Like humans, pets can suffer from dry, itchy skin. The constant scratching can be caused by allergies or sensitivities to detergents or cleaners used in the home. It can also worsen during the dry winter months or in warm climates with low humidity. And while occasional scratching is normal for dogs and cats, the discomfort of dry or irritated skin can leave them scratching more than normal.
The first step is to see if you can determine the cause of their itching. Did you recently switch their food or treats or add anything new to their diet? Have there been any changes in the products you use to wash their bedding or clean your home? Do symptoms get worse after they’re outside? Asking yourself these questions can help you determine possible causes and then consult with a veterinarian if necessary. In the meantime, there are natural ways to help relieve your pet’s itchy skin and prevent them from having issues in the future.
Add Beneficial Oils to their Diet
Supplementing your pet’s food with certain oils can help relieve dry skin and improve the overall condition of their coat. Flax oil or ground flax seeds have essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can help their skin, coat, and overall health. Flax oil and ground seeds should be kept refrigerated to prevent them from going rancid. Flax oil can be found in the refrigerated section at health food stores and flax seeds can be purchased whole, then ground as needed.
Unrefined coconut oil can also be added to food in small amounts, or lightly applied to dry skin patches and paw pads as a moisturizer. When feeding oils of any type to your pet, start with a small amount — less than a teaspoon — and watch for signs of digestive upset. It’s also important to check with your veterinarian before adding oils to your pet’s diet. Too much fat can cause diarrhea, promote weight gain, or cause pancreatitis.
Give Your Pet a Soothing Bath
Brushing and bathing your pet is important to help remove irritating allergens, grime, or dander from their coat, but doing it too often can make skin irritation worse, not better. Only bathe pets when they really need it, and since dogs and cats have a different pH than humans, you should never use your own bath products to bathe them.
You can make a DIY shampoo for dogs by diluting a few tablespoons of liquid castile soap in a jar of water. For a light scent, add a few drops of essential oils. Just don’t overdo it because too much can irritate sensitive skin — and some recommend that you don’t use essential oils for cats. A small amount of baking soda or ground oatmeal can also be added to bathwater to help provide extra skin relief.
Make a Soothing Spray to Relieve Irritation
Soothing sprays can help provide relief in-between baths or when your pet is experiencing itchiness in a specific area. Before applying anything, always check the area first for irritation. If the skin is extremely red or there are areas of broken skin, a soothing or medicated ointment might be a better option. Check with your pet’s veterinarian to see what they recommend.
For itching that hasn’t resulted in major skin irritations, you can try a homemade soothing spray. When applying the spray, use caution not to spray the mixture around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Mix one part apple cider vinegar to one part water, then pour it in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to your pet and work it into their skin. It will smell at first, but the vinegar odor will eventually dissipate.
- Create an herbal spray by brewing an herbal tea such as chamomile, then letting it cool in the fridge. Once cooled, place it in a spray bottle and lightly mist your pet’s coat, working the spray into their fur so it reaches their skin.
When to See a Veterinarian
Running a humidifier during drier months, giving soothing baths, and adding supplements to a pet’s diet can all help relieve itching, but if your pet’s condition is so severe that it impacts their daily activities, or if it causes scratching or chewing that results in broken skin or sores, you need to schedule a visit with their veterinarian.
Constant itching can be a sign of parasites like fleas or mites or can be an allergic reaction to something in their food or environment. Your veterinarian can conduct the necessary tests to rule out these underlying issues and help determine a proper course of treatment to get your pet feeling better as soon as possible.
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