Home Remedies for Itchy Dogs

Scratching, licking, chewing, and itching can be symptoms of allergies, parasites, infections, or food sensitivities. Serious cases should be diagnosed by your veterinarian, but for symptoms that are minor or recent, a home-remedy bath, rinse, or spray might help.


When itching starts, consider what might have caused that reaction. Home remedies for itchy dogs might help, but only if they address the cause of itching. If your dog has been getting frequent baths, the problem could be soap residues or products that strip the coat of its natural oils, leaving skin dry and irritated. Flea and mosquito bites cause itching, and so can environmental allergens like dust, mold spores, and pollen. Infections, including yeast infections, can trigger vigorous scratching. And if foods are the culprit, your dog may itch because of reactions to dairy products, wheat, soy, or specific proteins. Once you understand an itch’s underlying cause, addressing it can reduce ongoing problems. To help speed your dog’s recovery, the following home remedies are worth a try.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera, known for its ability to soothe sunburns, rashes, and other skin conditions, is widely sold and considered safe for topical use with pets. Aloe vera juice or gel (ideally a single-ingredient product made without additives) is easy to apply where its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce redness, cool hot skin, and speed the healing of minor abrasions. Simply work aloe vera into your dog’s skin with your fingers or a rubber bath brush and let the coat dry.

Herbal Teas

Popular skin-soothing herbal teas include chamomile, calendula, comfrey, lavender, St. John’s wort, and green tea. Peppermint is a cooling herb, so in addition to smelling good, it helps take the heat out of any itch that feels warm to the touch. These herbs are widely sold in natural food stores, online, and in some supermarkets. They are compatible with one another, so you can use them in any combination.

To make an effective herbal rinse or skin spray, place 6 teabags or 6 teaspoons of dried herbs in a 1-quart glass jar. Fill the jar with boiling water, close the lid, and let the tea stand until it cools to room temperature. Alternatively, place the herbs in a 1-quart ceramic tea pot, fill it with boiling water, and leave its lid on until the tea cools.

Strain the tea and use it as a final rinse after bathing or spray it onto your dog’s wet or dry coat, working it in well so it reaches the skin. Let the coat air dry, then gently brush your dog.

My favorite herbal tea for rinsing dark-colored dogs like my black Lab contains equal parts calendula, comfrey, and St. John’s wort. Chamomile tea is recommended for dogs with brown, beige, or red coats. Because herbal teas can stain light or white coats, try a different method for your light-colored pup.

Oatmeal Baths

By far the most recommended home treatment for a dog’s itchy skin is an oatmeal bath. To try this traditional remedy, pulse or grind 1 cup of plain, unflavored instant, quick, slow-cooking, or steel-cut oatmeal in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor at the highest setting until the oats form a very fine powder.

Fill a tub or sink with warm (not hot) water to a level that will be comfortable for your dog. Add the oat powder to running water while the tub is filling and stir well to disperse it. With your dog in the tub, use a cup or small bucket to pour the bath water over his body, massaging it into his skin. If possible, keep him soaking for 5 to 10 minutes.

If a tub doesn’t work, loosely wrap your dog in a towel, gauze fabric, or T-shirt that you soak with oatmeal bath water. Let the fabric stay in place for as long as possible while pouring oatmeal water over it to keep it wet. Rinse your dog well with warm water, then dry your dog with towels and, when the coat is completely dry, gently brush it.

Herbal Oatmeal Variations

Any of the dry herbs mentioned above can be combined with oatmeal to add anti-itch benefits to the bath. For example, to 1 cup of raw oats you could add 1/4 cup of dried lavender blossoms, then grind, blend, or process the combination to a fine powder. Follow the instructions for giving an oatmeal bath.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar or ACV contains a dark, cloudy substance that resembles dusty cobwebs. Called the “mother,” this substance contains naturally occurring pectin and apple residues that form strand-like chains. Raw and unfiltered, cider vinegar is usually beige or brown in color. It can be diluted half-and-half with water or, if stronger measures are needed, applied full-strength to itchy dogs.

Apple cider vinegar cools the skin when applied to burns, wounds, hot spots, and itchy areas. It can be sponged onto a dog’s coat after a bath to remove soap residues and improve hair condition. Raw apple cider vinegar’s acidity and live enzymes are said to kill bacteria that cause dander and other flaking skin conditions. Soak the coat to the skin and let it air-dry. This same treatment is said to repel fleas and ticks.  Please note that apple cider vinegar will stain the coats of lightly colored dogs, so for white dogs, substitute distilled white vinegar.

If your dog has sensitive skin, test a square inch of bare skin by applying a small amount of vinegar. Check the area every few hours for up to 24 hours. If redness or irritation develops, dilute the vinegar and try again or discontinue use. This type of patch test is not necessary when applying vinegar that will be washed or rinsed off within a few minutes.

Vinegar/Herbal Tinctures

You can combine treatments by mixing apple cider vinegar with dried herbs to create a tincture, which is a concentrated herbal extract. A simple way to do this is to place 1 cup of dried herbs, such as any combination of chamomile, calendula, comfrey, lavender, St. John’s wort, or green tea, in a 1-quart glass jar. Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar and leave it in a warm, dark location, such as a kitchen cupboard, for at least two weeks. Shake the jar or turn it upside down every day to distribute its contents. When ready to use, filter the tincture through cheesecloth or gauze and store in a cool, dark location.

To use an herbal tincture on your itchy dog, dilute 1/4 cup tincture in 1 cup water and apply it to your dog’s wet or dry coat. Work it in with your fingers or a rubber bath brush, let it dry, then brush your dog.

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Astringent Healing Skin Rinse

Here is a recipe from herbalist Gregory Tilford, co-author of the book Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life  for an effective skin rinse.

Combine equal parts juniper leaf or uva-ursi leaf, calendula flowers, and peppermint leaf in a glass or stainless-steel pot. Cover the herbs with water and bring it to a gentle boil over moderate heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and allow it to stand until cool. Strain the cooled fluid through a sieve, then soak the dog’s skin and coat and let the dog drip-dry.

Add Essential Oils

In her book Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, Kristen Leigh Bell recommends German chamomile essential oil (also called blue chamomile) for its skin-soothing, anti-inflammatory effects on allergic reactions and skin irritations; lavender essential oil for its gentle, anti-itch and relaxing effects; and peppermint for its relief of pain and itching.

Essential oils are not water-soluble, so they float to the surface of water or vinegar, but you can dissolve them with a small amount of alcohol. Don’t use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol for this purpose but rather vodka or another neutral distilled spirit. For example, add 4 to 6 drops of lavender, German chamomile, or peppermint essential oil to 1 tablespoon vodka, then add that combination to 1 cup of herbal tea rinse, apple cider vinegar, or diluted vinegar tincture.

Carbonated Water

Here’s something even simpler. According to Karen Becker, DVM, in her book The Forever Dog Life, plain carbonated water can be an effective remedy for itchy skin because it increases blood flow without negatively affecting any skin functions. Just apply and let dry.

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can be mixed with an equal quantity of water to create a paste. Apply the paste to itchy areas, let it stand for 15 minutes, and then rinse. For extra moisturization, replace the water in this formula with aloe vera juice or gel. Baking soda isn’t toxic in small quantities, but preventing your dog from licking it is a good idea.

Helping Your Dog Feel Better

Dry skin in dogs contributes to dull coats, dander, hair loss, skin odor, and injuries that result from excessive scratching. Simple, effective home remedies can help itchy dogs of all ages look and feel better.