One of the most common problems dog owners come to me about is their dog is crazy itchy, constantly scratching themselves, or chewing their paws until they are red raw. Often their dogs wake them up in the middle of the night with constant scratching that can go on and on for hours. The sound of your dog scratching during the night is secondary only to the sound of them throwing up in the middle of the night. A surefire way that no one will be getting much sleep!

You may have tried everything from expensive ‘Prescription Diets’ to monthly Apoquel injections or Cytopoint Tablets that work for a few weeks then wear off, requiring another costly trip to your vet.

As usual, most of the common causes of these behaviours come from dietary-related issues. It amazes and saddens me the amount of time, effort and money they have wasted on buying a miracle cure - only to end up with a cupboard overflowing with these expensive creams, ointments, washes and medications that do not work, or work for a short period of time, then their dogs' symptoms seem to become worse!

Well, the one thing every single owner (and their Dashie!) wants to do is alleviate the obvious discomfort, break the cycle of chew, scratch, chew, scratch thump thump thump - and allow everyone to get a good nights sleep!

This Blog is not going to go into the WHY it’s happening, that’s a much larger topic that will require 5 different Blogs to even scratch the surface (Dad joke intended!) This Blog is going to give you some time-proven, cheap and simple life hacks to help calm the symptoms and allow peace to return to all. The following life hacks WILL NOT CURE THE CAUSE, BUT IT WILL HELP TEMPORARILY STOP OR CALM THE INTENSITY OF THE SYMPTOMS. And, if your Dachshund is on any vet-prescribed drugs, the good news is none of these Pantry Staples will interfere or cause adverse reactions with the drugs.

Itchy Life Hack Number One

Coconut Oil

The simple and unassuming Extra Virgin Coconut Oil you can purchase for $5 a jar will be your go-to. Trust me it works! I have discovered it’s pretty much the only thing that stops the chronic itchiness I suffer from associated with the reoccurring heat rash I get on my back during the humid summer months. Again, trust me I speak from experience. Itch be gone - and it is within minutes!

What It Does

Polynesians have used it for centuries as their go-to ointment to treat skin conditions, scrapes, rashes, cuts and infections. It has four key beneficial properties:
Antibacterial
Antimicrobial
Soothing and Healing Damaged Skin
Water Resistance: it repels moisture, thus preventing bacterial contamination - nature's waterproof Band Aid!

They even use it to reduce skin marks and discolouration in the pigment like sun spots, birthmarks and so on.

To Use

Simply apply to the itchy areas using a cotton pad round or cotton ball. Use your fingers to massage it into larger areas like the groin or chest areas. Try to discourage your dog from licking it off if possible by covering the area with a tight-fitting shirt - I use small cotton baby singlets which happen to be a perfect Dachsund size. They are cheap and easy to wash. You can also give your dog a small amount of Coconut Oil in their meals daily - at the dose of 1/2 a Teaspoon per 5 kilos of body weight. Every dog is different - adjust accordingly. This oil will help to hydrate their skin from the inside out.

Pantry Itchy Life Hack Number Two

Apple Cider Vinegar

This pantry staple has many uses, and not just as a salad dressing ingredient! I am not talking about White Wine Vinegar or simple White Vinegar; ACV has different healing properties.

What It Does

ACV can relieve your dog’s itching, repel fleas and ticks and can be used as an ear cleaner.

Antimicrobial 

There is evidence that ACV has antimicrobial properties. In particular, ACV can help restrict the growth of toxic bacteria like E. coli, S. aureus (staph infection) and yeast, like C. albicans (candida). Candida is a yeast that occurs naturally in all our human bodies, as well as our dogs. At normal healthy levels it actually forms part of the immune system, but when it becomes overgrown, you have a yeast infection and for anyone that has suffered from Thrush, you will know how incredibly itchy it is. Imagine your dog's entire body being that painfully itchy, and they can’t explain to you what’s going on? Agony indeed. 

ACV can help your dog internally as well. ACV can help regulate blood sugar levels. It’s great for the heart health of your dog and it can help prevent toxic bacteria from gaining a foothold. The dose is 1 Tablespoon per 5 kilos bodyweight, mix it through their food.

To Use

The best way to apply it is by making a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Apply it directly onto itchy spots. Caution: Do NOT put it on open wounds or broken inflamed skin. The vinegar will sting if the wound is raw.  

Ear Cleaner

As an astringent ACV is a brilliant ear cleaner. Clean gunky ears using a solution of half ACV/half purified water. Use individual cotton balls soaked in the solution. Swab out the ears until the cotton ball comes out clean. It’s very important to only wipe the visible parts of the ear. Your dog’s ears’ internal workings are very delicate and you don’t want to damage them. So don’t pour solutions into your dog’s ears – use a cotton ball or pad. Never use cotton swabs like Q-tips as you can damage the ear or push the gunk further inside the canal.

If you have visited your vet and they have prescribed an Antibiotic Cream, make sure you use this as prescribed, the ACV astringent wipe can be used after you have completed treatment as a preventative.

Disinfecting Vinegar Rinse

Add 1 cup of vinegar to one litre of water. After washing him pour over your dog (from the neck down). Massage into skin. Do not rinse off. Towel dry or better still allow them to drip dry. He will smell like a salad but not be as itchy. It can help your dog in so many ways and you probably already have it in your kitchen cabinet. So give this convenient, multi-purpose remedy a try, so much cheaper than those expensive ear cleaners or medicated washes you can buy. 

Pantry Itchy Life Hack Number Three

Green Tea and Black Tea

Green and Black Teas are antioxidant rich, are anti-inflammatory and are soothing for hot spots and great to clean out your dogs ears. And, once again so much cheaper than those ‘prescription’ ear drops from the vet!

Both Black Tea and Green Tea will soothe and calm the skin but a word for those dogs with lighter coat colours. Black Tea will stain the coat a muddy brown colour over time. So if you have a white dog - choose Green Tea over Black Tea.

Do not feed your dog these teas as they contain Caffeine. There are many health benefits associated with these teas, just make sure you choose DECAFFEINATED if you choose to do so. In this Blog, we are referencing EXTERNAL applications only.

To Use

Simply Seep Two or Three Teabags in 250ml of Boiling Water for a couple of hours. Allow to cool and use Cotton Balls or Cotton Round Pads to wipe over the itchy areas. You can also pop it into a spray bottle to apply to the skin. Allow to dry. Or, allow it to cool. Remove tea bags and pour the rinse over the dog from the neck down. Massage into skin. Do not rinse off. Towel dry.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tea Body Rinse

As an alternative to the 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water mix, you may want to try an apple cider vinegar tea body rinse. This body rinse can be useful to restore skin pH, soothe itchy skin, and calm rashes and welts. It has some added benefits for keeping biting flies, fleas and gnats at bay as well.

Mix the following ingredients in a glass bottle or jar with a cap. Shake well before use:
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brewed green or black tea (cooled)
1 cup water

After bathing, apply this room-temperature rinse to your dog’s coat and skin then massage it in. Rinse well and pat dry. Or. you can let the apple cider vinegar mix air dry for the added benefit of bug relief.

You can also pre-make this blended mixture and store the glass jar in the refrigerator. But allow it to warm to room temperature before use. It’ll be good for 1 or 2 weeks. If you spot any mould on it, throw it away.

Pantry Itchy Life Hack Number Four

Herbal Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a herbal medicine that can help with inflammations, spasms, ulcers, anxiety, wounds, gastrointestinal ailments, diarrhoea, swollen ears, eye irritations and dermatitis. A great way to begin using this friendly herb is to make a tea, poultice, infused oil salve or an antimicrobial rinse made with cool, filtered water.

Poultice

A poultice is a soft ball of herbs that are heavy with infused liquid and applied warm. You can make a poultice by using dried or freshly chopped chamomile and putting it into a piece of tightly woven organic cotton. Teabags do work but will split quickly. I like to make two at a time so that I can always have a warm poultice to use. Tie the top of the cotton using a string or rubber band. Place both of the cotton balls in a shallow bowl and pour hot water over them. With a clean hand, knead the cotton ball (or gently massage the teabag) until the herbs are soaked with the water. Gently press the warm ball to the affected area of your dog until the poultice is cool. Put the cool poultice back in the hot water and while it is warming up, use the second poultice. Repeat. Do this 2 to 3 times per day until the affected area is healed.

Salve

Salves are another way to administer herbs externally to your dog. To make a lovely chamomile-infused salve start with this basic recipe. Get a medium sauce pan base with a smaller pan on top- think steamed vegetables, the idea is a gentle non-direct heat source. Fill the bottom pan with water and bring to a low boil. In the top pan place approximately 100ml of olive oil and 30 grams (or 4/5 teabags) of dried Chamomile. Stir gently and place a tightly fitting lid over the top pan. Allow this mixture to warm for two hours while stirring every 30 minutes or so. Make sure to replenish the water in the lower pan if it gets low. When finished, strain the herbs out of the oil using a fine metal mesh strainer. Pour into an airtight glass jar and let cool. Pop it into the fridge. Now you can rub your newly made oil salve on your dog’s dry skin, wounds, and other minor topical ailments 2 to 3 times per day until healed.

Liquid Infusions

Infused rinses made with filtered water are known as liquid infusions. Making a cooled herbal liquid infusion is like making a tea. I like to use tea bags because it’s quick and easy. Take 2 teaspoons of loose leaves or one large tea bag of chamomile, pour a cup of boiling water over it and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the chamomile out of the liquid in a fine, mesh strainer if the bags have split and let cool.

This liquid is wonderful for cleaning your dog’s eyes. Eye irritations are referred to as conjunctivitis. It can be the result of pollen, particles in the air, a foreign object or bacteria. To treat mild conjunctivitis, make a chamomile infusion until the water is a strong yellow. Pour through an unbleached paper coffee filter and dilute to 2 parts infusion to 1 part saline solution. I recommend buying a simple Saline Solution from your Chemist for this as it won’t sting. These are used by people who wear contact lenses.

Drip into your dog’s eyes 2 to 3 times per day until the inflammation subsides.

Pantry Life Hack Number Five

Manuka Honey

Healers have known the medicinal powers of honey for thousands of years. And recently scientists have dug deeper into how honey heals as they look for a solution to antibiotic-resistant superbugs. NOTE: This is MANUKA HONEY we are talking about not any other blend or type of honey!

What it Does

Raw, unpasteurized honey is …
Antibacterial
Antifungal
Antiviral

One reason honey does all these things is that it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. But not all raw honey is equal … and Manuka honey packs the most punch. The beauty of honey is its ability to heal both internally and externally.

Manuka honey can provide itch relief while you sort out the cause of your dog’s allergies. Manuka honey is great at controlling inflammation and this can help soothe the itching. Skin disease is often a battle of bacteria or yeast overgrowth that leads to red, inflamed skin.  

How to Use

You can use Manuka honey topically as a spot treatment as an already-made ointment. Spread a small amount on the area of irritated skin a few times a day. It can help with hot spots as well. Manuka honey can help with minor wounds at home. Once the wound is clean you can apply pure Manuka honey directly on top of the wound and cover it with a clean bandage. If the cut is small and not very deep you may not need to use a bandage.

Pantry Life Hack Number Six

Pour a glass of wine for yourself. Sit back and enjoy and remember you are doing your very best to help your dog’s suffering the best you can! In my experience, most owners who come to me in disparate need have tried EVERYTHING in their power. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You love your dog. He loves you. You are doing your best!

Dedicated to all those Owners of Itchy dogs doing their very best. You ARE awesome!