Your Itchy Dog: The Causes & 7 Quick Wins

If you’ve got an itchy dog, we can help. Our 7 quick wins below have helped thousands of dogs over the years. We also reveal the causes of your dog’s itchy skin and explain why diet plays a central role in the problem.

Let’s start with Rowan, our head nutritionist, giving an explanation about why your dog is itchy:


Pruritis is the medical name for itching – “an unpleasant sensation within the skin that provokes the desire to scratch”. [1] Dogs with itchy skin (pruritis) will tend to excessively scratch, bite or lick their skin. Importantly, pruritis is not a diagnosis but simply a clinical sign of an underlying condition. [2] Therefore we can say that a dog scratches or licks excessively but we cannot say that a dog has “itchy skin” in the way we can say that a dog has pancreatitis.

Where pruritis is severe, it can then lead to hair loss, scabs and raw and bleeding skins. Those signs are often the result of the dog’s actions rather than specific sign of the underlying condition.

德国赛车Any dog can display signs of pruritus and itchy skin. However, many purebred dogs have family histories of skin problems: Cocker Spaniels, French Poodles, West Highland White Terriers, and Retrievers are known to have high incidences of pruritis.

德国赛车Thousands of customers have already told us and now the Scientists confirm it – Feeding your dog a raw diet results in less itchy skin !  at Helsinki University has confirmed that mums and pups fed on raw have fewer issues with itchy skin than those fed on processed food! 

elderly labrador retriever is not an itchy dog anymore
Some breeds have a history on skin problems

The most common causes of itchy skin in dogs include

  • parasites
  • infections (bacterial or yeast)
  • intolerances or allergies which could be food or related to ticks or external allergens

If you have an itchy dog, the most common response from your vet is likely to be a topical cream. If the problem is a skin parasite, then a cream may resolve the problem.

德国赛车If the problem with your itchy dog is related to an intolerance or allergy, then you need to address the causes by looking at your dog’s diet. If the problem is also related to yeast infections, then you need to address the root causes by adapting the dog’s diet.

德国赛车Let’s look at the relationship between events in your dog’s gut and symptoms on the skin.

Your Itchy dog and its leaky gut

德国赛车When people say “all roads lead to Rome”, they are maybe over-crediting Roman building prowess. However, when we say all autoimmune symptoms, including itchy skin, start with intestinal permeability (leaky gut), this is much more accurate and in fact there are only a couple of obvious exceptions.

This is why we released the Intestinal Permeability (IP) (see article on leaky gut德国赛车) articles first, so feel free to take a look before continuing to read this one.

德国赛车It’s virtually impossible to encounter itchy skin symptoms without your dog also having IP, so its super important to address this from the outset. Its quick and relatively easy if you stick to the formula. So if there’s any overlap with the previous articles, it for this exact reason… they are all interlinked. And this is why it’s also important to treat your dog’s health, as you would your own, holistically.

Understanding symptoms

Symptoms are clues that there is an underlying malfunction and we can use these clues to address the root cause so that is goes away permanently. Yep, permanently! And if it comes back, it’s because the underlying malfunction is back, or a different one, and you simply address that. Kerpow, everything back in line. Happy feet, happy paws. Not really rocket science. It might take time and patience, yes. Some application, yes, but hardly anything very taxing.

德国赛车If one day you wake up to mould on the kitchen wall, you are faced with three options, Assuming you don’t just simply move… which would be expensive and potentially overkill:

  1. Paint over the mould, then act surprised when it reappears
  2. Address the underlying cause and stop the mould reappearing
  3. Address the underlying cause, stop the mould reappearing and repaint the wall

This isn’t a quiz, but the correct approach, in my opinion, is option 3.

德国赛车Does option 1 sound a little like applying eczema cream?

So this is how it relates to your itchy dog…

Itchy skin with dogs is normally a reaction to a collection of stressors as opposed to one particular sole factor. As such, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact problem, but we know that IP is an integral part of this story.

By stressors, we mean anything that can negatively affect the dog’s health and ultimately lead to biological dysfunction or disease.

德国赛车Whilst this is not intended to be a totally comprehensive overview, the following are the major, easy and quick wins that all dogs should benefit from.

7 Quick wins for your itchy dog

Ensure your dog is enjoying a fully grain-free diet

That means fully. Check the ingredients on everything from regular meals and snacks, to shampoos and grooming products (see our tutorial essential grooming tools) .

Grains are highly inflammatory for both dogs and humans and are typically one of the greater underlying causes in all types of skin disorders. Itchy skin is often just one of these disorders which is yet to get an official name. Importantly on this… avoid being fooled or pacified by ‘gluten-free’. Gluten-free does not mean grain free.

德国赛车Importantly, some of the gluten-free alternatives are more inflammatory than the actual gluten itself! (Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) being one of the prime culprits. In case you were wondering if grains in products is a bit excessive… the skin is a huge external organ that is excellent at absorption! (All Bella and Duke meals are grain-free for this reason, so feel free to use them as a face pack – joke alert… just checking you are reading this carefully!)

Why choose grain free dog food

Go dairy-free

德国赛车There are few products which are as inflammatory as grains and dairy is one of them. This pains me to type this as I used to love cheese… as did my dog. However, unfortunately for most of us (about 85% per cent of my human patients have problems digesting milk or milk products!) we lose the ability to digest milk from the age of around 4.

德国赛车Dogs similarly have not evolved to digest milk beyond weening. (If you think about which other mammals consume milk outside of infancy, you realise it doesn’t really happen in nature. They are just not equipped to deal with dairy.

Many owners feed dogs cheese as a treat. The smell is SO attractive to dogs, with animals having senses of smell around 10,000 times better than we do… but the reality is that this is harming your dog’s health. This includes kefir (fermented milk) as a potential source of good probiotics. Whilst the dairy protein is largely reduced in fermentation, this is still inflammatory and there are lots of other easier ways to arm your dog with friendly bacteria. So, if you want to free your dog from itchy skin, free it from dairy products. (As well as grains, which we also exclude from our meals).

Go lectin-free

Lectins are the inflammatory proteins found in the skin of some fruits and vegetables. This does not mean that vegetables are harmful, in fact, far from it. But some are very tricky to digest and can create inflammation. I can provide at a later juncture a comprehensive list of the foods to eat and avoid, but for now, to keep this quick and simple, let me reassure you that all Bella & Duke meals are grain and dairy-free, as well as being low in lectin. Bella & Duke are about to go entirely lectin-free, to become arguably the most hypoallergenic dog food available today. So keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.

Improve digestion with digestive enzymes

I am yet to see a patient or a dog’s health not improved with digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes act on the surface of the food chunks, making them smaller. All dogs have their own digestive enzymes, but only in limited amounts which get smaller as they get older. You can increase the health and the lifespan of a dog by helping its digestion. Smaller food chunks can be more readily digested and absorbed properly, lowering the inflammatory response as well as leading to helping lower food intolerances. Itchy skin is more often than not linked to some food intolerance. This is not always the case, but it’s a significant part of the health jigsaw. At Bella & Duke, we are planning to source and launch digestive enzymes VERY shortly!

Improve gut health

A reputable pro and pre biotic can help the gut’s ability to deal with ‘invaders’. Gut health as we know it, is essential to our immune system. As much of 80% of our immune system is located in the gut. These friendly bacteria that live in the gut also contribute to digestion. This is even more important if your dog has recently been on a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics act by attacking both friendly and enemy bacteria, not differentiating between the two. This meant that while they may deal with the infection in the short term, they can compromise your immunity in the medium to longer term. Pre and pro biotics can help to calm the auto immune response associated with itchy skin.

Use broths

德国赛车Glycine-rich broths such as bone broth contribute to healing intestinal permeability. We have mentioned this a lot recently, and for good reason. So far, research shows us a 100% correlation between itchy skin and intestinal permeability. We don’t have 100% causation yet, but the data is simply too overwhelming to overlook! The gut is the primary gateway for both food and bacteria. In a healthy gut, the intestine can keep the bacteria and any larger food molecules out. In a compromised gut, both bacteria and undigested food can slip directly into the bloodstream. The body then recognises both as invaders and launches an inflammatory response, leading to Itchy skin. Please note, it is important to ensure this is without onions or excessive garlic, both of which can lead to problems for dogs.

Our Bone Broth is a great option

Try a topical salve

So far, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response with the Stinky Stuff products. We have zero affiliation with this company and have not even approached them about stocking their products, but I suspect that is a positive action for us to take, to make your lives easier. You can find them here. .

I hope you found these easy wins helpful. Let’s just recap, as there’s quite a bit of information here:

  • If your dog has itchy skin, consider this a clue that there’s an underlying malfunction
  • Heal any intestinal permeability first, as this often makes the issue disappear
  • Check the products and chemicals you are using on your dog
  • Feed them nutritious, hypoallergenic meals. Remember, just because it says Hypoallergenic’ doesn’t mean it is. Check the ingredients. Last week a lovely friend sent over the label of a food she was feeding her dog who had repeated issues. It claimed to be hypoallergenic, yet was stuffed full of corn starch. Check the facts and watch your dog’s health improve.
  • Apply a topical salve such as Stinky Stuff
  • Please try them for at least 30 days before expecting to see solid results and feel free to share feedback and any success stories with us. We are committed to helping and healing the dog community

For more information, please check out our website, or check out our upcoming Pawcast where we will deal with itchy skin in more detail.

As ever, I look forward to answering your questions. We all deserve better health, and all we need to do is ask the right questions!

Try our food today & help your dog thrive

Related Articles

Footnotes & References:
  1. []
  2. see link for a complete veterinary description of pruritis. []

Rowan Sanderson


  • My French Bulldogs are always licking their paws. There is a river in the garden and we do have Geese and a lot of ducks, the dogs love eating the Goose gew! We have tried to keep them to a grain free diet, but when we go to just raw meat the bitch walks around in slow motion like a ghost. I don’t know if that is a problem or not, but the breeder told me not to feed her just raw? I wonder if lightly cooking your meat would avoid the grain and not make her ghost?

    • Hi there Sean – we don’t recommend cooking the food. It contains bone – cooking will change the structure of the bone, making it indigestible and therefore a possible blockage risk. Some dogs will be a bit lethargic when they first switch to raw, as they adjust to the new diet and get used to having a food that is naturally low in carbs, and without additives. This normally passes within a few weeks and energy levels return to normal. You can get lots more advice about all aspects of raw feeding by joining our friendly private FB group – Dog & Cat Raw Feeding Pack Bella & Duke x

  • 德国赛车Hi, just wondering if the Bella&Duke complete contains Nuts Herbs and Seeds, I’ve trawled the site but can’t spot if they’re in there or not… if not I’ll add to the bowl 🙂


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