The great graphic above is by Rodney Habib. You can read his article here: Grain Free Dog Foods: Solving Yeast and Skin Issues. 

If you’ve lived with an itchy dog for very long, you know by now that “bad skin” is no fun. Your dog might keep you up at night with all its scratching, lick constantly, or maybe sit around and sulk when you try and stop the scratching. Fortunately many causes for itchy skin have remedies. All you need to figure out is what is causing the itching. The most common issues include: 

Food Allergies 

Nearly all grocery store brands of food are outright bad for your dog. These foods are chalk full of poisons that include anything from euthanized cats and dogs, to deadly molds, to grain weevils and unnecessary dyes. With all these questionable ingredients, its no wonder these poisons eventually show themselves in the form of raw, itchy red skin. Signs of food allergies may include licking of the paws and privates, red, swollen skin, and a strong “Doggy” odor. 

Allergies can develop over time. Even if your dog has eaten the same food all his or her life it could still be the food causing the itching. 

If food is the cause of your dog’s problem, the itching can usually be resolved with six months of high-quality, grain free food. Take a look at our “Food” page to see recommended foods to try with your pet. 

Don’t Forget the Treats! 

Switching your dog’s food to a high quality one may not do your dog any good if you are feeding them grain-based or otherwise poor quality treats. Treats are the hidden food that frequently causes issues. Try giving your dog simple, one ingredient freeze dried treats instead of dog biscuits. Check the ingredients on all your treats carefully to make sure they contain no grain or unsourced animal products (meat/animal instead of lamb/pork) 


Dogs can pick up fleas from anywhere. It doesn’t just spread from dog to dog, but can be brought in from a stray cat in the backyard, on a walk, or pretty much anywhere. Fleas thrive in an indoor environment, even with such obstacles as hardwood flooring or constant cleaning. 

You can find out if your dog has fleas by asking a groomer to check, running a flea comb through the dogs hair, or parting the hair at the base of the tail in several places and watching for them. Fleas are about the size of a gnat and very dark brown or black. If you don’t see them, it is still possible your dog has fleas. If your dog has tiny black specks the size of periods in his coat this is a sign of fleas. Dogs with allergies to flea bites may only need one bite to send them into frantic itching for months. 

You can prevent fleas by keeping your dog on a 30 day flea protection program all year round. If you see fleas on your dog you need to wash your dog in a flea shampoo, and bomb your house a minimum of two times, two weeks apart. Keep your dog on a thirty day flea protection program for at least three months after bombing to help prevent a flea colony from reestablishing. 

Environmental Causes 

If your dog is already on an extremely high quality food and has no fleas, you might have to get down to your dog’s level and see what might be bothering him. Is he allergic to your floor cleaner? Uncomfortable by the laundry detergent you washed his bed in? If his or her itching is seasonal, it may be pollens in the air. Wiping your dog down with a scent free baby wipe every time he comes in (especially paws and genitals) may help control the issue without resorting to drugs. 

Yeast Infections 

A very common side effect of poor quality food is a compromised immune system which leads to yeast infections. It may start as an ear infection and then spread throughout your dog’s entire body causing severe skin irritation. Karen Becker wrote an excellent article on yeast infections which I highly recommend for further reading. 

When all else fails… 

If none of these tips resolve your dog’s skin problems, your dog may need to see a veterinarian for medication. We strongly suggest seeing a holistic vet whenever possible.