The temperature is dropping and with it the humidity. The end result is dry, itchy skin for both you and your dogs. Prevent dry skin and relieve the itch. Does your dog have dandruff when you go to pet him or her? Is your pet licking their pets and biting at itchy, irritated skin? You are not alone. Many animals suffer from allergies or environmental dermatitis. The good news is there are many natural relief options available. The first step naturally treating your dog’s itchy skin is to focus on the cause.
Allergy, Environmental, or Parasitic?
Pruritus, the excessive scratching related to itching, is the second most common cause for veterinary visits. The first thing pet owners should do is to narrow down the cause. Is your pet’s skin dry and flaking? Are they licking, chewing, and biting their paws excessively? Could they possibly have fleas?
The symptoms may be managed in many ways, but if the cause isn’t narrowed down and eliminated the itchy skin will recur.
Dry skin can be identified by separating your dog’s hair and noting whether there is cracked skin or dandruff. Sometimes the skin will be so sensitive it will itch at your touch. Dry skin may be caused by poor nutrition or by environmental factors.
The first step in any holistic treatments is nutrition. Countless studies have shown the importance of diet to health and wellness, and dogs are no different. Dry food is dehydrating and does not provide all the nutrients needed for pet health. However, it is often considered the most cost-effective option. If you feed kibble think about supplementing with a bone broth like the one made by Primalvore. The broth is tasty, contains vitamins, and helps to provide the hydration needed by your pet.
Traditional supplements containing Omega-3 fatty acids should be part of your pet’s diet. Hemp seed, flax seed, fish oil, phytoplankton, and coconut oil are all natural sources and may be included in your daily regimen, and a combination may be found in tasty treat form. You should also consider feeding raw goat’s milk or plain, low fat yogurt.
Probiotics have been shown to balance the body from within using good bacteria. As a result, they reduce allergy symptoms, improve the GI tract (the #1 reason most pets visit the veterinarian), and boost the immune system. “Probiotics inhibit the growth of bad bacteria, promote good digestion, reduce toxins, and boost your immune system.” As a result, they help to balance the body from the inside out.
Temperature and Humidity
Environmental pruritus may be caused by low humidity in the house. Certain regions of the world are naturally dry, like the southwestern United States. In winter, heat is turned on and humidity levels drop significantly with forced air or radiators. Chances are you already provide ample water for your pet. Make sure to buy a humidifier for your home. There are a number of small humidifiers on the market that increase humidity, reduce germs and bacteria, and even diffuse essential oils.
Herbs and Plants
I love using natural herbs for my pets. A common plant known for relieving itchy skin is aloe vera. Aloe is easy to care for in the home and can be trimmed and used fresh, never heated. You may use aloe vera in combination with other natural herbs and plants, like calendula, which is widely known for its medicinal benefits.
Other herbs and oils that may be helpful are:
- Neem Oil
- Burdock Root
- Vitamin E
Traditional eastern herbs which may help are China root, Chinese angelica root, Chinese foxglove root, Cnidium seeds, Dictamnus root bark, Ginseng root, Ledebouriella root.
Before introducing an herb, please consult with your veterinarian as there is the possibility of complications with current medications or current health issues.
Essential oils are one of my favorite methods to help animals. Dogs are sensitive and oils should always be diluted well and tried on a single spot prior to use. The following oils have properties known to relieve itching and provide allergy relief.
- Peppermint Oil
- Thyme Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
- Pennyroyal Oil
- Roman Chamomile
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils with your dog or horse, visit my Beginner’s Guide to Using Essential Oils on Animals.
Other Topical Relief
Topical relief can be used in a bath, poultice, or applied to specific spots. For bathing, a medicated shampoo using natural oils and herbs is beneficial. Or, you may use to add ground oatmeal to the bath or choose to make your own shampoo using unscented castile soap and one or more of the essential oils above.
Please keep in mind that a pet with dry skin should not be groomed often. Dry shampoo and shampoo formulated for dry skin is a wonderful alternative for those dog’s with long fur, and baby wipes are handy too! Brush your dog every day to stimulate blood flow and remove excess dander and dirt.
Salves and Balms are ointments used to protect or soothe the skin. These tend to have a base of a semisolid oil or beeswax combined with herbs or essential oils. Did you know, I have trouble with severe eczema myself over the years, especially after I had my children, I was unhappy with many salves on the market. So I formulated my own recipe and created Healing, Essentials by Heather Wallace. This unique balm combines a natural base using extra virgin coconut oil, with a number of essential oils to reduce inflammation, speed healing, and calm the skin. Healing has so many uses that it is a staple in both my home and my tack box.
If you like DIY, an inexpensive and easy option is to combine apple cider vinegar and water into a spray bottle. This is a very popular treatment for itch. However, make sure there are no open wounds or this will sting. You will also want to make sure it dries before letting your pet on the couch.
There are a number of options to relieve your pet of dry, itchy skin and raw, licked paws. Avoid chemicals and try the natural approach. You will be amazed at the results!