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Skin Allergies in Dogs: Home Remedies to Try Before Seeing Your Vet

Janejordan has a Pug with environmental and/or dietary allergies.

Does your dog have severe allergies? These home remedies may help.

Does your dog have severe allergies? These home remedies may help.

5 Tips and Remedies for Dog Skin Allergies

Dog skin allergies are tough to figure out. I've tried eliminating potential food ingredients that might be triggering allergies and still haven't found the exact combination. It's also really hard to figure out what environmental allergies might be affecting your pup.

If you've already been to your vet, you know the drill. They want you to try antibiotics, special foods, and maybe even some kind of harsh and expensive steroid treatment.

Our Story: My Pug Has Allergies

My Pug has allergies. Her symptoms are itchy armpits. They have become increasingly hairless, stinky, sweaty, and dark over the years. I've had numerous vets attempt to figure out what was going on with no luck at all—that's why I've turned to some natural home remedies.

Here are a few things to try if your dog has hot spots, itchy skin, yeasty ears, goopy eyes, or any other skin condition that seems like it might be triggered by an allergy.

Tips for Dogs With Allergies

  1. Consider an ACV spray.
  2. Offer a healthy, simple diet.
  3. Give medicated baths.
  4. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  5. Feed hypoallergenic treats.
Human foods may be triggering skin allergies.

Human foods may be triggering skin allergies.

1. Try an Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Spray

Consider putting ACV in a spray bottle, diluting it with water, and spraying it on the itchy spots a couple of times a day. Before bedtime works great for my dog (but she makes the bedroom smell like chips). I also wipe her ears down with the diluted mixture after cleaning them.

2. Offer a Simple, Healthy Diet

Ditch the gross, generic dog food, and get one of the high-quality brands that don't have any grain, corn, by-products, or other fillers.

I switched my dog to food made by The Honest Kitchen, and it made a world of difference. I once tried to switch her back to dry dog food and she immediately got a bunch of new hot spots under her chin. I fed her food from The Honest Kitchen again, and after a few days, the spots were gone.

Another brand we like is Grandma Lucy's.

3. Give Medicated Baths

If your dog has mild skin problems, an oatmeal bath might do the trick. For my Pug, I had to resort to Malaseb shampoo. I bathe her about once a week.

The Malaseb shampoo doesn't help with narrowing down the source of the problem, but it does help her skin heal and makes her less itchy between baths. Malaseb also comes in a spray and wipes.

Tips for Using Malaseb Shampoo

Do not apply the shampoo to spots that your dog can lick. I can spray the apple cider vinegar anywhere on her, but I only use the Malaseb on her armpits where she can't reach. I also use the spray sparingly.

Skip the harsh, artificially scented detergents.

Skip the harsh, artificially scented detergents.

4. Skip Harsh Detergents and Household Products

Your dog might have an allergy to the detergent you use to clean their bed and blankets or even the product you use to clean your carpet. Carpet Fresh, Lysol spray, or any yard sprays for bugs might also be the cause of itching. Wash bedding in just bleach. Don't use soap or fabric softeners.

5. Only Offer Hypoallergenic Treats

If your dog has a food allergy, it's a lot easier to control what they are eating if they are only eating their own dog food. For treats, I give my Pug a little piece of her own food and she's just as happy with it as receiving a mystery dog bone. I also like to give her baby carrots on occasion. If you know there is a healthy food that doesn't bother your dog, only use that for treats.

Only use bleach when washing dog bedding.

Only use bleach when washing dog bedding.

My Personal Experience With an Itchy Dog

If you have allergies yourself, you know what it's like to feel as if the itch is starting on the inside of your body and working its way out to your skin. You also can't help but madly scratch at it.

I see the same thing happening with my dog—she'll dart out of her bed in the middle of the night, scratch her dog pits and ears feverishly, and then settle back into bed to start with the obsessive paw-licking. She's a Pug and Pugs like to sleep, so I'm guessing she doesn't choose to have these middle-of-the-night itching, scratching, and licking sessions.

Piglet the Pug has been an itchy girl ever since she was a puppy. I haven't found a cure for her itching, but I've certainly spent a lot of time and money trying to figure it out and trying to make her more comfortable. I hope my tips and tricks will help your dog, too.

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.

© 2010 janejordan


Dr Don Doss on May 06, 2013:

Keep in mind that allergies are usually controllable but not CURABLE. There are environmental allergens (house dust mites, food storage mites, pollens [grasses, trees, weeds]) and food allergens. The first step is a good examination and evaluation by a veterinarian. In terms of people promoting grain-free diets, keep in mind that food allergies usually involve proteins, not as frequently carbohydrates. For a food trial, it's best to have a single protein source and a single carbohydrate source (or a hydrolyzed protein diet) that the dog has NEVER eaten (referred to as a “novel protein” and “novel carbohydrate”). A commercial diet is not the best for a trial. A commercial manufacturer makes all of its foods in a single production facility and doesn't clean out the production line when it changes to a different food. It may have produced a beef-based diet and then changes to a chicken diet but pieces of the beef food can be found in the chicken-based food. NOT GOOD IF YOUR DOG IS ALLERGIC TO BEEF!! Studies have documented this problem in most diets. So use a prescription food for the trial and if it solves the problem, talk to your veterinarian about a similar commercial alternative. If your pet has a flare up, you need to go back to the prescription product. Prescription food manufacturers either have a dedicated production line for a particular diet or do a complete clean out of the production line before switching to another food (that's why they are more expensive). Flavorings or ingredients can also be a problem. Heartgard for prevention of heartworms (a widely used medication), for example, contains beef. So dogs allergic to beef will have problems even when it is only given once per month. Vitamins, supplements, and other flavored drugs and treats can also be a problem.

Allergy testing is a good consideration for environmental allergens. If allergies are a significant problem, "allergy shots" or hyposensitization can be a good consideration and can often provide significant relief but one again, not a cure. There are no reliable tests for food allergies other than a dietary trial or elimination diet which must be fed for a MINIMUM of 3 months (and if improving, some pets may require up to 4 months on the diet).

A great way to relieve your pet’s skin irritation from an allergic reaction is to use essential oils. There’s a product out there that I highly recommend. It’s called CalmCoat Topical Spray. It’s an all natural product that will relieve the irritation, promote healing and encourage hair re-growth. It’s an amazing product.

- Dr. Don Doss

Jodi Ralston from Missouri on September 15, 2012:

I was attracted by the pug in your picture. I have a pug cross myself, and I think pugs are such fun dogs. But, back to the point, we actually purchased some apple cider vinegar for another use, and I think I might try it on our dogs.

Regina on May 15, 2012:

I'm so glad I have something to try. My poor dog at the beginning of the warmer weather gets this, but during winter months no problems. I was wondering if the spray stings. She has some raw spot I had been treating with bag balm, seemed to help, at least heal but she liked it and would lick at it unless I seen that she was and tell her to leave it alone. It seems as the summer wears on she gets better??? Confusing and the vet seems uncaring at times, doesn't like it when I tell her stuff I find on the internet. Why aren't they ore open to other ways? I already have some apple cider vinegar, was wondering the amount of water and vinegar, is it about half and half of each?

HollyP3 on May 02, 2012:

You’re right, it’s amazing how just changing their food will take away all the allergy symptoms in your dog. I had no idea that the food I was giving my dog was making him sick until someone pointed out the ingredients to me. I felt like such a bad pet Mommy! We switched to Natural Balance potato & duck from their L.I.D. line and he hasn’t had a problem since. Those other foods with bad fillers in them should be taken off the shelves!

linda on April 07, 2012:

Thank you very much as my pug has gone bold underarms and I was really worried,so u have made me feel better and gave me something I can try,thank you very much for your blog it was very helpful to me(house will smell of vinegar but anything for my little pug)xx

Nina'sWorld on March 23, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this ! Would definitely be of great help should any of my dogs experience it.