Dog Skin Problems – 10 Remedies To Help Alleviate An Itchy Dog

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Are you dealing with dog skin problems? Our poor Stetson is…:(

Stetson was career changed 2 months after he started his formal guide dog training for being a bit of a softy (I’m not really sure what that means). We love our soft boy 🙂

We were happy to adopt Stetson, but shortly after bringing him back home, he started to have some skin problems.

At the time our veterinarian told us that it was dog skin allergies and he wasn’t sure exactly what was causing them.

Stetson was given some Prednisone (steroids) and that seemed to clear up his skin for a little while.

Year after year Stetson has had these same skin allergies.

The good news is depending on the season the allergies seem to go from better to worse to better again.

We’ve tried our share of allergy remedies and some have proven very effective while others have not.

After another expensive visit to the vet, we decided to push forward with a full-on dog skin allergy assault by combining all the different remedies recommended by our vet and religiously following them for the course of at least 3 months.

What Are Stetson’s Dog Allergy Symptoms?

As I mentioned earlier the severity of Stetson’s dog skin allergies varies depending on the season, but pretty much year-round you’ll find Stetson chewing on his paws.

During certain parts of the year, Stetson will also get little scabs on his chest and belly.

We’ll also sometimes notice flakey dry skin on his back and across most of the rest of his body.

As you can see in the picture below Stetson’s back paw is red (maybe more pinkish) and irritated (it sometimes looks a little bit scabby too)

Dog Skin Problems Pictures of Paws
Sorry Stetson…not your most glamorous shot…

Dog Allergy Symptoms

A recap of Stetson’s allergy symptoms:

  • Chews on his paws and his paws are sometimes scabby. He would lick and lick and lick his paws so much that it sometimes looked like he had a potty accident on the bed because of the large water stain (it was just a lick stain).
  • Scabs on his belly and chest area.
  • On Stetson’s back and other parts of his body flakey and dried-out skin.
  • Also, I’ve heard that Stetson’s ear infections may also be a result of his doggy allergies.

Our veterinarian said that some people like to keep an itch schedule/calendar/chart to track how itchy their dog is on any given day.

The point is to show if certain seasons or types of weather are causing your dog’s allergies.

This last week’s vet bill was the final strike! (plus we don’t like seeing Stetson itching all the time).

Here’s a list of remedies we plan on trying all at once to finally alleviate Stetson of his dog skin problems.

UPDATE: Looking back trying all at once was probably not the best idea. Have you ever heard of an A/B test, Colby?

10 Remedies For Treating Dog Skin Problems

Disclaimer: Guys, I am not your veterinarian these are remedies we’ve either tried or plan on trying with Stetson and are listed here for entertainment purposes only. If you have any medical questions please consult your veterinarian. 

Before Stetson's Dog Skin Allergy Symptoms
Before Stetson’s Dog Skin Allergy Symptoms

Okay, so we won’t be implementing all 10 of these remedies all at once because the first 2 are medications we’ve already tried and had success with Stetson and his dreadful allergy problems.

However, my issue with the first 2 remedies is the side effects (especially long-term) on your dog.

#1 Steroids (Prednisone)

The first time we noticed Stetson was having skin allergy problems the vet prescribed Prednisone which is a steroid.

I know what you’re thinking…steroids!? Did he start lifting weights, get humongous, does he get angry easily?


And he’s not trying out for doggy Olympics either (he’d probably get banned for using steroids).

The steroids worked great and cleared up his scabby, flakey skin.

However, one side effect was Stetson was drinking lots of water and peeing a lot.

He actually stayed with my brother for a few nights while I was on vacation and had an accident in the house 🙁

The vet told us that extended use could lead to liver and kidney damage.

Our vet also said that because the steroid suppresses the immune system Stetson would be more susceptible to getting sick.

Overall this was not a long-term solution.

#2 Atopica

A couple of years ago we tried Atopica with Stetson.

This prescription medication also worked and after about a month Stetson had a nice shiny coat again!

However, there were some definite drawbacks to using Atopica.

  1. Cost – it cost close to $300 a month to use Atopica. The price comes down a little as you adjust the dosage, but I think I estimated it would cost me nearly $200 a month to keep Stetson on Atopica. I have recently seen that they carry Atopica at Costco, but I haven’t looked at the pricing.
  2. Side Effects – I’m not too sure what all the side effects are with Atopica, but Stetson was Nauseous for a couple of hours every day he took the meds. He would vomit about every other time I gave him the capsule. Our vet said if we try it again to freeze the pills to help with nausea.
  3. Suppressed Immune System – Atopica like steroids suppresses the immune system which makes Stetson more susceptible to illness.
  4. Long-term side effects – Our vet again warned us against possible liver and kidney problems down the line. Although he did say this medication is much milder than the steroids.

Atopica really seems to help with dog skin problems, but the side effect plus cost really made me re-think our long-term solution for Stetson’s allergies.

We, therefore, asked the vet for some other remedies that might help Stetson and his skin allergies.

The rest of this list consists of the things we plan on doing for the next 3 months to help alleviate Stetson’s allergies.

#3 Weekly bathing

I had always heard that you shouldn’t bathe your dog more than once a month because it can be bad for your dog’s skin.

Apparently, dogs don’t produce natural oils like humans.

However, my vet recommended weekly bathing and assured me that it would be okay for Stetson’s skin as long as I used a good dog shampoo (never use a human shampoo).

Another idea we had is to use a more mild puppy shampoo for Stetson so we tried using Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo.

I can’t say whether using puppy shampoo helped or hurt based on personal observation.

#4 Baby wipe feet

Stetson Sans Dog Skin Problems :) Black Lab Stetson and Golden Puppy Charlie hanging out together.
Stetson Sans Dog Skin Problems 🙂

Every time we go out on a walk Stetson’s paws gets exposed to all different kinds of possible allergens in the environment.

Stetson’s paws are one of his big problems.  When his allergies are flaring he chews on his paws regularly.

In fact, he licks them so much that not only does the fur fall off, but when he stayed with a friend they thought he had a potty accident on the bed (he was actually just licking his paws and made a nice round wet mark on their comforter).

We bought some baby wipes from Costco and plan on wiping down his paws every time he comes in the house.

This is probably good dog hygiene too.

UPDATE: We found wipes made for puppies called Earth Rated Dog Wipes that we are going to try with the dogs. However, I’m sure regular baby wipes work just as well at a lower price.

#5 Flea meds

One of the possible skin allergy culprits are fleas!

In the past we’ve used topical solutions like Advantage II and Frontline Plus.

UPDATE: Frontline stopped working for a little while. I talked to the vet and he said fleas can sometimes become immune to one of the topical products. We moved to Advantage II and all was peachy. Now we’re back using Frontline Plus which works great and covers us for both fleas and ticks.

However, we only used it seasonally.

Our vet recommended that we apply flea meds to Stetson religiously once a month to keep the fleas away.

My mom’s cat has severe flea allergies so this could solve our problems.

#6 Grain-free food

Our vet said we could try switching dog foods and try a novel grain-free food.

We’ve been thinking about changing dogs’ foods for a while so there’s no better time than now to make the switch.

We’re looking to change our dogs over to Wellness Core Grain Free.

Have you guys tried a good grain-free food that helps with dog skin allergies?

If so, let me know what you’re feeding your pups in the comment section below.

#7 Fish oil

Derby our second guide dog puppy in training was having some skin problems.

I’m not sure if it was allergies or just dry skin.

The GDA vet gave us a bottle full of fish oil capsules to help his skin issues.

However, our current vet had never offered this as a solution to Stetson’s allergies.

I asked our vet if this would help and he said that it could and told me to try giving Stetson one fish oil capsule a day.

Fish oil is probably something I (the human) should be taking as well for my own general health.

Fish oil is another item you can buy from Costco in bulk…maybe Stetson and I will share a bottle 🙂

#8 Benadryl

One of our friends who is a vet tech recommended trying Benadryl for Stetson’s allergies.

Our vet also recommended 75 mg of Benadryl twice a day. Consult your vet before administering over-the-counter drugs.

He said the side effects are Stetson might be a little more lethargic than normal, but it could help.

He said that it helps about 1 out of 4 dogs with their allergies so if it works consider myself lucky.

#9 Clean House

Our vet said to also try and keep the house as clean as possible.

This makes it less likely that Stetson will pick up an allergen inside the house.

Even an air filter could help his allergies.

I’m not the tidiest of people so I’m going to schedule daily cleanup to try and help Stetson and his allergies.

#10 Vinegar And Water

This is a home remedy that my Aunt told me to try that she said successfully worked with her Great Pyrenees and Italian Greyhounds.

Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and fresh water into a plastic spray bottle.

Spray on your dog daily to help with your dog’s itching.

I’m not too sure where she got this information from because she’s not in the veterinarian field so it’s probably something she either heard from her vet or from a friend/family member.

So please tread with caution if you try this solution.

I will probably give it a try as a last resort.

Stetson's Dog Skin Problems All Clear! Just A LIttle Grey Under The Chin Now.
Stetson’s Dog Skin Problems All Clear! Just A LIttle Grey Under The Chin Now.

Check with your vet before trying any of these dog skin allergy remedies.

I got the majority of this information after a lengthy discussion with my vet to see what I could do to help alleviate Stetson of his dog skin problems.

Dog skin problems have been the bane of Stetson’s existence since he came home from Guide Dog College.

I’m hoping these remedies will make him feel a little less itchy.

If not, our next option is allergy testing.

How about you?

Do you have an itchy dog with skin problems?

Do you have any good home remedies or advice that works for you and your dog?

UPDATE: Good news guys and gals! Way back we were told that the dog skin problems we were encountering were either Stetson’s diet or environment.

We bounced Stetson’s food around quite a bit trying several novel proteins, dehydrated, and grain-free dog foods including:

While we thought we saw some improvements the biggest changes came when we moved from our condo in Irvine to our house in Orange.

Our best guess is Stetson’s sensitive skin was probably not agreeing with pesticides or whatever our association was using on our community lawn and landscape.

Today Stetson’s skin allergies are totally under control.

No more dog skin problems and no need for the latest remedies…phew…

Related Article:

UPDATE: We were recently sent a new product that we’re hoping will help with doggy allergies. Native Pet sent us Native Pet Allergy Chews. We’re going to test them out and report back to you.

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  1. If your dog has skin problem please DO NOT give them any cortisone, this causes Cushings and other organ failure. ( do not trust your vet blindly it’s all money making business.) Also too much antibiotic can rot your dog’s teeth, disease. Please eliminate any wheat from their diet or any grains ( rice is ok ). We give our dog boil chicken and rice and boil eggs. Do not give them anything with sugar like sweet potatoes or normal potatoes. Don’t give them anything with yeast in it. ( do not give them anything from China. Give them yoghurt. Wash their skin with malesab shampoo ( little only or their skin will burn ). DO NOT bathe them with any oatmeal shampoo or the yeast will feed on it. Please go around spreading this message because this will help save many dogs. Take care of your dog internally not just from the outside.

  2. After another sleepless night (not in Seattle 🙂 , just finished reading every single comment, Colby. Began to feed our 7 year old Morkie Honest Kitchen last evening (Beef) variety suggested by owner of shop. Benedryl does nothing for Daisy. There were clumps of her coat all over the bedroom carpeting this a.m. That’s new! .Been through same routine with Vet as most of your followers have mentioned. Hoping change of food quality to dehydrated will help her.

    1. I’ve been feeding Acana grasslands formula to my Morkie & Shiba Inu and they have done amazingly well with the food. It’s expensive but to not have them scratching constantly is sooo worth it. I have four dogs but two mentioned above have, apparently, chicken allergies. I read the labels on everything I buy them to make sure there is no chicken included. Hope you can find a remedy for your Morkie!

    2. Hopefully the change in food helps your Morkie. As I’ve mentioned in other comments we’re lucky that moving to a new home has solved Stetson’s skin allergy problem.

  3. Thank you all for your comments and advice! I have a cc guide dog, Annie, who was withdrawn because of allergies. She scratches pretty much all the time and goes through stages of red pussy spots and dry flaky skin. She had a skin biopsy which identified food allergies. At the moment she is on Eukanuba Dermatosis and Cortavance, which is a corticosteroid spray, which is better than oral steroids. I need to bath her twice a month but she really hates it and I won’t send her to the parlour as she will come home with fleas. I’m definitely going to try apple cider vinegar and investigate moving her off kibble.

    1. Hopefully Annie is feeling better. Unfortunately, this is not a solution for everyone, but it seems that moving to a new home has done wonders for Stetson’s allergies. Ever since we moved 2 years ago his skin allergies have all but cleared up. So that means that Stetson’s allergies were pretty much environmental. Hopefully you find something that works for Annie. Let us know if the apple cider vinegar and new kibble works.

  4. I have a shar pie who is pretty much allergic to himself.
    Seasonal allergies
    Foods-dog food

    I’m going to try these tips out on him and see if they work.
    He tears up his skin by itching or bitting. His skin also smells really bad to the point of gagging. Lol

  5. I just wanted to let you all know that two of my four dogs scratched constantly. My Morkie scratched to the point of having no hair. Last year I switched to a higher end dog food which did not contain any chicken product. After two weeks both dogs (diff breeds) stopped their scratching. Now that we have our heat turned on I will incorporate coconut oil to feedings to ensure their skin doesn’t get dry. It’s a pain but check the ingredients of your kibble – some that state “beef” still incorporate some form of chicken so be diligent!

  6. I can vouch 100% of the incredible and FAST results from using natural remedies like ACV ( Apple Cider Vinegar).
    I encourage you not to use thus and remedies like it as a last resort but as a FIRST.
    Your animals will thank you and you’ll add quality to their lives as well as potentially longevity. ACV has a plethora of additional benefits. I encourage you to READ UP ON THEM. Here’s why: not only is ACV amazing for various dog itch culprits, it adds other benefits without side effects. The meds you prescribed as your “first resort” add side effects AND tax the dog’s immune system. That’s the last thing needed when an animal is suffering. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves.

  7. Hey there,

    I was reading through your post because I was looking for natural alternatives to help my service dog with his scratching. As you probably know, scratching in public is a big NO-NO with service dogs, so Im trying everything… My boy gets both Fish Oil & Vita E capsules daily, benedryl every 4-6 hours & ACV rub-downs, but because of hsi breed (australian kelpie) baths are limited to once a year because he gets worse after a bath (it breaks his natural oils down)… I havent gone grain-free yet, but that may be the next step. I just want the “itchy & scratchy show” to stop, but want to do it as natural as possible…

    1. Hi Bridget, sorry for the late response. Did you find anything that worked. Stetson is actually doing much better. I was always told by the vet that it was probably something environmental and ever since we moved he’s doing much better (although not perfect). I hope you pup is doing well.

  8. You were asking about different types of food for your dog.. Our family is in the same
    Boat as you are. Our Boxer has severe allergies. Recently we have switched dogs foods and we were advised to try ” Taste of the Wild” it’s all Fish & grain free. We were advised dogs are usually allergic to chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef. Rarely are dogs allergic to fish!! So far that is helping along with home making his treats and making sure nothing has grain in it. It’s definitely frustrating and we have had him on steroids a lot in the past but are now trying to avoid them because of the side effect. So just an idea food wise!! Try an all fish grain free.. Also I feed my dogs “fish oil supplements. The vet bills were getting outrageous too!!! Have you started the allergy shots yet? What’s your thought on that?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      We haven’t tried the allergy shots. Stetson is doing 10x times better since we moved. Now I’m guessing that there was something in the environment near our old house that was causing the issues. We did switch him over to Wellness Core Grain Free and our next step was going to be to try the Wellness Core Ocean (basically fish/seafood) Grain Free, but since he seems to have cleared up since the move we’ve stuck with the regular Wellness.

      Thanks for posting about the food! We put Stetson on fish oil supplements a couple years ago too.

      Hopefully the food change and fish oil help your dog. I totally agree our vet bills were also getting out of hand.

      Take care,

  9. Limited ingredient diet food is what you want. We use natural balance whitefish and sweet potatoe. Also I’d be careful with using wipes on paws, our guy is also allergic to fragrance so those wipes or shampoos that aren’t fragrance free can cause more harm than good. Allergy testing is a good idea!

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