Why is My Dog Itchy and Scratching After a Bath? What to do?

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why is my dog itchy and scratching after a bath

Why is My Dog Itchy and Scratching After a Bath?

We pamper our furbabies and strive to take the best possible care of them. That includes regular bathing. So what happens if you give your furbaby a bath and he starts scratching? What’s making him itchy?

Sometimes in practice, we’d get a call from a frustrated pet parent who complained about their dog’s itching after a bath. That’s when I would take time to explain the possible reasons for the scratching and reassure the client that the behavior is common. The trick was to evaluate the pooch and his circumstances to uncover the cause of his itching.

In this article, we’ll go over the major reasons some dogs itch after getting a bath and what steps you can take to help relieve the irritation. We’ll look at how not to bathe your pooch and talk about what kind of shampoo you want for your pooch’s skin.

We’ll also help you understand why some dogs even itch after an oatmeal bath. Finally, we’ll give you circumstances that require your veterinarian’s help.

Let’s get started.

8 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Itching After a Bath

You just gave your dog a bath, and he’s still scratching. You may wonder what’s going on. Several possible explanations exist for why your dog is itching after a bath. Let’s look at 8 top reasons:

  • Allergies – 
    • Some dogs have an allergy to one or more ingredients in the shampoo. When they contact the formula, they react and get itchy. 
    • Your dog could also have environmental allergies. These could be year-round such as from animal dander or food or they could appear seasonally due to grasses or pollens.
  • Dry skin – Living in an arid climate or dealing with dry seasons can affect your dog’s skin hydration. Dry skin is more likely to become irritated and start itching.
  • Skin Parasites – If your pooch has fleas or mites, regular shampoo may not eliminate the parasites. The tiny bugs will continue to irritate the skin. 
  • Bug Bites – Dogs can react to bites from mosquitos, ants, and other bugs in the yard. 
  • Wrong pH – If you use human shampoo or another product that’s not pH balanced for dog skin, it could disrupt the protective acid mantle. As a result, your pup’s skin is more susceptible to microbial invasion and drying. Both can cause itchy skin.
  • Improper bathing – Dog skin is sensitive, so you need to bathe your furbaby gently. If you’re scrubbing your pooch, using a harsh spray to rinse your dog, or using an abrasive aid such as a stiff brush or scouring sponge, you’re probably irritating and possibly injuring his integument. 
  • Wrong conditioner – Like shampoo, you need to use a product that’s designed for dogs. Human conditioners can include substances that irritate dog skin.
  • Incomplete rinsing – Leaving soap residue in the fur can make the skin itchy. When you complete the shampooing process, rinse your pup until the water coming off his body is clear and suds-free.

There are many different reasons that dogs still itch after a bath. Some of them include various allergies, the ingredients in your shampoo or conditioner, and your bathing method. However, environmental conditions like dry air and parasites can also be a cause of persistent skin itching.

Is it Normal for Dogs to Be Itchy After a Bath?

It’s actually common for dogs to be itchy after a bath. But when it happens, there’s a reason. The key is to figure out what’s causing the irritation so that you can take appropriate measures to correct it.

For example, itchy skin following bathing could mean your dog is shedding. Bathing your dog when he needs to shed can help to loosen dry skin and hair. After the bath is done, your pup’s skin feels itchy because the loose hair needs to come out. Fido’s scratching is a natural response to help with the shedding process. But, if your pup has loose hair, you can help him find relief by brushing out his coat. 

If your pup’s coat feels sticky, there may be shampoo residue on his skin and hair. Always make sure you rinse your dog thoroughly after lathering up. You shouldn’t see any suds or soapy residue at the end of the rinse cycle.

Following a flea bath, the parasites can be more active until the active ingredients start taking effect. So, bathe your pooch to get rid of fleas, he may itch for a while after the bath. Watch your pooch closely, because he could also be reacting to an ingredient in the shampoo.

While shedding is normal in dogs, it points to an underlying condition or issue. For some dogs, itching may indicate they’re shedding. If that’s the case, you can help relieve skin irritation by gently brushing out the coat. A sticky feeling on your furbaby’s coat could mean you didn’t rinse enough after shampooing.

What Can I Do to Relieve My Dog’s Itching After a Bath?

If your pooch is itching after a bath, the first thing you need to do is find out what’s causing him to itch. Check the skin for any signs of redness or irritation. These could indicate that you need to try a different shampoo or that you scrubbed your pup too vigorously. 

In the future, try a soothing dog shampoo such as a formula with colloidal oatmeal or a hypoallergenic formula. One word of warning, if your pup’s redness persists or if he has hives, contact your veterinarian immediately. He may require emergency care.  

If you don’t notice any redness or irritation, your pooch may have dry skin or be shedding. After allowing the coat to dry completely, try gently brushing your dog to remove loose skin and hair. Then you can apply some coconut oil to soothe and moisturize the skin. You can also use a conditioner after shampooing your dog.

What you do depends on the underlying cause of your dog’s itching, but always check for signs of red, irritated skin first. If your dog is showing a reaction, call your veterinarian and consider changing shampoo. Otherwise, try brushing your dog’s coat or adding something to soothe and moisturize the skin.

How Long Will My Dog Itch After a Bath?

How long your dog itches after a bath often depends on the cause of the irritation and itching.

If your pup is having a mild reaction to an ingredient in the shampoo he may scratch for a few yours. However, if his skin was irritated by vigorous scrubbing, the itching may last a day or so. It will take time for the inflammatory reaction to calm down.

In the case of flea shampoo, it takes time for the active ingredients to kill bugs. You may notice scratching for a few hours to a day before all the fleas are dead.

The length of time your pooch may itch after a bath varies depending on the underlying cause. In most cases, itching shouldn’t persist beyond a day. If your pup continues to scratch, it may be time to call your vet.

Am I Bathing My Dog Incorrectly?

Is there really a right way to bathe your dog? Yes, there is. And if you’re doing it incorrectly, you could be causing your pooch to be uncomfortable or worse. So, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do when you bathe your canine companion.

  • Don’t use human shampoo – Some ingredients commonly found in human shampoo can be irritating to dog skin, and some are potential carcinogens. Additionally, many of our products aren’t pH balanced for dog skin.
  • Don’t over-shampoo your dog – Every time you shampoo your dog the formula washes away natural oils that protect your dog’s skin and keep it moist. While the body replaces the oils in a matter of days, frequent shampooing can lead to dry skin.
  • Don’t scrub your dog – Dog skin is thinner and more sensitive than human shampoo. If you scrub your pup’s coat too vigorously or if you use a stiff brush, you could irritate or damage the skin.
  • Don’t leave residue on the fur – Soap residue in the fur can irritate the skin. Make sure you thoroughly rinse your pooch. While rinsing your pooch, watch the water as it pours off the fur. Don’t stop until the stream is clear and free of suds.
  • Don’t use a harsh spray – When you’re bathing your dog, use a gentle spray such as from a shower head. Hard streams of water can be enough to irritate the skin.
  • Don’t use water that’s too hot or too cold – Cold water can make your pup more sensitive to rubbing and scrubbing. Hot water may scald your pal’s sensitive skin. Always use lukewarm water when you’re bathing your pooch. 

Bathing your dog the wrong way can cause irritation or worse. When giving your furbaby a bath, be careful to use the right shampoo and bathe him gently. Rinse the fur completely with a gentle water stream that’s lukewarm.

Am I Using the Wrong Shampoo?

When you bathe your dog, using the right shampoo can make all the difference. The average dog needs a formula that’s pH balanced for her skin and doesn’t include any harmful or irritating substances. That means you should choose a product that’s formulated for dogs and avoid human shampoo. It’s also best to find a shampoo with gentle, soap-free cleansers. Soaps can be drying to the skin.

However, if your furbaby has sensitivities, you should choose a product that’s also hypoallergenic. Shampoos with soothing ingredients like aloe or colloidal oatmeal can help to relieve skin irritation.

If you’re using a shampoo that’s not pH balanced for dogs or that has harsh ingredients such as soap or detergents, you may be contributing to dry, irritated skin. Dogs with sensitive skin should also have ingredients that help to soothe the irritation.

What if My Dog Is Itching Even After An Oatmeal Bath?

Oatmeal functions as a skin protectant. It contains phenols and saponins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. That’s why bathing your pooch with colloidal oatmeal usually helps to relieve itching. But what if it doesn’t?

If you bathe your pooch with oatmeal, and he’s still itching, it may be because:

  • Your dog is having an allergic reaction. 
    • Some dogs are allergic to oatmeal. If you used an oatmeal-based shampoo, Fido could also be reacting to another ingredient in the formula.
    •  Your dog could be reacting to something else such as bug bites or environmental allergens. The chemicals in oatmeal will help soothe irritated skin, but it won’t neutralize histamines in an active allergic reaction.
  • Your dog has fleas or ticks. If your pooch has skin parasites, oatmeal alone will not eliminate the pests. You need a medicated shampoo.

The substances in oatmeal have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help to protect and soothe the skin. If your dog continues to itch after an oatmeal bath, he may have an allergy or be suffering from a skin parasite.

When Should I Call My Vet?

Sometimes, you won’t be able to relieve your pet’s itching without extra help. How can you know when you need to contact your veterinarian for reinforcements? 

You See Hives 

If you just finished shampooing your dog, and you see hives or other signs of an allergic reaction, call the doctor immediately. Depending on the severity of the immune response, your dog may need emergency attention. Some allergic reactions can be life-threatening.

The Itching Won’t Stop

You tried everything you can, and your dog is still itching. He may have an allergy, and the truth is that the itching won’t stop until you deal with the underlying cause. Talk to your veterinarian and develop a plan to try and uncover the offending allergen.

Your Dog’s Skin has Abnormal Changes

If your pup’s skin is getting thicker, turning black, or showing other changes in appearance and texture, call your veterinarian. Fido could be dealing with a skin infection. Your doctor can take skin scrapings and determine a treatment plan.

Sometimes you don’t have the resources to relieve your dog’s itchy skin, so you need to call your vet for help. If your dog shows a strong allergic reaction, keeps itching, or has abnormal changes to his skin, you should contact the doctor for a checkup.

Final Woof

There are multiple reasons that dogs get itchy and start scratching after a bath. Although the behavior points to an underlying cause, itchiness is common for recently bathed canines. Therefore, the goal is to pinpoint the trigger and take appropriate measures to help relieve your pup’s skin irritation.

Generally, dogs shouldn’t itch for more than several minutes to about a day after a bath. A few things you can do to help prevent itching are to bathe your dog correctly and use the right shampoo for his needs. Even when you use a product like oatmeal, your dog can still itch after a bath. That’s because there may be underlying allergies or skin parasites that the shampoo won’t resolve. If the itching persists or if you see adverse reactions like allergies or skin changes, call your vet for help. 

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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