As a pet owner, you know how hard it is to see your furbaby uncomfortable. At kin+kind, we know itchy pets - in fact, we developed our organic pet care system to treat our beloved rescue pitbull who struggled with chronic skin problems. But how can you tell if the problem can be solved easily or if you need outside help? Itchy skin for dogs and cats can range from mild irritation to major trouble, so let’s go over a few things that may help determine and relieve that scratchy coat.
Signs your pet has skin irritation
Pet irritation often goes unnoticed because symptoms can seem similar to normal animal behavior, so look out for these tell-tale signs, and take action sooner rather than later. You might be surprised how much calmer a dog can be when they’re finally comfortable in their skin!
Mild or Early Stage
- Scratching (or rubbing) - It seems so normal for dogs to scratch themselves, and usually it totally is! I mean, what pup doesn’t love its scritches? If they’re doing it all the time, though, it’s worth looking into.
- Licking paws - Constant licking (especially on the limbs) could mean that your pet is uncomfortable
- Biting - If you find your pet biting and chewing away at itself, chances are they have irritated, itchy skin. You may even see some small bumps around the area, which is caused by the biting and sometimes minor secondary infections. This can turn into hot spots if left untreated.
- Hot spots - These are the bad boys. When a pup scratches, bites, and licks a spot too much a “hot spot” can show up. You’ll know it by its trademark nasty raw redness, and you can imagine it’s pretty miserable for them. If you see one of these, it’s time to take immediate action.
- Scaling skin - Skin that is dry, thick, and flaky from chronic irritation which may also be accompanied by physical changes in your pet’s coat (like fur loss or odor)
- Ear issues - Yuck! No one wants to deal with stinky and waxy ears, but make sure to keep an eye out for them, as it may indicate an infection.
- Ear discharge and oozy liquid from skin
- Severe bacterial or fungal infection
- Chronic alopecia (fur loss)
- Development of an anxiety driven behavioral pattern
Cause of skin irritation
Knowing the root cause can help determine the solution and prevent future troubles. Skin irritation may be caused by a wide range of issues, including:
- Allergies - food, environmental/seasonal
- Infection - bacteria, fungus, or yeast
- Parasites - fleas, mites, ticks, or ringworm
- Behavioral or anxiety/stress related
- Hormonal imbalance/endocrine disease
- General pain or other underlying medical condition
Natural solutions for skin Irritation
There is no single solution to an itchy pet! If your pet is suffering severe irritation, or has had chronic unresolved irritation, it’s time for a vet visit. But if your pet is suffering mild or early stages of irritation, you can try some simple natural solutions yourself. Here are a couple of steps you can take to keep your pet free of irritated skin.
Step 1: Control Environmental Allergens
Grass, dust, pollen: the air is filled with allergens that will irritate your pet’s skin and coat. Lucky for you, taking care of these pesky little allergies can actually be quite simple. Give these easy steps a try, and you’ll almost certainly see improvement.
- Clear the air: Use air purifiers, and be sure to regularly change the air filters on your vents and air conditioners each season.
- Remove dust: Regular dust removal in your home will keep your pets (and furniture!) feeling fresh.
Step 2: Remove Irritants
Taking the time to bathe your pup regularly is a great way to remove allergens and spend some dedicated quality time with your buddy! Be sure to use natural, moisturizing coat care that won’t strip your pet of its natural oils. If your bath doesn’t leave your pet softer, shinier, and more comfortable than before, it’s time to switch shampoos!
kin+kind shampoos and conditioner are made from organic coconut and olive oils that attract and seal in moisture. We then add premium active ingredients to treat the specific needs of your pet. You can pick the right shampoo for your pet by understanding their behaviors, skin, and coat!
- Adventure Dogs: hikes and swims are great ways to exercise and relax, but your pets can come back with more than some mud on their coat. Check out our solutions for those annoying allergens and pests.
- Charcoal Deep Clean Dog Shampoo is made with activated charcoal to remove impurities.
- Long Haired Dogs: long locks are fabulous, but they can mat and trap irritating dirt.
- Argan Repair Dog Shampoo contains argan oil that helps smooth tangles. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids that can eliminate micro wrinkles in the skin that trap particles.
- Wrinkly Dogs: folds of skin can host moisture and dirt, which can lead to infection.
- Medicated Strength Hot Spot Dog Shampoo is made with tea tree to deep clean the micro pesties hiding beneath the folds.
- Sensitive Dogs and Cats -- pets with eczema and dry skin in the winter need extra gentle and soothing options that won’t add irritation.
- Use Oatmeal Unscented Dog | Cat Shampoo, which contains colloidal oatmeal to seal in moisture. This unscented and hypoallergenic formula is super mild and won’t cause any additional irritation.
- Visibly Irritated Dogs
- Medicated Strength Hot Spot Dog Shampoo has both tea tree oil and calendula flowers to calm persistent hot spots and relieve other skin irritations.
- Healing Clay Itchy Dog Shampoo includes natural bentonite clay, a volcanic ash that helps soothe irritated skin.
- Treating allergies and hot spots is made easier with our Hot Spot Relief Stick. Tests have shown our special blend of essential oils can speed up the healing process, completely healing hot spots in 10 days!
Step 3: Tackle Pests: Fleas, Ticks, and Mites
Pests are more than just an annoying nuisance, they’re actually a common cause of skin problems! How can you tell if you’ve got a flea or tick infestation on your hands? Learn more about symptoms and natural pest control here.
Mites can also creep into dirty ears, so keep your pup’s floppy appendages bug free with our water-free Clean Ears. You can learn more about ear care here.
Step 4: Winter Chills
Winter is prime season for dry and itchy skin for both you and your pet. The cold dry air outside combined with heaters inside quickly steal moisture from your furbaby. Try a high quality humidifier to help with the moisture in your home, then add a protective layer to your pet’s exposed nose and paws with natural ingredients that both attract and lock in moisture. kin+kind’s Nose&Paw moisturizer protects your pet with organic shea butter, jojoba, beeswax, and aloe.
Step 5: Check Your Pet’s Diet
Just like with humans, a healthy skin and coat starts from the inside out. Your pet may be allergic to their food, or may just not be getting the right vitamins and fats.
A well-balanced diet helps keep the skin and coat healthy, which can then lead to less itching. You can also read more about our natural supplements in “Natural Multivitamins for Pets: Real Food for Real Nutrition.”
Healthy fats and oils are another key to a healthy skin and coat. Raw coconut oil is a favorite here at kin+kind - you can read why in “Coconut: Meet the Good Fat.” The short version: good fats help your pet absorb nutrients.
Avoid Food Allergies
It’s hard to avoid allergies if you don’t know what they are. Your vet can help identify allergies with a full allergy panel and recommend an alternative diet, but there are some simple steps you can take on your own:
- Switch to a new limited-diet ingredient with proteins different from your pet’s regular food. Wheat and potato allergies are common, so try wheat-free and starch-free options.
- Your pet may not like this tip, but be mindful of treats. They can contain problematic ingredients as well!
Step 6: Soothe Your Pet’s Anxiety
Your pet’s itch may be caused by its anxiety (and yes, pets can definitely feel anxious!). You can try these natural solutions to help calm your pet and stop the itch:
- Lavender Calm Spray - the soothing properties of lavender can help ease your pets nervousness. It also smells amazing!
- CBD products - CBD can help calm pets that experience stress and anxiety. Learn more here.
When to visit the vet and what to expect
No one likes going to the doctor, but it’s time to visit the vet when you observe excessive and persistent scratching or licking; or significant changes to the skin or coat like hair loss, redness, pimples/ abscesses, scaling, or discoloration.
Your vet will likely start with a check for external parasites (ticks, fleas and mites) or infection and then review for environmental allergens through a skin allergen test and food allergies by conducting food elimination trials. This process is lengthy (it can extend from six weeks to six months!) and can be expensive.
If there are no parasites or allergies, your vet may dive deeper and tests for endocrine organ disease or other diseases. If none of these are found to be the cause, it is most likely a behavioral condition that will require medication or behavior therapy.