How to Bathe a Dog with Itchy Skin

Medium
15 - 30 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

To bathe or not to bathe, that is the question! 

If your dog has itchy skin, you may be concerned that water from a bath and shampoo, which can contain irritating detergents, will make itching worse. Sometimes this is a legitimate concern; frequent bathing with the wrong kind of products can lead to dry skin, cause allergic reactions or irritate already itchy, irritated skin that can be caused by a variety of conditions including parasites, allergies, and medical conditions. 

The first step, if your dog is suffering from itchy skin, is to determine what is causing itchy skin.  You may need veterinary advice to resolve the condition, or you may need to address parasites present. Once the cause has been addressed, or if your dog is just experiencing run of the mill dry, itchy skin, giving your dog a bath with the right products can relieve rather than irritate itchy skin. Some products are available commercially and some can be made with household products that are readily available. Giving your itchy dog a bath can actually relieve rather than contribute to itchy skin, providing the right shampoo is used, as a bath removes dander, bacteria, yeasts and other debris that may be contributing to itchy skin on your dog.

Dog's Perspective

Your itchy dog will be glad of any relief from his irritated itchy skin. Although frequent baths and harsh shampoos can contribute to itchy skin, done correctly, baths can relieve itch by removing dander, debris, and microorganisms like yeast and bacteria that are contributing to itchiness. Key to success is using gentle shampoos or shampoos containing substances such as oatmeal or essential oils that counteract itchiness or skin conditions that contribute to itchiness.

Be sure to address any medical conditions, infections or parasites your dog may be suffering from to resolve the issue first. Dogs can also suffer from allergies, just like us, and identifying and removing substances in your dog's environment that may be contributing to itchy skin or adjusting your dog's diet may also be required to provide relief.

The Standard Bath for Itchy Skin Method

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Shampoo
Pin Brush
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Bathe only as needed
Do not bathe more frequently than required, as excessive water and shampoo can dry out skin. Use pet wipes and brush your dog regularly to distribute body oils and remove debris so bathing is required less frequently.
Step
2
Use gentle shampoo
Purchase a gentle non-allergenic dog shampoo for itchy skin. Many anti-itch shampoos contain colloidal oatmeal. Do not use human shampoo, which have a different pH and is not designed for dogs' skin.
Step
3
Lather gently
Wet your dog down and gently lather with the gentle dog shampoo. Shampoo thoroughly but do not scrub hard, as this will further irritate skin.
Step
4
Rinse and condition
Rinse thoroughly, get all residual shampoo off, and then gently apply a gentle anti-allergy moisturizing dog conditioner also available at pet stores. Rinse conditioner off thoroughly.
Step
5
Dry throughly
You will need to dry your dog thoroughly. However, avoid using heat, which can irritate itchy skin or skin conditions. Pat your dog dry with a towel, do not rub. Ideally, a wire cage with fans or doggy dryers on a low setting can be used to dry your dog. If this is not available, carefully blow dry your dog on a low, cool setting. Use a brush and get right down to the skin, without overheating the skin. Do not leave your dog damp, as this will contribute to itchy skin.
Recommend grooming method?

The Household Products for Bathing Method

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Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Use essential oils
Add eucalyptus oil to a gentle shampoo. Be careful not to get eucalyptus oil in your dog's mouth or allow him to ingest it--eucalyptus and other essential oils should only be used topically. You can also purchase an essential oil dog shampoo specially formulated for dogs with itchy skin.
Step
2
Add anti-itch substances to bath water
Grind up oatmeal or add baking soda or epsom salts to bath water.
Step
3
Rinse with vinegar mixture
Rinse with apple cider vinegar, mixed with water, 50/50. Do not use vinegar rinse if there is baking soda in the bath water as these two substances interact.
Step
4
Apply cocunut oil
Apply coconut oil to his skin after your dog's bath .
Step
5
Use dry shampoo
Use dry shampoo as an alternative to bathing. You can purchase commercial dry shampoo or make your own. Heat oatmeal, cornmeal or whole bran on a cookie sheet in a warm oven on low for 5 minutes, this brings out the oils in the grains. Rub gently into your dog's coat while warm, not hot, then brush out. This dry shampoo exfoliates to remove dead skin and debris, cleans soiled areas and avoids using water, which can further irritate itchy skin in some circumstances.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Don't use human shampoo, it has the wrong pH for your dog and is too harsh for your dog's skin.
  • Make sure you determine if your dog has a parasitic, bacterial, or fungal skin infection that requires medication to resolve.
  • Rinse well to remove shampoos and conditioners.
  • Be cautious when using essential oil products, they can be toxic to dogs. Use topically when appropriate and do not allow your dog to ingest.
  • While bathing can relieve itchiness caused by dander, debris, bacteria, fungal organisms and dead skin on your dog, water can also cause dry, itchy skin. Find the right balance to relieve your dog's itchy skin. Usually bathe no more than twice a week, and with appropriate non-irritating shampoos.

Conclusion

Dirt can be itchy!  So can microorganisms hitching a ride on your dog, such as parasites, bacteria, or yeast. Bathing can help relieve these conditions and remove dead skin and debris, resulting in a much less itchy dog. However, water can also dry skin and harsh detergents can make skin conditions and allergies worse. Be sure to find the right balance and products to relieve your dog of his itchy skin during bathing not contribute to it.  

Be gentle when applying shampoos, conditioners and drying, so as not to further irritate already inflamed skin. Do not leave your dog wet, as bacteria and yeast love a wet dog and will make your dog more itchy if they proliferate. Be careful drying your dog to avoid heat, which will make itching worse. 

It can be a delicate balancing act getting it just right, but well worth it in the end when you see your furry friend comfortable and itch-free.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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