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Pet Itch Relief: Find out What Causes Itchiness in Your Pets and How to Find a Solution

Help your pet spend less time scratching and more time playing


Especially during the summer months, pets are just as (if not more) prone to itching as we humans. Dogs and cats both experience natural itches from time to time, and this is common and normal. If you see your pet scratching themselves regularly or excessively, though, you’ll want to pay extra attention to ensure you help fix any issues, as we all know feeling itchy is frustrating, uncomfortable and can lead to additional issues from scratching. There are various potential causes of itchiness in pets — some with simple fixes, and others that might require some lifestyle changes in order to improve. 

Signs of itchiness in pets 

There are a few ways to tell that your pet is itchy. Veterinarians say common symptoms include excessive scratching, biting or licking of skin; scaly, dry and flaky skin; body odors; thinning hair; ear problems; red or inflamed areas; hair loss or thinning; scabbing and sometimes open sores and visible displays of discomfort such as restlessness or irritability. 

Potential causes of itchiness in pets 

There are a range of issues that could be causing increased itchiness in dogs and cats. Most are related to environmental and nutritional factors, while some breeds are predisposed to dry or itchy skin. Health issues like infections and infestations can also lead to advanced itch. 

Skin diseases can cause pet itchiness 

In addition to parasites, skin infections can be caused by other bacteria or fungi which also  cause itchiness in dogs and cats. Yeast dermatitis is a common skin disease in both dogs and cats that occurs when yeast in the skin grows abnormally, typically due to increased oil production. Yeast infections are not contagious, but they usually recur until the underlying condition is addressed. 

Allergies could be contributing to your pet’s itchiness

Itchiness is a common side effect of allergies, which can be developed by any pet at any point. Dogs and cats both are prone to allergies from their environment, food and most commonly parasite infestations from fleas, ticks and mites where bites can lead to dermatitis (skin swelling and irritation). The animals’ immune systems can also overreact to airborne allergens like pollen, dust, mites and mold. They can also experience hypersensitivity to foods like dairy, beef, wheat gluten, chicken, lamb and soy products.

Orange cat itching its neck
Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography/Getty

“In my clinical experience, the most common cause of itchiness in dogs is flea allergy dermatitis, which affects approximately 50 percent of the itchy dogs I see,” says Dr. Kathryn Dench, Chief Scientific Advisor at Paw Origins. “Cats often suffer from allergic reactions, which can be triggered by a wide range of allergens from pollen to certain food proteins.”

Pets can also suffer from contact allergies which arise when they become over sensitive to allergens that come in contact with their skin. This can include carpet, fibers, grasses, lawn pesticides and chemicals used in flea collars. 

Related: Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions in Dogs: How To Identify Them and What To Do

Home remedies for pet itch relief 

Most times, home remedies are more temporary, surface level cures, and an itchy pet will still need to eventually see a veterinarian to diagnose and treat issues internally. However, natural remedies can work more quickly and help relieve symptoms until you and your vet figure out a long-term treatment plan. 

Flea management

“For fleas, herbs like lavender, lemongrass, and cedar work wonders,” says Dr. Stacy Atria of Lotus Veterinary Alternatives. “A simple herbal spray with lavender and eucalyptus oils mixed with water and apple cider vinegar can be sprayed on your pet’s coat to repel fleas.”

Soothing baths

For general itchiness, a rosemary or lavender bath can soothe irritated skin, says Dr. Atria. She suggests boiling fresh rosemary leaves in water, letting it cool and using it as a rinse after your pet’s regular bath. Oatmeal baths can soothe irritated skin and provide temporary relief as well, as oatmeal is an emollient that will help hydrate the skin. Put about a cup of oatmeal in a food processor until fine, mix the oats well in about two gallons of water, apply to affected areas with a cloth and let it sit for about five minutes before rinsing. You can reapply as needed. 

Oatmeal and water mixture
Elena Vafina/Getty

Related: How to Give a Cat a Bath: Pro Tips Make It Less Stressful for You and Your Feline 

Coconut oil 

Dr. Dench says applying coconut oil to affected areas can help to moisturize dry skin and has mild antibacterial properties.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera helps to cool and soothe the skin, but Dr. Dench cautions to be sure the product is free from alcohol and other additives. 

Apple cider vinegar

“A diluted solution (one part vinegar to one part water) can be used as a rinse or spray to help alleviate itchiness, but avoid using it on open wounds,” says Dr. Dench. 

Calendula or green tea

To help reduce itchiness and irritation in the ears, Dr. Atria recommends a calendula tincture or green tea rinse. You can brew some green tea, let it cool, and use it to gently clean the ears. 

Related: “I’m a Veterinarian and This Is a Red Flag That Your Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning!”

Dietary supplements 

According to Dr. Dench, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, can improve skin health and reduce inflammation in pets. Dr. Atria adds that herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow root can calm the digestive system. Slippery elm powder can be added to their food at a dose of ¼ tsp per 10 lbs of body weight, she says. 

Epsom salt

For a pup with itchy paws, dissolve two cups of epsom salts in a tub filled with just enough cool water to cover the paws. Submerge your dog’s feet for about five to ten minutes, and then make sure to fully dry the paws.

Read on for more pet tips:

Why Is My Dog Coughing? Veterinarian Breaks Down the Potential Causes

Why Do Cats Drool? Vet Explains the Reason + When You Should Be Concerned

Why Is My Dog Panting So Much? Vet Weighs in + Offers Genius Solutions

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