Like humans, many dogs suffer from sensitive skin, and one of the top reasons dog owners take their pups to the vet is for skin irritation. Dry skin, skin rashes due to allergies, and constant scratching are common issues dogs face. Consistent vet visits can be costly, especially if they don’t seem to be solving the problem. In some instances dogs are prescribed steroids to clear up skin issues.

Dog scratching an itch with hind paw.

credit: Thomas Hawk

While this is a quick fix for the short-term, it is not the best long-term option and may only quell the issue versus stopping it. If your dog is dealing with sensitive skin there are a few home remedies that are natural and safe you can try to help provide relief.

First and most important, evaluate what kind of food your dog is eating. Food allergies are the most common cause of skin irritation in dogs. Take a look at the ingredients on the back of the food bag, what do you see – corn, corn meal, or corn gluten? Unfortunately, these ingredients are used in many pet foods as protein substitutes and are a root cause of obesity in pets, skin inflammation, and diabetes. Animals, like dogs and cats, do not have digestive systems designed to process heavy grains like corns. In fact, their bodies are made to process energy through consuming amino acids, or fatty acids obtained through (what would be) prey.

Think about it. If your dog were living in the wild, what would he eat? Corn, or meat? When choosing your dogs food look for grain free foods with named meats as the first listed ingredients, such as lamb, salmon, chicken (NOT meat by-products). You should avoid corn, soy, and wheat on a label. Foods loaded with grains are usually loaded with preservatives that will dry out your dogs coat. While grain free dog food might be a bit more expensive, it will pay off in the long term by providing your dog with a full, healthy meal and fewer vet visits in the future. Dog Food Advisor has a good list of healthy dog foods.

Another great way to help keep your dogs skin clear and moisturized is to add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to his food. Apple cider vinegar is a natural skin aid, it helps decrease inflammation and provide natural oils. It can also be used mixed with water in a spray bottle to help treat hot spots, or used as a rinse when you bath your dog to help keep his coat shiny.

Fish oil is great for your pets skin. Fish oil is full of natural fatty acids that are natural anti-inflammatories. Fish oil can be purchased at pet stores relatively cheap in droplet bottles to add to your pets’ food dish. Also, mixing a bit of plain yogurt can help build positive probiotics in your dogs’ digestive system, thus helping avoid allergic reactions.

Many skin issues come from the inside out, but some are the result of irritants from the outside in. During the summer months, fleas are an inevitable issue for dogs who are frequently outdoors. Some dogs are highly allergic to fleas and can have a major allergic reaction with just one fleabite, causing them to break out in to hives or a rash. It is important to talk to your vet about what the best flea treatment is for your dog to avoid fleas during peak pest periods (generally April-October for the mid-west). Apple cider vinegar can also be used as a flea bath, and natural short-term deterrent for dogs.

These remedies can be combined to help fight your dogs’ dry, itchy, or irritated skin. Of course make sure you check with your vet if you don’t see significant progress, but sometimes the answer is something as simple as a different dog food, or a little extra moisturizer.  –Merri Collins

Merri is from Meigs County, Ohio and graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelors degree in Journalism. She works as a Marketing Coordinator full-time, and also as a freelance copy-writer. Merri has always had a passion for supporting animal rights and helping animals in need. She is a Pet Promise cat foster, performs TNR in her area, and has an adopted cat named Big Poppa.