After grooming dogs for 14 years, I would have to say that the most common request from pet owners was what I could do for their pet’s itchy skin. Many of them had purchased expensive shampoos and conditioners from the vet with instructions to bathe their dog once a week and let the shampoo sit for ten minutes on the dog. As controversial as this may sound, I have found that bathing a dog every week does nothing but dry out the skin, making it even more itchy and causing more irritation for the pet, which leads to a vicious cycle. The real solution to healing itchy, irritated skin on your pet is knowing what has caused it in the first place. Some dogs may be allergic to the type of food they are eating, and the only way to find out is to change the food and see if the skin condition improves. Also, what many people don’t realize is that there has been a debate going on for many years among veterinarians themselves about over vaccination of dogs. Many veterinarians have come to the conclusion that excepting the rabies shot, many small to medium size dogs may have lifetime immunity to certain diseases like Bordatella, Parvo, and Corona virus, and that skin and ear infections are one of the side effects of over vaccination. Those vets who support this theory suggest asking your vet for a Titer test to see if your dog is immune before revaccinating.
As far as home remedies for itchy skin on dogs go, they are very similar to those made for human use. What most people don’t know is that it is acceptable to use human grade shampoos and conditioners on dogs. Many of the top of the line luxury shampoos and conditioners used in grooming shops all across the country are labeled as “Human Grade”. Just knowing this simple fact will help pet owners breathe a sigh of relief to know that “Head and Shoulders” is used quite often in grooming shops to help dogs who have dandruff! However, there are simple things you can do at home to provide your pet with relief from dry, itchy skin.
1. Tea Tree Oil – Tea tree oil has long been recognized for it’s healing and antibacterial properties. However, it is not a good idea to apply it full strength to the irritated area on your dogs skin. It is better to mix it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil in a small sprayer and then spray it onto the affected area and rub it in. This is very effective for Cocker Spaniels, or any dog that is prone to getting yeast or staph on their skin. Patches of green, crumbly areas on the skin can identify staph. Yeast is usually found on the feet and in the ears, and the skin will be red and “puffy”, and have a yeasty smell to it. This treatment is also helpful with treatment of hot spots. Just spray a few drops into the palm of your hand, and then rub gently into the hot spot 2-3 times a day.
2. Evening Primrose Oil and Vitamin E Oil – These oils are both known for their skin soothing qualities. You can either break open a few or you can buy the oils ready to use. Ready to use oils more expensive, of course, but you pay for the convenience of not having to break open that capsule! Just rub the oils on the affected area twice a day. Another benefit of these oils is that they are wonderful as anti-aging treatments for the eye area as well.
3. Yellow Dock Ointment –
- Flowers of Sulfur (Ask your Pharmacist)
- Small Jar of Vaseline
- Bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 6-8 Yellow Dock Roots
Dice up the roots and put them in a small saucepan. Pour in just enough apple cider vinegar to cover the roots and simmer over low to medium heat until the roots have softened. Let the mixture cool off and then transfer to a blender and mix thoroughly. Scrape out all of the Vaseline into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of sulfur flowers and the root mixture. Mix well and then spoon the ointment back into the jar. This ointment will work for all manner of itchy skin irritations. Apply twice a day to the affected area for 1 week, or until the infection is gone.
4. Oatmeal- Oatmeal is another tried and true method of irritated and itchy skin on dogs. While you can buy an oatmeal shampoo and conditioner at the pet store, an oatmeal home remedy can me made at a fraction of the cost. Simply boil some water in a medium sized saucepan, and add 4 tablespoons of oatmeal, and 2 bags of chamomile tea. Once the tea has steeped and cooled off, use cheesecloth to strain it, and then pour it into a spray bottle, and spray affected areas. Another way to make use of oatmeal as a treatment for hot spots, insect bites, and skin irritations is to make corn starch and oatmeal hot poultice. For this remedy, just make 1 cup of oat meal, and then add 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Then transfer the oatmeal/baking soda to a blender and blend until you have a thick, paste like mixture. While it is still hot, apply it to the irritated area on Fido’s skin, and wrap the affected area with Vet Wrap. Vet Wrap is a self sticking bandage that can be found at most local pet stores. If you do not have any, you can get a similar product at at your local drug store. The longer this poultice stays on the better, but 15 minutes should be sufficient.
5. Oil Supplements- Flax, Sunflower, and Salmon oil are all good oils for the skin, coat, and joints. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons a day to Fido’s food depending on his size.
These are just a few of the home remedies that I am familiar with after being in the business of grooming dogs for so long, but there is a vast network of knowledge right at your fingertips on the net, such as The Yellow Doc Ointment Treatment that I found at Opossum Sally’s Golden Mean. While none of these remedies are meant to take the place of a veterinarian’s expert opinion, I have found that sometimes simple, natural remedies can save pet owners a lot of money, and a lot of heartache.
By Heather Warren