling to your dog’s hair instead of the skin. They may resemble dirt, but they won’t rinse off easily the way you would expect dirt to do.
There are many shampoos, sprays, and other topical products that will kill fleas and lice. Please note that not all flea products will also work on lice – you need to read the packaging. Once the initial fleas or lice are killed, you will need to put your dog on a monthly preventative to avoid reinfestation. Once the fleas or lice have been eliminated, your dog’s itching should go away.
Mites are another insect that can plague dogs, but you are more likely to see the results of an abundance of mites rather than the microscopic pests themselves. There are two different types of mange, a skin problem caused by excessive mite populations on a dog’s skin that can lead to scabs and hair loss. Your vet may need to do a skin scraping to determine whether your dog is dealing with an infestation of mites and what kind of mites before coming up with an appropriate treatment plan.
Assess the severity of the problem
Your vet will want to know just how often and how badly your dog is scratching himself. Is it only a few times a day? Or is he scratching, chewing, and biting himself to the point where he is bleeding or has sores or hair loss? The more clues you can give your veterinarian, the easier it will be for them to determine what might be causing your dog’s itchiness.
It’s important to realize that scratching and itching are not problems – they are symptoms of problems. If you don’t find out which problem is causing the symptoms, your poor dog will likely never know anything more than just temporary relief from his itching.
Food allergies are becoming a bigger and bigger problem in our pets. In fact, 10% of all allergy cases in dogs are food allergies. But what is a food allergy? According to Modern Dog Magazine:
“Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy.”
Some of the most common food allergens for dogs include:
Most dogs that suffer from food allergies are allergic to more than one thing, which can make diagnosing food allergies extremely difficult.
Symptoms of food allergies include:
- Repeated ear infections
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Chronic diarrhea or gas
- Constant foot licking
- An itchy butt
- Dry, itchy skin
- Excessive scratching or licking
- Bald spots
- Hot spots
If your vet suspects that your dog has a food allergy, they will likely recommend that you try a hypoallergenic or food elimination diet. Either of these methods will help you to determine what ingredients your dog is allergic to. It is crucial that you listen to your vet’s directions to the letter, and don’t forget about treats! You may need to give hypoallergenic or single-ingredient treats like our All-Natural Free-Range & Grass-Fed Bully Sticks until you have pinpointed exactly what ingredients your dog is allergic to.
While commercial dog food diets claim to include all the nutrients your dog needs to be healthy, the truth is that many are sadly lacking. Your dog may be deficient in any number of vitamins or other nutrients.
One nutrient that dog food is notoriously short on is omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are both essential fatty acids that work together to control inflammation. The trick is that they work best in a ratio of 3 to 5 parts of omega-6 for each 1 part of omega-3. The problem is that most commercial dog foods contain entirely too much omega-6 and not anywhere near enough omega-3. This can cause a wide variety of health problems, including allergies, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and cancer.
Adding an omega-3 supplement can help balance out the omega-6 your dog receives in his food and help improve your dog’s immune system and reduce the allergy symptoms that are causing his itching and misery.
There are also a wide variety of vitamins that your dog could be lacking, including Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. Isolating which vitamin your dog may be lacking and trying to supplement with enough – but not too much – can be tricky. Many people choose to err on the safe side by giving their dog a nutritional boost powder like our Happy, Healthy ™ Food Toppers.
Hypoallergenic commercial pet foods
- Nutritionally complete
- Not natural
- Nutrients get lost during processing
- Contains artificial colors and preservatives
- Contains unnecessary fillers
Raw food diet
- Biologically appropriate
- Full of moisture
- Everything a dog’s body needs and nothing it doesn’t
- According to Dr. Karen Becker:
“Animals need unadulterated, fresh, whole foods that are moisture-dense. Animals don’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, chemicals, byproducts, or processed foods.”
- It can be difficult to get started or make the switch.
- Can be messy
- May be difficult to make sure your dog is getting exactly the right amount of nutrients
Many people are concerned that raw meat can make their pet, themselves, or their family sick. The truth is that raw meat, when handled appropriately, is at least as safe as commercial dog food – which seems to announce a new recall every few weeks.
Most pathogens will be killed during the process of freezing meat. Varying types of meat should be frozen for anywhere from at least 24 hours for most types of meat to at least 3 weeks for any pork products. The freezing process should be enough to kill any pathogens and prevent your pet from getting sick.
Proper cleaning, hand-washing, and sanitization techniques will keep you and your family safe. Any methods that you use to keep your kitchen safe when working with meat for your own meal should be followed when making your dog’s meal. Wash your hands after touching any raw meat and disinfect any countertop, dish, utensil, your dog’s bowls, or anything else that comes in contact with raw meat, and you and your family should be just fine.
How to plan and prepare a raw diet
Planning and preparing a raw diet for your dog can be a scary thought when you first start thinking about switching your dog to a raw diet. WIll they even like the new food? Should you switch them gradually, or all at once?
One way to start making the transition from kibble to a raw diet is to start adding freeze-dried meat to your dog’s kibble. They will start to appreciate the taste and health benefits of real, raw meat while you plan the switch to a fully raw diet.
When you’re ready to finish transitioning your dog’s diet, here are some tips.
1. About 1/3 of your dog’s diet should consist of raw, meaty bones in order for them to get enough calcium and phosphorous. Some great examples include chicken wings, necks, legs, or thighs; turkey necks; beef tail bones; and lamb or goat necks or ribs. While cooked bones are very dangerous for dogs, raw bones are soft enough to cause fewer risks of choking or intestinal blockage.
2. Organ meat should make up 10-30% of your dog’s diet because it’s a great natural source of vitamins. No one source of organ meat should make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet by itself – liver, in particular, can cause diarrhea if it is included at too high a percentage of your dog’s diet. Organs include liver, kidney, spleen, brain, lung, testicles, pancreas, and thymus (pancreas and thymus are often sold as “sweetbreads”). Go easy on the organ meat when you first start your dog on a raw diet, and gradually increase the percentage. If your dog doesn’t like the taste of organ meat at first, you can fry it in a pan for a minute or two to make it more appetizing for a dog that is new to the raw diet. Keep in mind that heart is considered a muscle meat and not an organ.
3. Muscle meat should make up one half to one-third of your dog’s diet. The protein in muscle meat helps your dog build up his own muscles. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, common meat choices include:
- Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
- Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)
- Bison (ground bison, stewing bison meat)
- Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
- Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
- Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
- Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
4. Limit fat to only 10-20% of your dog’s diet. While fat is crucial for nerve and immune function as well as skin health, using too much fat will cause a dangerous lack of vitamins and can lead to a wide variety of health problems. Meats that tend to be high in fat include poultry with the skin still on, ground beef that’s 85% lean or less, pork belly, and duck. Leaner meats include skinless poultry, lean ground beef, pork loin, rabbit, most fish, and most wild game apart from duck.
5. Fruits and vegetable are optional – but include a lot of great benefits not found in animal products. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, here are some popular benefits to adding fruits and…