Skip to main content

10 Effective Tips to Help Your Itching Dog Feel More Comfortable

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Reduce Itching in Dogs

Reduce Itching in Dogs

Does My Dog Have Fleas?

If your indoor dog is suffering from more than a case of fleas, these suggestions will reduce the number of allergens around the house and help him breathe easier.

3 Causes of Itching in Dogs

There could be many reasons why your dog is itching, but here are the three most likely causes.

1. Fleas (Most Common)

If your dog is itching and scratching, fleas are still the most common problem he might be facing. Look at his skin closely and see if you can find a flea or a black speck of "flea dirt." Take the dirt from your dog's skin and put it on a wet paper towel; if the paper towel turns red around the dirt it is actually dried blood that has been passed by a flea.

2. Atopy (Inhalant Allergies)

Atopy (inhalant allergies) is one of the most common reasons dogs are taken in for skin evaluations. Some dogs are allergic to common household allergens like dust mites and cockroaches, some are allergic to molds, and still others are allergic to pollen and plant spores found out in the yard.

Skin testing does not work that well in dogs and blood testing is available but not reliable.

3. Food Allergies

Food allergies are another problem affecting dogs but are a let loss common; if your dog is suffering from itching year-round, almost 40% have food and inhalant allergies. Contact allergies are yet another problem but are seen even less often than that.

Sometimes you can figure out what is wrong, but if you take the dog in for numerous trips to the vet and you still aren’t sure, how do you keep your indoor allergic dog more comfortable?

What Things Are Bothering My Allergic Dog?


Dust mite feces (poop)

Found in carpet, bedding, and in the air after dusting or vacuuming.

Cockroach dirt

Found in kitchens, areas where dog food or water are available.


Found outside when the cool weather is over, this is also a problem in moist houses and those with house plants.


Found outside as soon as plants start producing pollen.

Allergic dogs may scratch or they may have red eyes.

Allergic dogs may scratch or they may have red eyes.

10 Things to Help Your Dog Feel Less Itchy

Veterinarians may not always be able to diagnose and treat this disease but are working on the best ways to keep your dogs more comfortable. You may have heard some of these recommendations from your veterinarian, but if you want to do everything you can for your friend, here are ten simple suggestions you should follow:

1. Keep Your House Cool and Dry

Keep your house cool (less than 65°F or 18°C) and dry. Although this is not possible in all places or at all times of the year, keeping your house cool will slow dust mite production and decrease one of the most potent allergens your dog may be allergic to. Dry houses (less than 50%) also have fewer dust mites and mold.

2. Vacuum Once a Week

Vacuum your house at least once a week. This needs to be done thoroughly at least once a week, and the vacuum should use a HEPA filter. A lot of dust mites and some other allergens will be removed with a good vacuum, but since things may be worse when you are stirring up the dust you should also use an air cleaner that removes small particles.

3. Get Rid of Carpet

Get rid of your carpet and replace it with tile or hardwood floors. I know that a lot of people do not want to do this, but even vacuums do not pull up all of the dead skin and other dirt in carpets and the only way to keep a house really clean is by removing most of the food sources for the dust mites. Some vacuums just stir up the dust on the floor, so if you want your house clean you have to get rid of that carpet; my house is tiled and without wall-to-wall carpet, it is a lot easier to keep clean!

4. Limit Your House Plants

Get rid of your house plants. Some dogs are allergic to molds and, since they grow in the moist soil around your plants, this may provide some relief. Getting rid of plants is not always easy, but since they are such a great growing environment for mold this may really help your dog.

5. Keep Food "Sanitary"

Limit the amount of time the dog food is out and keep your kitchen clean so that cockroaches are not able to survive and flourish. There is not a lot of proof that cockroaches are a problem in dogs but they might be. We already know that cockroach dust causes a lot of problems in humans in poor households. Some studies have found that almost half of homes have cockroach dust even when cockroaches are not seen! (If you do happen to see one, however, you should spray your house or call an extermination service before even attempting control.)

6. Bathe Your Dog Often

Bathe your dog as frequently as possible. Every time your dog goes out he becomes covered in allergens, so frequent bathing will remove most of these and make him more comfortable. I cannot tell you exactly how often he can be bathed, however, but to do any good studies have shown that the bathing has to take place at least twice a week. If his skin is very dry, it cannot be done that often. Dogs with oily skin can be bathed a lot more often.

7. Wipe Your Dog Down

Wipe your dog's feet and muzzle every time he comes in the house. Dogs walk around in their bare feet and pick up a lot of allergens out in the yard. You cannot remove all of them by wiping the feet but your dog will be a lot more comfortable. (If he has short hair, wipe his whole body down with a moist paper towel to decrease the allergens brought into the house.) It also helps your dog if you wipe your own feet at the door!

8. Wash Their Belongings

Wash your dog's toys, towel or other bedding in hot, hot water. The water needs to be over 130°F (55°C) to kill the mites, and detergents are better than soaps. At least two rinse cycles have been recommended, and an added benefit may be that the mechanical action of the washing will also remove a lot of the allergens.

9. Freeze Toys After Washing

Freeze toys for at least 24 hours after washing. Stuffed toys should go from the dryer right to the freezer (plastic and rubber toys can go from the dishwasher to the freezer before being returned to the allergic dog). Keep them in there one day to kill any remaining dust mites.

10. Keep Food Sealed

Put your dog's dry food in a sealable container inside the house. The more days the bag is open the more mites will be present, and some dogs are allergic and will itch because of the mites. . About 80% of dog food bags left open in warm climates have mites. Instead of just ripping open the bag and leaning it against the wall, the food is stored in a container that keeps it dry and free of mites.

Dogs with allergies will often have problems with their ears.

Dogs with allergies will often have problems with their ears.

What Else Can I Do for My Itching Dog?

Even if you follow all of the steps outlined above, some dogs are going to suffer. Some of them will find relief with conventional therapy (like steroid injections and antihistamines) and still others will respond to the new alternative therapies being developed.

There are some new non-conventional therapies but they are not available in all areas, so discuss them with your vet. You should read more about alternative therapies if you want to try other things to help your dog.


  • Loeffler A, Soares-Magalhaes R, Bond R, et al. A retrospective analysis of case series using home-prepared and chicken hydrolysate diets in the diagnosis of adverse food reactions in 181 pruritic dogs. Veterinary Dermatology 2006; 17: 273–279.
  • Chesney C. Food sensitivity in the dog: a quantitative study. Journal of Small Animal Practice 2002; 43: 203–207.
  • Sousa CA, Halliwell REW. The ACVD task force on canine atopic dermatitis (XI): the relationship between arthropod hypersensitivity and atopic dermatitis in the dog. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 2001; 81: 233–237.
  • Hibberson CE, Vogelnest LJ. Storage mite contamination of commercial dry dog food in south-eastern Australia. Aust Vet J. 2014 Jun;92(6):219-24.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 15, 2015:

Hi Rodney, yes the response to antihistamines is variable: sometimes they work, sometimes they just make a dog sleepy or hyper. The unsaturated fatty acids are great but if the dog is exposed to an environment with a lot of allergens he still is allergic to them and produces cells that release histamines, and is thus miserable.

I published this hub on mange a few years ago

but it mostly recommends ivermectin, the drug available in heartgard, to kill the mites. I will try to put something together on holistic alternatives and will send you an email when I finish. Thanks for the comment.

rodney80 on April 15, 2015:

My small experience showed me that not all dogs response well to antihistamines. To my knowledge best so far is pheniramine. Steroid is not safe for long time treatment and as I believe it should not be given until one is sure dog is suffering from allergies.

One effective treatment is giving dog large quantity of unsaturated fatty acid specially omega-6. Garlic is another component that gives relieve.

Dr. am I wrong? Will you write article on dog mange and its treatment specially holistic?


Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2015:

Mary--the latest recommendations are for an elimination diet trial for at least 10 weeks, but it may take as much as 12 weeks before you see any real improvement. I read a human study where it took 6 months for a good response! I hope it works since you both have a long road ahead of you. Good luck.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2015:

Mary--the latest recommendations are for an elimination diet trial for at least 10 weeks, but it may take as much as 12 weeks before you see any real improvement. I read a human study where it took 6 months for a good response! I hope it works since you both have a long road ahead of you. Good luck.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2015:

dogmama58--thanks for pointing that out about grains in dog food. Only about 40% of dogs with year round allergies are responsive to changes in diet, though, and even less are sensitive to grains.

BUT, there is no reason a dog should be eating grain. The only reason those things are even added to dog food is so that the companies will make more profits and have money for commercials on TV and kickbacks to veterinary medical associations that condemn raw diets and recommend those grain-filled foods. You are doing your dog a great service by purchasing a grain free diet!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 14, 2015:

I go over Baby to check for fleas, and never see any. I will look for "flea dirt" as you mentioned, though. She takes Sentinal for heartworm control, and it is supposed to keep fleas off the dog, too. While she is on this special diet, she gets NO treats at all. I really seems to be helping her. She's been on the diet for almost three weeks, now.

Judy Ward from Hutto, TX on April 14, 2015:

Dogs may also be allergic to wheat and other grains such as corn. I have a dog who is allergic to wheat. There are a number of good diets out that do not have wheat in them. We use ANF.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2015:

Peggy W-- thanks for the shares. I was reading an article today about Allerpet-D, an anti-allergy product you can wipe on the coat to decrease allergens, but testing showed the wet paper towel on the coat and feet work just as good. If your dog is long haired you do need to bather him pretty often though.

Mary, my Schnauzer goes crazy with just one flea, whereas my Pitbull can have a lot more and is not even bothered. Do you know how to look for flea dirt? If you find any spots of dirt on her back, put them on a wet paper towel and if it bleeds out red that indicates blood and fleas. Even if you do not find any, keep her on a good flea control program since you are in Florida. As far as the food goes, allergies are not that common, but if you are trying an elimination diet be sure she is not getting any treats, chewies, etc. that might have proteins in them. I hope you find out what is bothering your Baby!

Sam, we use some plants on hot spots here in Brasil, and some of my German clients use an iodine paste with a lot of success. Of course if the dog is still allergic the problem goes away, and, as you know, just comes back later somewhere else. Benadryl masks the symptoms, and as long as she is doing okay with it that is a very safe drug. Good luck with the struggle!!

Sam Montana from Colorado on April 14, 2015:

Great article. We have a Border Collie that has always been allergic to something and we tried everything. It seems it is seasonal, but some years it is worse. You can feel the hot spots and hives where she itches. Benadryl seems to work the best out of trying everything.

Sometimes putting Aveeno Anti-Itch on the hot spots helps.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 14, 2015:

Our current dog seems to suffer most every Spring when the allergens outside are particularly high (just as I do) so I will take some of your suggestions under consideration. I never thought to wipe down his coat and feet every time he comes inside. Will see if it makes a difference. Thanks! Will share this with others + tweet & pin.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 14, 2015:

My Min. Schnauzer is an itchy dog! We are trying to rule out food sensitivity now by only feeding her sweet potatoes and pinto beans. I first thought she was sensitive to gluten, but now I think other foods are causing her to itch.

It's a real problem to have an itchy dog and not know if they are allergic to something.