Should I Bathe My Dog to Stop His Itching? (A Vet Explains)

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should I bathe my dog to stop his Itching

Your dog is itching…a lot, and you want to help ease his misery. Will it help to bathe him?

When I’d get a call from clients asking if they could give their dog a bath to help ease itchiness, I would tell them it’s usually a good idea. Then I’d recommend a checkup to help figure out the cause of the skin irritation. During the appointment, I would discuss the what, how, and when of bathing.

In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s usually helpful to bathe dogs to stop itching and what you can use. After that, we’ll go over how and how often to give your pup a bath when he has itchy skin.

Because many itch dogs have skin sensitivities, we’ll discuss what types of shampoos are best for your pal. We’ll also tell you about some other things you can do to relieve your pup’s itching and when it’s time to call your vet about your furbaby’s itchiness.

Let’s get going.

Is It a Good Idea to Bathe My Dog to Stop His Itching?

It’s often helpful to bathe your dog when he’s itching, but you should try to find out what’s irritating him first. Knowing the underlying trigger can help you choose the best solution for your pooch. When you use the right kind of shampoo, it can moisturize the skin and remove dead skin, bacteria, and other irritants. 

However, there are times when bathing your itchy pooch is counterproductive. Sometimes, using the wrong product or bathing your pooch too frequently can increase itching instead of relieving the symptoms. That’s why you should always use a gentle shampoo with ingredients that soothe and protect the skin.

Bathing your itchy dog usually helps to relieve the symptoms.  Before you start the bathwater, it’s best to figure out the cause of the itching so that you can pick the best solution. Otherwise, you may not get the results you’re looking for.

What can I bathe my dog with to stop itching?

There are a variety of things you can use to bathe your itchy dog. Some products are natural while others are available for purchase.

  • Colloidal oatmeal bath – When your pooch has dry, itchy skin you can use colloidal oatmeal to bathe your dog. Grind about 1 cup of oatmeal to a fine powder and mix it with a tub of warm bath water. 
  • Baking soda solution – You can also add a few tablespoons of baking soda to your dog’s bathwater to help soothe itching. 
  • Natural, gentle shampoo – Shampoo formulas with natural ingredients can help to relieve itchy skin. It’s best to look for products that include oatmeal, dog-safe essential oils, or other substances that soothe and moisturize irritated skin.
  • Medicated shampoo – If the itching is severe or won’t respond to regular shampoos or home remedies, you may want to try a medicated shampoo with active ingredients. Other products may include ingredients to combat fungal or bacterial infections.
  • Flea and tick shampoo – Sometimes, itching in your dog is due to skin parasites like fleas or ticks. In this case, you want to choose a product that’s gentle on the skin but also includes ingredients designed to kill the bugs. 

If your pooch is itching all the time, there are various bathing options you can try to soothe his skin. Homemade remedies include colloidal oatmeal and baking soda. You can also use commercial products that are gentle and natural or medicated to address the cause of the itching. 

How to bathe my dog to stop itching?

Once you find the cause of your pal’s itching and choose a shampoo or home remedy, how do you use it to help soothe Fido’s skin? Let’s look at what you should do to prevent undesired effects.

First, only bathe your pooch as often as needed. Overbathing can wash away the skin’s protective oils and increase dryness. If you’re using an over-the-counter product, choose a gentle formula designed to be anti-itch or hypoallergenic. Don’t select human products or formulas that aren’t pH balanced for canine skin.

Once you select a product, bathe your pooch gently. Massage the product into his coat, but don’t scrub too hard because that can be irritating to the skin. After lathering your pooch, rinse his coat thoroughly to remove all shampoo residue then apply a hypo-allergenic conditioner to protect the skin and coat. 

Finish by drying your pup thoroughly, but don’t use hot air. Pat dry with a towel and dry the fur with fans or a hair dryer set on low. Moisture can increase itchiness.

To prevent increasing your dog’s itching, don’t over-bathe your pooch. You should select a product hypoallergenic product that’s pH-balanced for dog skin. It’s important to use a gentle bathing technique and rinse the fur thoroughly after shampooing. Also, make sure you dry your pooch completely, but don’t use hot air.

How often should I bathe my itchy dog?

The answer to this question is not a one-size-fits-all frequency. How often you should bathe your pooch depends on your dog’s breed, activity level, and health condition. But in many cases bathing once a month is a good starting target.

However, bathing too often can have negative effects because the water and shampoo can remove protective oils from the skin. Rather than automatically bathing your pup on a schedule, watch for signs that it’s time to run another bath. One rule of thumb for bathing your pooch is if you can smell a doggy odor. In the case of an itchy dog, you should also take action if you notice scratching or red, irritated skin. 

How often you should bathe your itchy dog depends on his breed, activity level, and signs that he needs another bath. Over bathing can cause dry, itchy skin to get worse rather than better. Watch for undesirable doggy odor, scratching, and red irritated skin.

Should I use a special Shampoo?

You should use a hypoallergenic shampoo that contains ingredients to soothe your dog’s skin. Ideally, your product will be free of harsh or synthetic ingredients that often contribute to skin irritation. There are several varieties of anti-itch formulas on the market.

There are different varieties of anti-itch shampoos that you can select depending on your pup’s needs. For dogs with the occasional itch, try gentle formulas with natural ingredients that include substances like oatmeal or coconut oil. If your pooch has more severe itching and skin issues, look for a medicated shampoo with active ingredients to soothe the irritation or address issues like bacterial infections. Dogs with fleas or ticks need anti-parasitic shampoos.

The type of shampoo you use will depend on your pup’s needs, but it should have natural ingredients and be gentle on the skin. Special medicated shampoos may be called for if your pup has skin issues, infections, or parasites.

What else can I do to relieve my dog’s itching?

Besides using homemade or commercial shampoo, there are a variety of other things you can do to relieve your dog’s itching. Some options include substances that you can apply to your pooch, and other options are lifestyle-oriented.

Topical remedies

In addition to using an anti-itch shampoo or bathing your dog with oatmeal or baking soda, you can use other topical remedies to help reduce itching.

  • Coconut oil – Virgin coconut oil has anti-inflammatory effects and helps to soothe and moisturize dry skin. You can rub some coconut oil onto your dog’s coat and gently brush it in to get to the skin. After about 10 minutes, rinse off any excess oil.
  • Apple cider vinegar – You can make a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water to spray on your pooch to soothe itchy skin. As an acid, vinegar is antibacterial and antiseptic so it can help fight skin infections.
  • Aloe vera – Aloe vera promotes skin healing and includes anti-inflammatory substances. You can use commercial aloe vera gel or use some from a plant leaf. Rub the gel into the irritated part of your dog’s skin.

Lifestyle solutions

  • Give skin-supporting supplements – Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and digestive enzymes can help boost your pup’s immunity and support skin health. 
  • Check the environment – Investigate your dog’s environment and any recent changes to see if something is triggering a skin reaction. Did you recently change cleaning products or laundry detergent? 
  • Feed a hypoallergenic diet – Your dog may have a food sensitivity to one or more ingredients in his diet. Talk to your veterinarian about evaluating Fido for food allergies.

Summary: Some of the other things you can do to help relieve itching in your dog include topical applications of a vinegar and water solution, aloe vera, or virgin coconut oil. You can also try lifestyle changes such as feeding supplements, checking the environment for triggers, or  

When Should I See a Vet?

Sometimes using anti-itch shampoo and trying other measures doesn’t help your pooch. So, when do you know it’s time to call the vet? You should contact your furbaby’s doctor whenever:

You Notice Hives, Redness, or Swelling

When you see hives, swollen areas around the face, ears, or other parts of your pup’s body, or if the skin is reddened, it may mean your pup is having an allergic reaction to something. Some allergies can be life-threatening, so you should call your veterinarian immediately and seek medical attention.

There Are Abnormal Skin Changes

If your dog’s skin is getting thicker, changing texture, or turning black, there may be an infection. Talk to your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. He can take skin scrapings, run tests to diagnose the problem, and develop a treatment plan.

You Can’t Stop Your Dog’s Itching

When you’ve tried everything you can but your dog is still scratching continuously, you should contact your vet. There may be allergies or other underlying conditions that need attention. Your pup’s doctor can examine your pooch, take blood samples, and run other diagnostics to get to the bottom of things.

Any time that you observe signs that your dog is having an allergic reaction, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. You should also call the doctor if there are abnormal changes in your dog’s skin or if nothing you tried was able to stop your dog’s itching.

Final Woof

It’s usually a good idea to bathe your dog if he’s itching. You just have to make sure you use a gentle, natural product that’s non-allergenic, and don’t over bathe your pooch. When you bathe your pup, gently work the formula into your dog’s fur without irritating his skin, then rinse thoroughly. The type of product you use will depend on the reason your pup is itching.

There are other things you can try to help relieve your dog’s itching. Some are topical applications and others involve your pal’s diet or environment. If shampooing and other interventions don’t help or your pup shows signs of an allergic reaction or skin infection, you should contact your vet.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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