Most dog owners will have had an itchy dog at some time in their pet’s life. It’s so distressing to watch your beloved canine companion scratching and chewing at his skin in an attempt to relieve the irritation. But what can you do to stop your dog’s itchiness?
And what causes a dog to develop sensitive skin in the first place? Well, help is at hand in this in-depth guide that we’ve compiled, especially with you and your itchy pet in mind! We will look at multiple reasons that your dog may be itching, including allergies, and help find the right bathing solution to help.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about what causes itchy skin in dogs and what steps you can take to prevent and cure the problem. Also, we’ve included a list of six of the most effective, top-quality dog shampoos that are specially formulated to tackle the problem of itchy, sensitive skin in dogs.
At A Glance: Our Favorite Dog Shampoos For Itchy Skin
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Why Does My Dog’s Skin Itch?
Usually, you can pinpoint if your pup is itching because of something seasonal, something wrong with their diet, or something more seasonal like fleas. The bottom line is that there are multiple reasons for sensitive skin, so figuring out the best remedy starts with finding the cause.
Below we are going to dive into what could be impacting your pup. Some of the reasons will likely require different actions than others. But regardless of the cause, there’s almost always an over-the-counter solution that can help your pup stay clean and not irritate the skin.
Bacterial & Fungal Conditions
Bacterial and fungal skin conditions are usually secondary problems that occur following another health issue that’s caused your dog to scratch his skin. Skin damage allows bacteria to proliferate, causing more itching and setting up a chronic problem.
Ringworm is not a worm but a common fungal condition that affects dogs of all breeds. Ringworm can affect other animals, too, not just dogs. And people can get ringworm also! Ringworm can appear as patches of hair loss with a crusty covering. Sometimes, the fungus causes grey, scaly areas on the skin accompanied by hair loss and patches of rough, broken hair.
Hormone Imbalances, Hot Spots & Autoimmune Issues
Itchy, dry skin can be symptomatic of several health conditions caused by hormone imbalance, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and pemphigus, can cause a dog’s skin to become dehydrated, sensitive, and itchy.
Hot spots are also called moist dermatitis. These red, inflamed, irritated skin areas are caused by infection, allergies, insect bites, and over-grooming.
Dry Skin & Allergies
When a dog’s skin becomes dehydrated, it will become itchy. Living in a dry environment, having too many baths, and eating mediocre quality food can all cause a dog’s skin to become dehydrated. In some cases, you can improve your dog’s skin condition by adding fish oil to his food or perhaps buying a humidifier for use in your home.
Some dogs have allergies that can cause their skin to become itchy. Allergic reactions can be caused by food, cleaning chemicals, shampoos, medication, or pollen. Allergies are actually one of the most common reasons for itchy skin in dogs. Quite a few dogs are allergic to grass, which many dog owners aren’t even aware of!
If you want to learn about your dog’s possible allergies, you can do an at-home allergy test from EasyDNA. But be sure to check in with your vet before making any big changes based on the results.
Some allergies are inherited, especially those that are triggered by plants and pollens. The most common allergy symptom in dogs is itchy skin, either all over the body or localized in just one area. Other allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, discharge from the nose or eyes, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.
The majority of dogs that are affected by allergies are over a year old. Different kinds of allergies will affect your dog’s skin in different ways. Other common causes of allergies that can cause severe itching in dogs include:
Flea allergy is an exaggerated inflammatory response to the fleas’ saliva and is the most common insect allergen in canines. Flea bites cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Animals with FAD will bite and scratch constantly, removing large patches of hair in the process.
Inhalant Allergy (Atopy)
Atopy, or inhalant allergy, is usually an allergic reaction associated with tree, grass, and weed pollens. Mold, mildew, and house dust mites can also cause atopy in susceptible dogs. In people with pollen allergies, the usual symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose. However, in most dogs, atopy manifests with itchy skin (pruritus). Bathing with hypoallergenic shampoos that contain an anti-inflammatory agent can be very soothing to the dog’s itchy, inflamed skin.
Food allergy (hypersensitivity) commonly develops in response to particular food protein primarily that is contained in wheat gluten, chicken eggs, soy, beef, chicken, and lamb. As well as causing digestive upsets, food allergies in dogs can cause skin itchiness.
Contact allergy in dogs is quite rare. When a dog comes into contact with an allergen, a severe, localized skin reaction occurs. Common contact allergens include flea collars containing pyrethrin, garden pesticides, grasses, and materials, including synthetics and wool. Contact allergy usually affects small areas on the dog at the point of contact with the allergen, such as the feet and stomach. Typically, washing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can help to soothe itchy, inflamed areas of the skin.
Dealing With Allergies
Allergies that cause skin itching can be confused with other disorders and sometimes occur concurrently with them. For that reason, you should never attempt to diagnose your dog’s problem without consulting your vet immediately.
Your vet will probably recommend a complete diagnostic evaluation to isolate the root cause of the itching and skin problem before prescribing an appropriate course of treatment for your pet. Note that your whole family will need to follow your vet’s advice very carefully if you are to relieve your dog’s itching successfully.
Modern technology also allows for at-home testing with this trusted allergy test from EasyDNA. This test will consider foods, treats, supplements, as well as lifestyle and environment for possible allergens that may be affecting your dog. Similar to human DNA kits like Ancestry.com, collecting a sample involves a simple saliva swab of your dog’s mouth.
All high-quality dog shampoos for itchy skin should contain skin-soothing ingredients. Skin-soothing ingredients are usually derived from plants, and many have antioxidant benefits too. All skin-soothing ingredients should be suitable for use on all skin types. However, if you are unsure of the cause of your dog’s skin itching, always consult your vet before bathing your dog.
Common skin-soothing ingredients include allantoin, chamomile (bisabolol extract), burdock root, aloe vera, vitamin E or Colloidal oatmeal.
Most dog shampoos for itchy skin contain colloidal oatmeal as one of their primary ingredients.
Oatmeal has been used for centuries as a treatment for inflamed, itchy skin, and it is proven to be very effective. However, the kind of oatmeal used in shampoos is not the same variety that you’ll find in your cookies or breakfast cereal!
“Colloidal” oatmeal is made by grinding pure oatmeal and suspending it in a liquid. Using oatmeal in this way means that the ingredient will be more readily absorbed by the dog’s skin than it would be if used in its natural, raw form.
Colloidal oatmeal contains avenanthramides and phenols, both of which relieve skin irritation and itching while helping to restore the skin’s delicate pH balance. Contained within oatmeal are the following substances that are known to have benefits for the skin:
- Avencin compounds (anti-fungal properties)
- Flavonoids (absorb ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays)
- Phenols and starches (moisturize the skin)
- Saponins (cleansing the skin)
- Vitamin E (potent anti-inflammatory)
As well as all these highly beneficial substances, oatmeal contains cellulose and fiber, which can help relieve the irritation and redness that some skin conditions cause. So, when looking for good dog shampoo for itchy skin, always look for a product containing oatmeal. Also, a good product will have vitamin E and aloe listed on its list of ingredients. Both of these substances have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
A dog’s skin is much thinner than a human’s. The dog’s top layer of skin (epidermis) is only three to five cells thick, whereas yours is between ten and 15 cells thick. So, keeping your dog’s coat in excellent condition is essential to protect your pet’s skin.
Brushing your dog with a de-shedding tool will remove dead hair, dirt, and dander from the coat, allowing new hair to grow through and stimulating blood circulation. Matted fur can also harbor environmental pollutants and impurities that could trigger allergies, resulting in itchy, sensitive skin. If your dog has longer hair, combining a regular de-shed routine with a de-shedding shampoo will help.
A coat that’s not brushed regularly can become knotted. Knots and mats can pull on the skin, causing discomfort and irritation for your dog. Also, matted hair prevents air from reaching the dog’s skin. If the skin can’t breathe, the dog cannot regulate its body temperature effectively.
Removing Potential Allergens
An essential element of grooming your dog is cleaning around his face, especially his mouth and ears. Also, remember to freshen up your pet’s feet and groin. All these areas are vulnerable to picking up allergens that could cause itchiness and irritation to the dog’s skin. You’ll also want to make sure you use a grinder to trim their nails regularly to remove any allergens.
You don’t want to get even a gentle shampoo in those areas. Instead, use special cleansing wipes and topical disinfecting cleaners that you can get from your vet or online. Most importantly, clean your dog’s lips and mouth. Any bacteria that are harbored here could be spread to other parts of the dog’s body through licking when the dog is grooming himself.
Importance Of Regular Bathing
Regularly bathing your dog is crucial in maintaining healthy skin. During the bathing process, you’ll wash any allergens out of your pet’s coat and away from the skin.
Always use a hypoallergenic shampoo that contains soothing, natural ingredients to bathe your dog. If the dog’s skin and coat are clean, it’s much less likely that bacteria and other irritants will inflame your pet’s skin and cause itchiness.
A dirty, unkempt coat can become dry and brittle, falling out in patches. As a result, hotspots can form on the dog’s skin, leading to licking, biting, and scratching. The skin can become greasy and scaly, leading to a yeasty odor coming from the dog’s ears and coat.
Managing Sensitive Skin
So, what steps can you take to manage your dog’s sensitive skin? You can actually take several steps to help calm sensitive skin before you ever even think about what type of shampoo is best. Let’s look at some steps that can help your pup feel better instantly.
- Take your dog to a professional groomer
- A professional dog groomer will be able to get your dog’s skin and coat into tip-top condition.
- And an experienced groomer should be able to recommend some effective remedies.
- Bathe your dog with specially-formulated shampoo for sensitive, itchy skin.
- That can help to get rid of potential allergens such as dust and pollens.
- This will also re-moisturize the skin to combat the irritating effects of dehydration.
- Consider your dog’s diet (some are susceptible to certain food groups).
- Identify and eliminate foods to which your dog is sensitive.
- Consider an at-home allergy test
- Or ask your vet for more information about food allergy testing.
- Remember to wipe your dog’s paws after he’s been outside.
- That can help to remove outdoor allergens such as pollen that could trigger skin sensitivity and itching.
- Add vitamin E supplement to your dog’s food to help improve the condition of his skin.
- Also, ask your vet for some vitamin E oil that you can apply directly to dry, itchy areas on your dog’s skin.
Can Shampoos Help?
In many cases, dog shampoo formulated especially for sensitive skin can help alleviate the problem. However, it’s always advisable to consult your vet to find out exactly what’s causing the itchiness before you head down the DIY treatment route.
Sometimes, a specialist veterinary dog shampoo that’s formulated to kill parasites, bacteria, or ringworm may be appropriate. Or a product that will combat the effect of allergies could be prescribed, together with a course of antihistamine drugs.
Shampoo Buyer’s Guide
There are many factors to consider before you buy. Some of these factors include ingredients, moisturizers, pH balance, and more. Let’s take a closer look at what ingredients you can expect to find in dog shampoos for itchy skin, followed by other important considerations to take before bathing your pup.
A glance along the shelves at your local pet supplies store will quickly show you just how many different types of dog shampoos there are on the market. So, how on earth can you pick the best dog shampoo for sensitive skin?
Your first action should be to talk to your vet to determine what’s causing your dog’s itchiness. If your dog has an underlying health problem, your vet may prescribe a specialized veterinary shampoo that will help ease the itching when used in tandem with other drugs or topical treatments. If a medical condition does not cause your dog’s itchy skin, he may benefit from being washed with a shampoo that’s formulated to soothe itchy skin.
Hypoallergenic dog shampoo is designed to be very mild and gentle, presenting a very low risk of triggering an allergic reaction. If your dog has itchy skin, look out for a shampoo that contains only natural ingredients. Avoid anything that contains alcohol, soap, and chemicals that could dry the skin, making the itchiness even worse.
Good dog shampoo for itchy skin will contain ingredients that will actively moisturize the dog’s skin, including colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, and other items that help with moisture. Other goodies to look out for are skin-supporting nutrients such as vitamin E and biotin.
A dog’s skin has a pH level of between 6.5 and 7.5. The correct pH balance is vital for preventing dehydration and itchiness. So, always choose a dog-specific shampoo that is pH-balanced. Do not use human shampoo on your dog! The pH level of human skin is different from that of your dog, and human shampoo is much too harsh for your pet’s skin and coat.
Testing on Live Animals
As a dog-lover, you don’t want to use a shampoo that has been tested on animals for bathing your canine companion. Unfortunately, some companies do still use animals for testing their human and pet products, including shampoos. To check out which products are cruelty-free and have never been tested on animals, take a look at the list online at this link.
Also, there’s an app from Choose Cruelty-Free that you can download for free, which lists a whole range of cosmetics and shampoos that have not been tested on animals.
Some countries, including China, have laws that stipulate that all imported beauty products are tested on animals before a company can distribute in that country. PETA has put together a web page where you can find out which global manufacturers still use animal testing.
Our Favorite Dog Shampoos for Itchy Skin
While there are multiple dog grooming shampoos on the market, most are made for standard bathing. We’ve taken the time to seek out and review six of the best dog shampoos for itchy skin that are on the market. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but we feel it’s a good representation of reasonably priced solutions to help your pup calm their skin. The six options below balance quality ingredients at a reasonable price and should help your dog feel better in a couple of washes.
Paws & Pals Natural Oatmeal Shampoo
- Vet formulated and manufactured in USA.
- 6-in-1 reduced shedding – anti itch, smelly odor control, moisturizes dry skin, conditions & detangles.
- Made with all-natural ingredients plus pH balanced, alcohol-free, paraben-free.
- Tear-free formula will not irritate or inflame a dog’s eyes or nose
- Higher concentrate of oatmeal extract using less than other shampoos.
Top of our list of recommended dog shampoos for itchy skin is Paws and Pals with Aloe Vera. The shampoo is specially formulated to promote dry, sensitive skin and to condition your dog’s coat too. The ingredients used in the shampoo are all-natural and vegan-friendly too. All-natural constituents of the shampoo include oatmeal, rosemary, shea butter, aloe, jojoba, and coconut oil.
Paws and Pals shampoo is a very high-quality product that works to nourish your pet’s coat and care for his delicate, sensitive skin. The shampoo also leaves your pet pleasantly scented and free from that nasty doggy odor that can afflict some dogs.
The tear-free shampoo does not contain soap so that it won’t irritate or inflame your dog’s nose, eyes, ears, or mouth should any of the products accidentally come into contact with these sensitive areas.
We love that this shampoo contains 100% natural oils to deep-clean and moisturize your dog’s skin and coat. It’s also vegan-friendly, non-toxic, cruelty-free, and has no parabens, soaps, or harsh chemicals. It’s a tearless formula enhanced with pro-vitamin B5 and is manufactured in the United States.
Pets Are Kids Premium Oatmeal
- Comprehensive anti-itch formula.
- Specially formulated for cats and dogs with sensitive skin and coats in mind.
- Helps protect your doggy or kitty from itching, shedding, & allergies.
- Zero harmful chemicals.
- Tear-free & dandruff free.
- Plant-derived ingredients are gentle on paws and nose.
- Lifetime, no questions asked, manufacturer money-back guarantee.
Pets Are Kids Anti-Itch Shampoo is made using organic oatmeal, aloe vera, and baking soda and is formulated to provide instant relief from the itching and hotspots caused by sensitive skin. The shampoo has a mild oatmeal cookie scent that leaves your pet smelling sensational! The product is used by professional groomers and is recommended by vets too.
Pets Are Kids use only natural ingredients in their shampoos and hypoallergenic coat conditioner, and their anti-bacterial and anti-fungal constituents too. All of these components can help ease your dog’s itchiness.
When you buy a bottle of Pets Are Kids shampoo, you can choose to send a picture of your dog to the manufacturers. If you do so, the company will donate a portion of its profits to a pet with cancer. You’ll receive a picture of the dog you’ve helped in return, which is sure to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling to brighten your day.
We love that it comes with a money-back guarantee, and it’s made in the United States from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients that are 100% natural and plant-based. It’s hypoallergenic and non-toxic, and it’s formulated specifically to help stop itchy skin on your pup.
Rocco & Roxie Soothe
- Healing, hydrating blend cleanses irritated skin effectively while restoring his coat’s natural oils.
- Made with super-calming oat extract combined with olive oil for softness.
- Rich shea butter to provide unparalleled moisture.
- Aloe vera to relieve irritation; and gentle chamomile.
- Made with super-calming oat extract combined with olive oil for softness.
- No masking dyes, drying alcohols, or parabens.
- 100% money-back guarantee.
Rocco & Roxie’s Soothe formula dog shampoo is specially designed for dogs with skin sensitivity issues. The shampoo contains a blend of the highest quality ingredients that work together to heal and hydrate damaged, itchy skin. Oat extract and olive oil are included for their skin-soothing properties; shea butter infuses every hair with moisture to promote a shiny, glossy, healthy-looking coat.
We love that this shampoo contains no harsh chemicals, parabens, detergents, or synthetic dyes. It gently cleanses while actively calming dry or itchy skin. It’s formulated to restore the coat’s natural oils and hydrate the skin. The rosemary extract acts on the dog’s hair follicles to restore dry, flaky skin that can cause itching, and aloe vera soothes and calms irritated tender skin. It also has a money-back guarantee.
Vet's Best Hypo-Allergenic
- For sensitive skin.
- Relieves itching.
- Helps to smooth dry, brittle coats.
- Veterinarian formulated blend of key natural, plant-based ingredients.
- May be used as often as necessary to remove allergens without drying out your dog’s skin.
- Will not affect other dog treatments such as topical flea and tick control products.
Vet’s Best Hypoallergenic dog shampoo is specially formulated for dogs with sensitive, itchy skin and dry, brittle coats. The shampoo is soap-free and contains natural ingredients, including aloe vera. There’s also added vitamin E to promote healthy skin.
We love the soap-free formula because it relieves itchy skin and moisturizes dry & brittle coats. It’s hypoallergenic, making it perfect for pups with skin issues. It contains natural ingredients recommended by vets and can be used with other topical flea & tick products. You can use the shampoo without washing away topical tick and flea products from your dog’s skin.
Pet Pleasant Levendar Oatmeal
- Handcrafted to cleanse and moisturize dry skin.
- Removes dirt and odors thanks to potent lavender oil for dogs in our dog odor shampoo.
- Versatile oatmeal lavender dog shampoo for all dogs.
- Created with high-quality ingredients.
- Strong Values – We hope you love our pet grooming
- Products are cruelty-free without commonly used additives.
Pet Pleasant Lavendar Oatmeal shampoo contains colloidal oatmeal and lavender for the ultimate hydration to combat dry, itchy skin. The formula is hypoallergenic too, so even dogs with super-sensitive skin will benefit from its use.
If you live in an area where ticks and fleas are a problem, you’ll appreciate the addition of lavender which naturally deter these insect pests. The product is formulated to give your dog’s coat a pleasant scent and eliminate that unpleasant doggy smell that some pups suffer from.
We love that this US-made shampoo comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. It has a gentle moisturizing effect to help keep your pet’s skin supple and relieve itching. It also contains colloidal oatmeal, lavender, and aloe vera to help calm itchy skin for your fur baby.
Wahl Dry Skin with Coconut Lime Verbena
- pH balanced, alcohol-free, paraben free, PEG-80 free.
- Highly recommended for moisturizing dry skin & providing itch relief.
- Coconut lime verbena scented.
- Great for moisturizing dry skin, cleaning dirty coats, & itch relief.
- Thick lather rinses off clean & keeps your pet looking and smelling clean.
- Has a higher concentration of coconut-derived sodding agent.
- Brand has been around for 50 years.
U.S. manufacturer Wahl is a very well-established maker of pet shampoos and conditioners. Their products are of very high quality and are used by many professional dog groomers worldwide. Wahl’s oatmeal formula shampoo for itchy skin contains coconut, lime, and verbena to moisturize, protect, and gently cleanse your dog’s skin, relieving troublesome itching as it does so.
The shampoo quickly works into a rich, thick lather that effectively cuts through dirt and environmental residue while still being gentle on your dog’s skin. Your dog’s coat will look super-shiny, as well as being clean and silky to the touch.
The shampoo contains plant-derived ingredients and contains no parabens, alcohol, PEG-80, or harsh chemicals. Also, the sensitive skin formula is pH balanced not to irritate your pet’s delicate skin.
We love that this shampoo is made in the US with a pH-balanced formula. It’s also paraben, alcohol, and PEG-80 free. It contains oatmeal to produce healthy, moisturized skin. The concentrated, coconut lime scented formula allows you to get up to 70% more baths out of one bottle of shampoo than you would with other brands. Many professional dog groomers also use it.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this part of our guide, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions by dog owners whose pets suffer from the problem of itchy skin. If you don’t see the information you need, just shoot us an email or ask your question in the comments section. We’ll do our best to help you!
Why does my dog have sensitive skin?
Your dog could have sensitive skin for several reasons. Allergies could be to blame for your dog’s skin sensitivity. Also, your pet could have a parasite infestation, bacterial, or fungal infection that has triggered skin inflammation and irritation of your dog’s skin. If you don’t groom your pet regularly, his skin could become irritated by accumulations of dirt and the natural oils that the skin secretes.
Why does my dog have a skin allergy?
Dog allergies are usually caused by allergens found in animal dander, pollens, and insect saliva. Some allergies are caused by certain foods and medications too. All these allergic reactions can cause your pet to have itchy, sensitive skin. Some allergies are genetic, so your dog may have inherited his skin sensitivity problem from one of his parents.
Should I make a homemade dog shampoo?
There are lots of recipes for homemade dog shampoo out there on the web. In theory, you can make dog shampoo in your kitchen at home. However, if your dog has skin sensitivity or suffers from very itchy skin, it’s better to use a professionally formulated shampoo, such as those we’ve featured in this guide.
Is there a good recipe for homemade dog shampoo?
Yes. The American Kennel Club website has several recipes for homemade dog shampoo that you might like to try.
How often should I bathe a dog that has sensitive skin?
Dogs with sensitive skin should not be bathed too frequently, as it can dehydrate the skin by removing all the natural oils that give it elasticity and keep it supple. Unless advised by a vet, you shouldn’t bathe your dog more than once a month.
Should I use a conditioner with my dog that has sensitive skin?
It’s fine to use a conditioner on a dog that has sensitive skin, provided that you choose a product that’s formulated with skin sensitivity in mind. Look for a conditioner that contains oatmeal, aloe vera, and other natural ingredients that will help to soften the coat, making it easier to groom.
If your dog has itchy skin, it’s vital for your pet’s future health that you find out what’s causing your pet’s sensitivity. Itchy skin in dogs is usually caused by allergies, poor diet, or over-bathing. Once you’ve recognized what’s causing the issue, it’s time to make sure you do your part to help by picking the right shampoo to help relieve their dry and itchy skin.
Bathing your dog with a shampoo that’s formulated to soothe sensitive skin can be very beneficial for your pet. If your dog has itchy skin and is incessantly scratching, chewing, or biting himself, always seek veterinary advice before treating the problem at home. If the vet gives you the green light to bathe regularly, then any of our top picks we’ve looked at should help your pup feel better in no time.