Do you have an itchy dog? Does your pup suffer from skin ickiness that varies by season? Then this one might be for you…
Quick, obvious disclaimer: I’m not a vet. I’m not a vet tech. I’m not anything useful. I’m just a writer. I tend to research obsessively and try only what I deem to be safe and worth a shot. This is one of those. Always consult with your vet before you try anything because this post is for informational purposes only.
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This post actually started with my hair. Since absolutely no one other than me cares about my hair, the gist: My hair started to shed heavily (read: fall out) last year, which is unusual for me. So, I tried a bunch of stuff and ended up using an apple cider vinegar (ACV from here on out) rinse that made a huge difference.
That experience made me wonder if it would help Coop and his seasonal itchiness and his winter-dry skin.
Short answer: Yep!
Longer answer: Here we go!
First, what is apple cider vinegar?
From HonestPaws.com: “Apple cider vinegar is quite similar to white vinegar. The major difference is ACV is made through the process of fermenting apples. The result of the fermentation process is a substance that is full of iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals.”
(BTW, the FDA says those are there but in trace amounts, so like all things health-related, take it in measure.)
Its natural properties can do all sorts of things like control or prevent yeast overgrowth, mange, fleas, ticks, and just plain-old itchiness. People use it for all kinds of things in human health, and many of those uses translate to our pups.
It’s super-duper safe, containing only apples and water, but since it’s acidic it can sting if your pup has any open wounds. More on that in a minute.
If you google for ACV uses and dogs, you’ll find everything from adding it to food for digestive health, cleaning ears, flea and tick repellent, and so on. For our family, we only use it as a skin rinse. Those other indications? Well, we already have them under control, for one thing, and also I’m not a boat-rocker when it comes to Coop’s health.
I’ll also add that there’s not really any science to show these benefits or uses to be proven. These are essentially folk remedies, you know? ACV has been used for ages and ages (literally) but go into it knowing you likely won’t find a peer-reviewed journal article showing that ACV helps with, say, your dog’s itchy paws.
How to use apple cider vinegar for itchy dogs
When I searched for recipes for my hair/scalp treatment, the unanimous “dosing” seemed to be: start with a little and dilute it a ton, then slowly lower the dilution.
I’ve felt like the best ratio for us both has been 2 parts water to 1 part ACV. I don’t see myself adjusting that further.
You have two options for using ACV to help your dog’s itchy skin:
- Spritz and rub. After your dog’s regular shampoo or entirely on its own as a specific treatment, use a spray bottle (I love these if you want to shop local or these if you want to shop Amazon because they’re pretty, non-plastic, and can be clearly labeled) spritz your pup with the ACV mixture and the rub it down through his fur so you’re sure it gets onto his skin. For a short-haired pup like Coop, this takes no time at all. If you have a super furry, double-coat, etc., you might want to work in sections using your hand to shift the fur away from the skin so you’re confident the spray reaches the skin and doesn’t just get trapped in the coat. SUPER important note: If your dog has ANY open wounds, use this method. This stuff stings if it hits a cut or open wound, so use your spritz carefully to avoid your dog’s wound.
- Pour it on. This is basically an apple cider vinegar bath for your dog. This method definitely saves time, but it also consumes more product so I only have done this if either I’m in a hurry or if I’m trying to reach every nook and cranny. Mix up the ACV and water in a big jar. After your dog’s regular shampoo, simply pour it from head to tail in slow-motion so you get it to thoroughly cover your pup. I like to brush it through or rub it in with my hands, too, just to make sure we got thorough coverage.
It’s an instantly-cooling sensation, so this is really great for dogs with hot spots, too, if the hot spot isn’t open. Another option with the spray bottle is to keep it handy for when you notice your dog chewing or licking his feet. It helps soothe, and it also deters further chewing. In fact, I use a modified version of this as my DIY bitter apple spray, too, because you guys… bitter apple spray is literally made from this stuff. Save yourself some money and DIY your own!
Incidentally, if you’re a major DIYer, you can ferment your own ACV with apple cores. (Here’s a tutorial I found that looks helpful!) And, if you do, way to go! I’m super proud of you!
If that’s not you or you simply don’t have the time, I’m right there with you. I buy this kind, which is the absolute cheapest per ounce that I’ve found it for the organic unpasteurized. (Buying pasteurized is cheaper, but it kills the beneficial bacteria, so what’s the point?)
A couple cautions to be, you know, cautious
As with all things, chat with your vet, knowing full well there’s no real science to back this stuff up. Like most things, we trial-and-error. I worry about the acidity being too much for Coop’s sensitive belly, so I probably won’t ever add this to his food, though many, many, many people swear by it. His chronic ear infections seem controlled by our current protocol (knock on wood…), so I’d never use this to clean his ears, though hordes of people claim it’s an ear miracle.
You know your dog best. Do what’s best for you, your pup, and your budget.
Have you tried apple cider vinegar for your dog? How did you use it, and how did it work? Or, if not, have you considered it? Have I left you with further questions? Please leave ’em in the comments so we can all share and learn from one another!