Top 10 Tips for Itchy Dogs Before You Call the Vet Part 4/10: Lots of Itchy Dog Home Remedy Ideas!
Before you even think of seeing the vet again, you should first try an itchy dog home remedy. There are many to choose from and they are very effective…
Many owners of itchy dogs realise processed food was the problem and jump straight to an appropriate hypoallergenic, fresh dog food, which we showed you how to do in Part 2 of Itchy Dogs – What is the Best Dog Food for Itchy Skin. While you are undertaking this transition I recommend you pick a single itchy dog home remedy from the list below and include it during the transition, which is sure to immediately help with their itch. Once under control, they can drop it.
For other dogs, while a move to a fresh, hypoallergenic diet is surely the solution to the majority of cases, there are a number of reasons why it mightn’t work straight away for them. First off, your dog can be in such a state, it takes time to heal the gut. Other times the solution is complicated, requiring a few attempts to get the diet exclusion diet right. Lastly, it is not always diet at play, it could be an unforeseen environmental factor at play (in which case, it’s great that you have ruled out food as a cause, which is a crucial first step to diagnosis here). For these dogs, and not to mention the fact there are many other causes of itch in dogs, including environmental issues such as pollen or household chemicals. These dogs may be leaning on an itchy dog home remedy for longer periods. No problem.
The simplest and most common itchy dog home remedy is an omega 3 addition…
An excellent anti-inflammatory addition for dogs is cod liver oil (much better than fish oil) as it is great for cooling itchy skin. A multitude of studies shows fish oil is effective at reducing itch and the steroid need of dogs suffering atopy. Thus, it can and should always be given to itchy dogs and those suffering atopy in general.
However, a note of warning. The generic “fish oil” capsule is probably the lowest on the ladder in terms of quality, in that it is lowest in bioavailable omega 3 and often highest in oily filler. Worse than this, fish oil comes from fish fat and fish fat is where the fish stores any toxins he has been accumulating from his environment. And we are pumping unsustainable amounts of chemical nasties into our oceans. Bits such as heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, all byproduct of our industrial lifestyle, clothes producers, metal manufacturers, farming, you name it) and PCB’s, a by-product of our love of plastic. All highly, highly toxic. Fish oil capsules, depending on where they’re from, and you’re not told, are likely to be higher in these nasties.
To be honest, I’m not sure how much I’d worry about this initially in my itchy dog, it’s still an excellent itchy dog home remedy. And you’re only using it in the short term so don’t worry too much here. As we can see from the chart above, cod-liver oil tablets will be better and safer than generic fish oil tablets, certainly from a toxin point of view. You can find them in your local store no problem.
However, the smaller the animal the better. The best from a toxin-load point of view is that the source is not a predator of other fish (reducing bioaccumulation). In this way, krill oil (find some of the best krill oil here on Amazon) is not only best but it requires fewer conversion steps, it gets straight in there. Needless to say krill oil is also very pricey. Some folk are worried, perhaps needlessly, that taking krill from the oceans effects a number of whale species (there is a LOT of krill in the ocean), but if this is a concer, know that phytoplankton (sea microorganisms grown in a very large jar, essentially!) are considered the Rolls Royce of omega 3 supplements. It usually comes in handy powder form (find phytoplankton here on Amazon) and is the most expensive but there is certainly more omega 3 per pound in this animal than any other, so you are likely getting your money’s worth, certainly when you consider dosage below.
Regarding dose in itchy dogs, it is the EPA and DHA (both types of Omega 3) which will do the magic. The more of these the better. Check the back of the label of your product of choice. You should aim to give your dog between 50 and 120mg of EPA and DHA combined per kilo of body weight for a short time and reduce after that, depending on need. So a 1000mg cod liver oil tablet containing 300mg of EPA/DHA would be a good dose for the average 6kg dog, though I would double this dose initially if using as an itchy dog home remedy. Please remember, that should you be supplementing in this manner for more than a couple of weeks they will need a little vitamin E in there too at some stage to help metabolise the added fat. Once the condition is controlled and passes aim to reduce supplements and replace with regular oily fish (once you have established via your exclusion diet that oily fish do not set your dog off…
Studies show Golden Turmeric Paste (GTP) is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Made at home, this itchy dog home remedy is so potent it can clash with some meds (which shows how effective it is!)…
If you reduce inflammation you reduce its side effects (itch, flaming skin rash, inflamed ears etc) and steroid need. As the link below shos, the volume of studies supporting the use of curcumin, the key bioactive ingredient in turmeric, as an anti-inflammatory thereby alleviating the effects of many diseases fo the heart, gut, brain and various cancers, is pretty staggering. It is also one of the most leaned-upon itchy dog home remedies out there.
It’s important that you don’t just sprinkle turmeric on their food. It won’t work. You need to prepare it by cooking it gently in raw, organic, virgin coconut oil and mix with some black pepper. It is the piperine in the black pepper that makes it so highly effective, and the MCT’s in the coconut oil carries the compound across the gut membrane. Here’s how to make your own Golden Turmeric Paste for itchy dogs. You make it up, store in the fridge (turns into something like vaseline when cooled) and simply add a quarter of a teaspoon per 10kg of dog.
Warning: GTP will clash with some meds. You can find a complete list of turmeric drug clashes here.
The top 3 best anti-inflammatory herbs that should help to alleviate itch in your dog…
The great thing about adding herbs to your dog’s carefully prepared, homemade hypoallergenic dog food is that they are highly unlikely to induce a food sensitivity. We see an awful lot of dog allergy test results here, herbs rarely if ever make it on to the list, even in the worst cases.
[A side note on dog allergy tests here – if you are considering or being urged to consider by your vet, a dog allergy test, you have a number of options available to you. One is the test offered to you by your vet. This is invariably a skin-prick or blood test, both of which are not only uncomfortable, particularly the skin-prick test there, but highly expensive and, in my opinion, unnecessary. If you are struggling with the exclusion diet or if you simply would like some guidance as to which meat proteins to proceed with for your new homemade hypoallergenic diet in your dog then I recommend a saliva test. These are much cheaper. There are two competitors out there. One is Nutriscan, which costs close to $300 and only tests for 25 proteins. The other is EasyDNA which is the same thing, as far as I can see, it is not only much, much cheaper, costing only £85 for Irish / UK customers and $99 for US / Canadian customers, but tests over 110 proteins. If you feel you need a test, please consider easy DNA and save yourself a lot of cash.]
Some of the most popular anti-inflammatory herbs out there is chamomile. Used primarily to soothe inflammation in the gut (where your dog’s itch is originating, remember), a bit organic chamomile is a fantastic itchy dog home remedy and makes a great addition to any exclusion diet. You can simply buy organic chamomile flowers online (find organic chamomile on Amazon) and make a strong cup of tea out of them. Keep this tea in the fridge and add a good tablespoon in on top of their food each meal, if they don’t mind the taste. You can even simply crumple up a few flowers and add them straight into the food, it works that way too.
Like Chamomile, studies show Calendula is another potent anti-inflammatory of the skin and gut. This study involved the use of a calendula extract to fix a paw edema (medical term for swelling) in rats. They found the potent anti-inflammatory response of Calendula officinalis extract was likely mediated by the inhibition of proinflammatory cytokines, which are involved in your dog’s itch process too.
Use Calendula as you would chamomile above. I’m not sure which one is better for your itchy dog home remedy but I suggest you use one at a time. Give each a week or two to take effect before deciding (also helps you monitor if it agrees with your dog, just in case). Calendula can also be used topically to reduce itch (which we get to in our next section which teaches you how to make a homemade and very effective skin-soothing spritz. In fact, also in the spritz is another common herb, peppermint, which as opposed to being anti-inflammatory has a lovely cooling effect on the affected skin). On a side note, dry Calendula flowers (also called Marigold tea) is one of the tastiest cups of tea you are likely to enjoy, so I might go for it first, if just for selfish reasons! Find organic chamomile flowers pretty cheap here on Amazon, check out those reviews!
Nettle is another standout herb for reducing itch in dogs and, as it’s so readily available, it should probably be the first herbs you consider for any itchy dog home remedy. Scientists at PennState Hershey University believe the nettle minimises your body’s levels of inflammatory chemicals whilst interfering with the way pain is transmitted in your body. Win win for chronically itchy dogs. A 2013 study published found that nettle extract is more effective than a host of other traditional tinctures in easing inflammatory disorders. It’s easy to prepare. Find out more below.
If you want to include all of these in one go, know that there are products out there which do exactly that. In this regard, there is simply no better product than Zesty Paws Allergy Bites. Find them on Amazon. We give these a bit more time in Part 5 when we talk about the importance of colostrum and probiotics in the healing of the gut (where all this inflammation and thus itch is coming from). With a money-back guarantee and more than 2000 highly positive reviews, Allergy Bites are clearly doing the job for thousands of itchy dogs out there. They include most of the bits above…and a whole lot more. Caution: they are lamb based, keep that in mind when doing your exclusion diet.
Finally, and while not strictly an itchy dog home remedy, human antihistamine tablets might take the edge off…
If your dog is scratching badly, particularly if you know it’s worse during high pollen times, (between May-September in the Northern Hemisphere) then human anti-histamines could take the edge off itchy dogs. Zirtec or Piriton for humans works great in dogs and is much cheaper. Find them in your local pharmacy and remember to dose according to body size. Give it a go. If it doesn’t have a noticeable effect within days, drop it. Don’t spend too long on these though, somewhat unbelievably, the histamine response is something that was trying to help you. We’re trying not to mess with the immune system too much, remember?
More from the Itchy Dog series…
Itchy dogs part 10: Is your dog stressed?!