How to help a dog with itchy skin

How to help a dog with itchy skin


What do you do when your dog is itching, licking their paws, or going through a period of obvious and abnormal discomfort?

You address the causes, use food to strengthen nourish the gut and strengthen the immune system and try to reduce exposure to environmental allergies as much as possible.

Combining these key parts, reduced exposure and stronger immune system (through dietary change) it will either have immediate positive impacts, or over time work to reduce reactions and sensitivity.


Understanding what’s causing your dog’s itching: Allergies.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal and exaggerated immunological response directed against non-infectious (supposedly harmless) environmental substances, known as an allergen (1).

What is an allergen?

Your dog’s immune system reacts when it detects an allergen (a substance that their immune system determines to be dangerous, which otherwise shouldn’t be), and the immune system’s attempt to deal with this allergen plays out in a number of symptoms.

Types of Allergies or Allergens (What you need to avoid)

  • Fleas, Mites
  • House Moulds
  • Specific foods (unique to the individual dog)
  • Grasses, Plants, Pollen etc
  • Cleaning products/ Perfumes  
  • Medications.

Allergy or food sensitivity?

Often we confuse allergies for food sensitivities. Allergies are immune reactions and food sensitivities are troubles digesting foods, causing symptoms similar to allergies.

The symptoms can be vomiting, diarrhoea, chewing paws, itching, pancreatitis, ear infections, anal glands issues etc.

Despite their differences, the process for creating a diet for a dog suffering from allergies or food sensitivities remain the same. Identify and eliminate. 

What causes allergies?

The immune system is a wonderful and incredibly complex part of health, what’s so amazing is that allergies are not static. By addressing the causes, and improving the diet, your dog’s allergies can be cured. (Not always possible).

Here’s what cause allergy issues:


Stress is actually not a cause of allergies, but it is a massive instigator of bodily inflammation and therefore affects the sensitivity of a dog to an allergen. Many dogs that I’ve worked with, who have allergy issues, have higher levels of anxiety and stress. Stress disturbs digestive system functionality and increases the sensitivity of the inflammatory response, effectively it makes the symptoms of allergies a lot worse. It’s really paramount that your management of your dog’s allergy comes with a plan of how to reduce stress. 

Quality/ quantity of breast milk

Breast milk contain antibodies called immunoglobulins. When the bitch is exposed to viruses and bacteria, this will mean she produces antibodies in her own body that are transferred through her breast milk. Natural inoculation. As well as this, a pups digestive system matures during the time on the mother’s milk, stunted weaning can stunt this maturation process. (2)

Sterile early environment

The maturation of the immune system occurs, in particular, during the mothers pregnancy and straight after birth. Although the puppy was considered immunocompetent between 2-6 months old. (2,3)

Sterile early environments = untrained immune system. (2)


The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a document called General Recommendations on Immunization. This paper was revised in 2011 and references a Japanese research study by Nakayama et al, showing:

“A strong relationship between systemic immediate-type allergic reactions, to vaccines.”

Overvaccination is dangerous, likewise, so is under vaccinating. Please see the Dr Jean Dodds Vaccination Programme to understand which ones your pet needs, despite what your vet might tell you, there’s more connection to overvaccination being dangerous than healthy.

Incorrect Diet

A recent study from the University of Helsinki found that Puppyhood exposure to raw animal-based foods might have a protective influence on allergy and exposure to classic ingredients in low quality processed foods, like oils, heat processed foods and sugary fruits might be a potential risk factor of allergies in later life. (4)

The gut microbiota and the immune system are entirely interlinked, immune response can be enhanced with a healthier gut (5,6)

Less healthy parents

If the parents immune systems are weaker, it’s possible the pups will inherit this tendency. Immune strength can be retrained over time. 


How to treat your dog’s itchy skin?

Step 1 – Allergy Proof the home (monthly and yearly)


  • Change cleaning products
  • Clear air filters
  • Get a humidifier 
  • Landscape the garden
  • Clean mattresses/ carpets/ bedding
  • Smoking outside


  • Seal cracks in the house
  • Remove carpets 
  • Get a professional exterminator
  • Clean the air ducks
  • Mould inspection (Books, carpets, cloth, leather, paper, plants, wood)

Step 2

Disruption to the gut microbiome, via incorrect diet for the individual dog, can cause inflammatory issues like allergies. Not only this, but food intolerances, like protein intolerance and fat sensitivity can illicit allergic “type” reactions.

By nourishing the gut optimally, you can rebalance the gut microbiome and change the way it reacts to “allergens”. An appropriately balanced fresh food diet can also improve the functionality of the gut, reducing intolerances by improving the efficiency of the digestive process. 

For sensitive dogs, the thick is that whilst you reduce your dog’s exposure to environmental allergens, by allergy proofing the home, you must find a diet that works for your dog. In tandem, and over time, this will work to reduce your dog’s itchy skin and general discomfort. 

If you want to find a diet that’s right for your dog, please use the Hypoallergenic Plan.


  1. Galli SJ, Tsai M, Piliponsky AM. The development of allergic inflammation. Nature. 2008;454(7203):445-454. doi:10.1038/nature07204
  2. Pereira, M., Valério-Bolas, A., Saraiva-Marques, C., Alexandre-Pires, G., Pereira da Fonseca, I. and Santos-Gomes, G., 2019. Development of dog immune system: from in uterus to elderly. Veterinary sciences6(4), p.83.
  3. Day, M.J., 2007. Immune system development in the dog and cat. Journal of comparative pathology137, pp.S10-S15.
  4. Hemida, M.B., Salin, S., Vuori, K.A., Moore, R., Anturaniemi, J., Rosendahl, S., Barrouin‐Melo, S.M. and Hielm‐Björkman, A., 2021. Puppyhood diet as a factor in the development of owner‐reported allergy/atopy skin signs in adult dogs in Finland. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
  5. Mondo, E., Marliani, G., Accorsi, P.A., Cocchi, M. and Di Leone, A., 2019. Role of gut microbiota in dog and cat’s health and diseases. Open veterinary journal9(3), pp.253-258.
  6. Satyaraj, E., Reynolds, A., Engler, R., Labuda, J. and Sun, P., 2021. Supplementation of diets with Spirulina influences immune and gut function in dogs. Frontiers in nutrition8, p.267.


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