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Neem Oil for Skin Issues in Dogs
My dog suffers from food allergies and her symptoms manifest as dermatitis. It took me a bit of time to discover neem oil, but I am pleased with the way this remedy helps my dog. In this article, I answer some common questions about the oil and talk about how it can benefit your dog and how to use it safely.
What Is Neem Oil?
The neem tree is a tropical tree that originated in India. The Indian people have used various parts of this tree for thousands of years, and they use the leaves, bark, and seeds for a wide range of ailments. Neem oil is produced from the seed kernels of the neem tree; the kernels are crushed and pressed (in a similar way to olives), and the extracted oil is purified. Natural, raw neem oil has a strong smell. It is quite unique and smells to me like burnt garlic with a hint of coffee and onion.
My Dog's Food and Skin Allergies
My dog has food allergies, so we feed her home-cooked meals and treats, which stop her from getting sore patches on her skin. Unfortunately, she spends all her time trying to steal the very food she is allergic to—bread, biscuits, cake, etc. This means that from time to time, she manages to get a bellyful of food when we have not paid full attention!
After about 48 hours, the scratching starts, the fur comes out and she gets utterly miserable. This is how I discovered that neem oil helps to relieve some of her symptoms.
Important: Neem oil should NOT be consumed by animals or humans. Neem leaves may be consumed by humans, but this is a different part of the tree altogether, so do not confuse the two.
Neem Oil for Dogs
For dogs that have itchy skin due to food allergies, insect bites, mild mange, or really dry patches, neem oil can work wonders. It is also good for 'hot' feet and chaffed 'underarms'. The oil has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory qualities and is widely used on humans and animals by those who prefer to use Ayurvedic treatments. It is used as an insect repellent and a natural pesticide on plants as well.
How to Use Neem Oil
- Carrier oils: To help dogs with irritated skin and hair loss, neem oil should be diluted in another carrier oil such as pure coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil.
- Dilution: Raw neem oil is very potent, so dilute a few drops with a tablespoon of carrier oil. My dog is fine with a 50:50 mix, but I began with a more diluted mix and built up the concentration over time.
- Storage: Neem and coconut oils, if pure, will harden in cooler temperatures, so you may need to warm the oils a little to get a good mixture. You can do this by leaving the containers in a jug of warm water, on a warm windowsill, or by just holding it in your warm hands, but do not microwave it.
- Quantity: Don't mix too much up in advance and use small glass jars; small Mason jars are the best. Or simply mix one application in a ceramic dish and use it immediately.
- Once you have a good blend, massage the oil into the dog's skin with your fingertips. It has a soothing effect that most animals enjoy, and it stops them from itching very quickly.
- Apply the oil twice a day at first, then once a day when you see that the healing has begun.
This oil works within a few days usually. The skin starts to look less raw and sore, and hair regrowth seems to follow in about a week. Massaging the oil into the sore patches stops the itching quickly, and my dog seems to like it and doesn't lick it.
DIY Neem Shampoo for Dogs
To keep insects at bay and to alieve mildly itching skin, make your own neem oil shampoo:
- Add a teaspoon of oil to roughly 2 tablespoons of regular dog shampoo (preferably an oat shampoo as these are gentle on dogs).
- Use it in the usual way, but try and leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it off if your pet will allow it.
- My tip for leaving the shampoo on for a bit is to turn the water off and give your dog a massage with the shampoo. (Quietly work up and down your pet's body and make the experience soothing.)
Tip: Don't mix the neem shampoo up too far in advance as raw neem oil will start to break down in shampoo.
DIY Neem Spray for Dogs
To make a handy spray that will both soothe the skin and act as an insect deterrent:
- Mix 10 parts water with 1 part neem oil and a few drops of natural soap (to make oil and water mix).
- Only makeup one day's worth at a time because the neem breaks down in this mixture.
- Shake well. The solution will probably need to warm up to pass through the spray nozzle smoothly as it hardens when cool.
- Use this to apply oil to your dog. (In my experience, dogs don't really like to be sprayed, so this may not work well.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Does neem oil stain?
Some of the oil will transfer off of your dog after it is applied and before it has sunken in. It will wash out of some things, but don't let your dog jump on the sofa, your bed, or any nice clothing after applying it to prevent items from getting stained.
How do I mask the odor?
Yes, this oil smells! Some people seem more bothered by it than others. You can add lavender oil to try and mask the smell.
How do I make my own neem oil?
To make your own treatments, purchase cold-pressed (no heat applied) organic, raw neem oil. It is inexpensive. If it is pure, it will harden a little in the cold, so it may appear lumpy. This is normal, and you can apply light heat to liquify it.
Tips for Safe Use and General Precautions
Neem oil should be kept out of the reach of children and babies. Pregnant women, those who are trying to conceive or are breastfeeding should not use the oil at all. It should not be consumed by animals or humans.
There are pre-mixed treatments available to buy, like neem soap, neem shampoo, and neem ointment. Always check the other ingredients used in a product because some may irritate your pet's skin.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Our Dalmatian /Labrador mix has awful allergies to foods and also environmental. The vet wants to put him on Apoquel after he was on it in 2016 for a month. But he experienced behavioral changes, diarrhea, etc. We want to try Neem oil. He just got off an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory for a bad UTI. We had in on a raw diet, but he lost weight, his paws were always swollen, and he was still itchy. What do you cook up for your dog?
Answer: There are so many pet allergies it seems! I cook cheap chicken thighs, skin included, in water with brown rice and a little-added oil. I do three days' worth at the same time, and keep it in the fridge. If there are bones in it, I scoop them out once the chicken is cooked, so the dog doesn't get them.
For snacks I have cut up leftover meat cuts, or dried fish or meat sticks that are in the better pet stores. No cereal added ones.
These foods are kinder to the stomach, and my dog loves rice and chicken even though she has it every day. Turkey seems to upset her stomach though, which is a shame as its a bit cheaper to buy.
Question: After applying the oil combo to the dog, do I rinse?
Answer: No, don't rinse it off unless your pet licks the oil. If they don't lick at it, leave it to sink into the skin.
Question: My dog has infections in her paws, and no matter what I put on it she’ll lick it off before it can help her. Even stuff the vet said she wouldn’t like, she’ll still lick it off. I applied undiluted neem just on top of her paws as I know the smell and taste is quite strong? Is it safe though?
Answer: It is not safe for any animal to ingest neem oil, but usually, the smell means that dogs won't lick it (horses too). I would suggest washing the paws, applying the oil, and being with her for several hours so you can monitor her. If she licks it, or if she reacts to the neem, get it off of her quickly. I'd suggest doing this in the evening when you are near her (presuming she is not an outside dog) and not going out to work. If this works, you should only have to do it a few times. Also, there is always one of those veterinary collars that are shaped like a funnel.
© 2016 Susan Hambidge
Eve on August 29, 2018:
for our dog diet she is on mix of zucchini (green), celery (twigs = calcium) carrot, et sushi rice (no gluten). grown beef. All organic. For goodies she got sardines (in water) or salmon. Or different sort of treats, but for all of theme no GLUTEN no CHEMICAL. I no this is not easy. But better to invest in the food then the vet and avoid to see the pet suffer. She is " breed" chowsherper thick under coat fur = hot spot. I started to use neem oil, she fill better, less scratching. The only dry food she will have if no choice at all, will be acana 100% Canadian. If I can`t eat her food why she will at the crap ? Yes it is expensive but the reward is hudge !!!
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on March 23, 2018:
I am sorry to hear about your poor doberman. I am not medically trained, but I would advise against treating your dog in any way that is different to what your vet has described. Please just do exactly what the vet has said, and if you think your dog is not healing, then take him back to the vet. You could do more damage.
Wishing him well.
JORDAN on March 23, 2018:
MY DOBERMAN DOG WAS SEVERELY INJURED AND VETERINARIAN HAS LEFT THE WOUND OPEN AS IT CANNOT BE SUTURED THOUGH THE SKIN HAS BEEN TORNED IN MOVEMENT SPACE ... CAN I USE NEEM OIL IS THAT HELPS MY DOG IN HEALING THE WOUND SOON
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on January 02, 2018:
Nancy. I have not had any experience of my dog vomiting. Please remove the Neem oil and stop using it if this is affecting your pet and seek professional advice. Ingesting the oil is not good for a pet but if it was diluted hopefully very little had gotten into the system and will quickly pass through.
Nancy on January 01, 2018:
What if my dog vomits after licking paws that diluted neem oil had been applied-? Wondering when vomiting will stop or if another remedy will be required to treat the vomiting. I suppose if it affects immune system maybe that's why she threw up.
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on September 11, 2017:
Jenni - Neem oil should not be eaten so my suggestion would be to leave the Neem on as long as you are with your dog and can stop him licking, but then gently remove it with something like vegetable oil and cotton wool when you have to leave him. Hopefully a few hours a day with the neem on will still help the healing process. I have to say my dog hates the stuff so much she leaves it alone!
Jenni on September 06, 2017:
Will it hurt my dog if he licks his skin? I made him lay down next to me on the couch for over an hour to stop him from licking. But, of course three hours later, he still wants to lick. He is a big dog, 70 pound Pitbull. Thanks!
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on July 25, 2017:
No I haven't tried mustard oil but I will look into that treatment. Thank you.
Kushaldeep Chaujar on July 25, 2017:
Have you tried mustard oil? Today I tried it on a street dog who is having too much itching and that part has even lost the hair to the extent that it's skin is visible. After applying oil he's not itching. By the way it's only 20 minutes ago when I applied oil on it.
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on August 25, 2016:
Lydia, my own personal experience has been with my dog, but I have read Amazon reviews where cat owners used neem on their cats successfully. Make sure it is neem that has not been blended with anything else, and try it very diluted with something like olive oil at first. I'd use a cotton bud or cottonwool to carefully apply it to a small area to begin with.
lydia on August 25, 2016:
can the neem oil be used on cats. i have read articles that say yes and some that say no. i need something to use for fleas and don't want to use chemicals as i already lost a cat because of flea powder. thank you
Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on May 21, 2016:
Oh poor Sylvester. I have abesent-mindedly put my finger on my lip after apply this neem oil, and it tastes truly revolting, so I can't imagine any animal managing to groom with this on them!
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 21, 2016:
Glad to know this works on cats as well. I have a cat, Sylvester, who incessantly over grooms two areas to the point of being raw. Nothing has helped him so I'll give this a try. He's a very nervous sort.