It can be especially difficult watching your pet experience pain or discomfort, like itching. You might be wondering if anti-itch creams, like calamine lotion, are okay for your pup.
Calamine lotion is not safe, nor approved, for use on dogs. There is a risk that your dog may lick the Calamine cream and ingest it. Ingesting Calamine, which contains zinc oxide and Caladryl, can cause gastro-intestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea, as well as other ailments like anemia.
Before you go into your human medicine cabinet to cure your dog’s itchiness with your own personal creams, make sure any product you attempt to use is safe for dogs.
Can You Use Calamine Lotion On Dogs?
No. It is not safe to put calamine lotion on your dog, therefore you should never use it.
A friend of mine had a dog that was terribly itchy.
She thought she was doing the right thing by applying calamine lotion to the red, inflamed areas on her dog to soothe his discomfort.
As a dog owner, you know the moment you apply something topical on your dog, they will lick it off.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Her dog licked calamine lotion and got an upset stomach as a result.
Calamine lotion contains certain ingredients that can be harmful to dogs. VCA Hospitals states that ingredients like zinc oxide cause gastrointestinal issues in pets, and when ingested, can even cause such issues as anemia because it negatively affects your dog’s red blood cells.
Why Do Dogs Itch So Much?
There are many reasons why a dog might itch.
Below, we’ve captured the most common reasons dogs itch according to pets.webmd.com.
Parasites include fleas, ticks, and mites (scabies mites; demodex mites).
Ticks are visible to the human, mites, and fleas are not.
The best way to check your dog for fleas is to search their fur for flea poop. We’ve written a helpful article on this topic here.
About 1% of dogs are allergic to flea bites where the symptoms (in addition to scratching) are red bumps on your dog’s skin and hair loss.
It’s one thing to address your dog’s scratching by removing fleas, ticks, and mites.
Once that’s done, you need to prevent those fleas and ticks from coming back again using an all-in-one preventative medication.
What Allergies Do Dogs Have?
Dogs can be allergic to both their environment or their food.
Dogs can inhale allergens like pollen in their environment.
Dogs can ingest allergens in their food.
Allergens can create skin conditions that result in itchiness.
Environmental allergies in dogs
Allergies can be triggered with your dog inhaling allergens like pollens, dust, mold, and mildew.
Pollens include grass pollens, weed pollens (ragweed) and tree pollens (oak, ash, cedar, etc.)
Dogs also develop allergies with pesticides, soap or other household chemicals.
What food allergies do dogs have?
Dogs can be allergic to meat, fish, eggs, soy, grains, and potatoes.
All these elements can be found in the wet and dry varieties of dog food.
The only way to diagnose a food allergy in your dog is for them to go on an elimination diet.
Chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, fish, egg, dairy, and sometimes duck.
met a dog owner whose dog was allergic to chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and pork. Their dog’s diet consisted of goat meat.
Usually pets have allergies to feed-grade grains, especially wheat.
Feed-grade grains are found in lots of pet foods. They are the grains “not fit for human consumption.”
This means they are throw-away grains that potentially contain mycotoxins like mold or other bacteria.
That is why so many pet foods have started including the phrase “grain free” on their packaging.
Dogs can eat grains. They just need to be human-grade grains, NOT feed-grade.
There is still debate in the vet community as to whether potatoes are safe for dogs are not.
However, many believe they are safe and are also highly nutritious. Some dogs do have potato allergies.
What Areas of the Body Typically Itch?
Dogs often itch and scratch various parts of their bodies depending on the cause of the itch.
When dogs have fleas, they tend to scratch all over and bite at their paws and fur.
When dogs itch from bacteria or yeast, they often lick in excess until their paws or exposed skin is licked raw.
Likewise, dogs tend to lick their paws in excess when they have an environmental or food allergy.
Another sign to look for when a dog has allergies is whether they have ‘tears.’ Tears on dogs look like a wet patch of matted fur and goop below your dog’s eyes.
Some people are so used to seeing their dogs with this stain below the eye. They don’t know that it is not normal.
Your dog is not supposed to have tears.
This is a sign they are allergic to something.
What Happens if a Dog’s Itchiness is Left Untreated?
If you do leave your dog’s itchiness untreated, one of several things may happen.
If your dog has fleas, it may spread fleas all around your home, thereby giving you flea bites.
Flea bites are incredibly itchy and last for days, if not weeks.
You do not want flea bites.
If your dog has an infection or allergies, they may lick or bite to the point of rubbing their skin raw or leaving excess moisture on their skin which can lead to infections called ‘hot spots.’
This is incredibly uncomfortable for your animal and will require vet treatment (both oral and topical) to get the hot spots to go away.
What Can I Put On My Dog For Itching?
Whatever remedies we share in this section, we recommend you read them and then go to your vet, more informed about the choices you have to address the itch relief for your dog.
What treatment will your vet give your dog?
Your vet is likely to prescribe one of the following:
- Medicated shampoo
- Medicated anti-itch creams or sprays
- Oral medicine (like antivirals or antibiotics)
- Flea medication or collars
- A new diet (to avoid food allergens)
What can I give my dog for itching over the counter?
You may be able to use human antihistamines on dogs.
They are considered safe for most dogs but not ALL dogs.
Be sure to check with your vet.
Some dogs react to antihistamines by getting sleepy and other dogs get hyperactive!
Benadryl is the typical over-the-counter antihistamine prescribed for dogs, which contains diphenhydramine.
The Pro-Sense Itch and Allergy tablets contain diphenhydramine and are specifically formulated for dogs. Check the recommended dosage on the package.
Other popular antihistamines include Zyrtec and Claritin.
Do not use any antihistamines on your dog that contain decongestants.
Check this resource for a recommended dosage but once again, check with your vet.
What Ingredients in “Itch Creams” Should Dogs Avoid?
When looking for a topical itch cream to use on your dog, it is best to look for a vet-approved, animal itch cream, as opposed to a human itch cream.
However, if you are looking for a quick remedy before you can order said animal itch cream, the main ingredients you’d want to avoid are:
- Zinc oxide
- Sulfuric Acid
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Potassium Hydroxide.
Home remedies for dog skin allergies (itching) and other itching
Below are some safe and natural ways to help your dog’s itchiness.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider is a safe and effective way to treat your dog’s itchiness. It is especially effective if your dog has a bacterial or yeast infection on the skin.
In a spray bottle, combine half-water, half-apple cider vinegar.
Spray on the topical area where your dog is itching.
If your dog does lick the area, they are unlikely to continue licking or chewing there due to the taste of the vinegar. And if they proceed, they will not get sick from the vinegar.
If your dog will allow it, you can also do a ‘soak.’
If their paws are itchy, for example, you can place their paw in a half-water/half-vinegar solution for five minutes.
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is a natural antiviral and antibacterial agent.
There are many companies, like The Farmers Dog and Just Food For Dogs, that offer human-grade olive leaf extract pills for dogs.
When taken for a month or two, allergies and itchiness tend to clear up.
While it takes a while to take effect, it is at least a natural way of doing so.
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 fish oil helps both dogs’ joints and their skin.
Adding a few drops to your dog’s wet food can help provide comfort to the skin and leave them with a shinier, healthier-looking coat! Plus, it’s 100% natural and many dogs even relish the taste!
Our recommendation is the Nutramax Welactin Canine Omega-3 Liquid Dog Supplement. This supplement comes in an economy size or other sizes.
How to Prevent Itching in your Dog
One of the best ways to prevent your dog from itching is to use a regular flea treatment (usually applied every 3-4 months) to prevent fleas. We recommend flea treatments in this article.
Additionally, eliminate any environmental or dietary allergens.
If your dog seems to get tears, lick their paws, or scratch when they eat chicken, stop feeding them chicken.
When you are trying to discern which allergies your dog may have, put them on a novel protein diet.
A novel protein is one that is less common than the standard poultry or beef.
Try something like pork or venison or goat.
Your dog is less likely to be allergic to the meat they’ve never tried.
Can you use hydrocortisone cream on dogs?
While it is not approved for dogs, a small amount of hydrocortisone cream can be used on dogs, only on hard-to-reach places where they cannot lick and ingest the cream.
Can you use Benadryl Cream or spray on dogs?
While it is not recommended, you can put a small amount of Benadryl cream on your dog, in hard-to-reach places.
However, only ever do so under the supervision of your vet, as Benadryl cream comes in different doses, and you do not want to put a large dose on your dog.
Can I give my dog antihistamine for itching
Yes, you can give your dog antihistamines that are available for humans over the counter.
These include Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin. Check with your vet for dosages.
Will baking soda help my dog stop itching?
Combine a solution of half water and half baking soda into a paste.
Apply the paste to the area your dog is itching.
The paste should reduce the itching by drying out the area and reducing the inflammation.
Leave the paste on your dog’s skin for 20 minutes then rinse.
The paste works where there is a specific area your dog is itching.
If there are several spots of the body where your dog is itching, include baking soda in some shampoo and bathe your dog.
What is a hot spot on a dog?
A hot spot is a red and inflamed area on the dog’s skin.
The reason why the skin gets damaged is your dog licks, bites and scratches this itchy area.
The itch is typically triggered by an allergen.
Hot spots can be found on the hip, head and leg areas on your dog.
The remedy is to stop the lick-itch-lick cycle.
The Key Take Away
Can you use calamine lotion on dogs for itching? No, you can’t.
Remember: your dog is not a human.
Their genetic makeup is vastly different from your own, and therefore they will need to be treated with animal-approved creams, recommended to you by your vet.
While you may be able to use a tiny amount of a human anti-itch cream on your dog, in a hard-to-reach spot, it is not advised.
Visit your vet to get an assessment, and try to rule out the cause: fleas, infection, or allergies.
Pay attention to symptoms like paw licking or biting, and whether your dog has tear stains near their eyes.
These things may help you figure out the cause of the itching and thus provide a quicker solution for your pup!
Medical Disclaimer: The treatment outlined in this article is not conclusive and only a veterinarian should provide an individual treatment plan for your dog based on professional diagnoses and tests.