How dressing up your dog can cause itchy skin and skin disease

7 CommentsFriday, 17 March 2017  |  Kate

Over 80% of dog owners are guilty of dressing up their dogs in some form or another, even if it's only a coat to protect against the cold, and this is leading to a rise in skin diseases among dogs. dog in a jumper

Take a look at the figures from research carried out by Direct Line pet insurance:

  • 81% of us put coats on our dogs when it's cold outside (me included)
  • 31% put our dogs in reflective coats on our post work winter walks
  • 21% of us like to dress up our dogs in jumpers, especially festive creations
  • 16% love to dress dogs in t-shirts, hats, shoes and even dresses

Skin diseases are the most common reason your dog will ever visit the vet; allergies, itching paws, dermatitis, fleas and mites, ear infections, and sore, bald patches.

All of these can be easily treated using a good shampoo, spray, cream or food supplement, but wouldn't it be great if by simply no longer putting a coat on your dog you could solve their itchy skin problem?

The most common skin issues caused by clothing a dog



Most dogs don't need to wear a coat, not even when it's really cold out. Their thick coats often have a well insulating undercoat beneath the fur you can see which is well suited to keeping the cold at bay. And dogs can regulate their own body temperature too. So dressing your dog can lead them to simply overheat which can result in an itchy, scratching dog.


Did you know that wrapping up your dog can bring on a moult? Because your dog is getting warmer fur starts to shed to cool them down. So ditching the clothes and the coats can actually result in less fur deposited around your house too. It’s a win, win!

Sore skin

Dressing your dog in an ill fitting (and when it is not, really?) jumper or coat can mean lots of rubbing against the skin, especially around the tops of the legs and in the groin where cloth tends to gather.

This is also where the fur, and skin, is at it’s thinnest. This rubbing wears away both fur and skin, leaving red, sore patches. These become dry and flaky which causes itching. Or, if it’s really bad, will cause the skin to break, which can lead to infections.


Dogs tend not to show pain or discomfort because that sends out a signal of weakness to those around them, especially other dogs. So, if your dog is uncomfortable she’s not likely to complain. But that’s not to say she isn’t supremely stressed out wearing a jumper, or a tutu, or even a coat when she’s happily insulated with her double coat.

Stress can cause the skin to itch so look for subtle signs of stress; ears flat back on the head, lip licking and yawning. And the not so subtle trying to get away from the coat, or a reluctance to have it put on in the first place.

Fleas & Mites

This is a big one. Setting up a cosy, warm environment within your dog’s fur is parasite’s nirvana! House dust mites are the single biggest cause of skin allergies among dogs. They’re everywhere and mites love nothing more than flaky, scurfy skin for dinner and a dog wearing a jumper is the perfect dining spot.

Not only that but if a flea, or a mite happens to be on your dog and ends up clinging to the coat you just removed it could very likely end up back on your dog later, even though you’ve treated your dog, the parasites are simply waiting to be put back on to your dog for their next meal.

skinny spray


This is the second most common skin complaint in dogs. It can be caused by flea bite allergies, or mite bites, both of which are extremely itchy, caused by the saliva the parasite leaves behind after biting your dog.

Otitis (inflammation of the inner ear)

If you have an overheating dog then the ears are going to have a tough time too believe it or not. Ear mites are a popular choice of critter for a dog, living deep down in the ears. It’s a warm, damp and happy place for them. Again, this is an intensely itchy problem and can result in head shaking, rubbing the ears along the floor, and ear infections.

What treatment will the vet use to clear it up
52% of dog owners will seek help from their vet, and you should always take your dog to the vet if you suspect a bigger problem, or to try and get a diagnosis. Your vet is likely to recommend a course of steroids, which will relieve the symptom, the itching, temporarily, but won't solve the cause. They may also prescribe antibiotics though this is becoming less popular as they realise that we overprescribe antibiotics for pets. Also, if there is no sign of infection there is no need for them in the first place. If it’s a parasite problem then spot on flea treatments will also be prescribed.

A medicated shampoo like Malaseb will probably be on the cards but I don’t get great reports for it’s efficacy to be honest.

If the problem doesn’t go away – the dermatitis, parasites or itching skin then a skin scrape (sending a section of skin off to the lab for allergy testing) may be suggested. Skin scrapes don’t always come back with an answer, and if they do they’re not always easily resolved.

What can I do to clear up my dog’s problem skin myself?

48% of dog owners choose to try and treat a skin complaint at home rather than visit a vet and much of it is easily solved.

Overheating & Moulting

First and foremost, stop dressing your dog. It’s free and could well be the answer to your problem. If your dog needs a coat (see below) make sure it is clean and free of parasites so you’re not simply putting the problem back on your dog every time they wear it.

Dry, Flaky & Sore Skin

These are easy to treat. For dry, flaky and bare skin moisturise twice daily with Skinny Cream, a soothing neem and coconut cream. Neem will promote fast healing while the coconut cream soothes the skin. Neem will also kill off any mites that may be lurking.

For sore and also broken skin use either Skinny Cream or Lintbells Silver Cream with Calendula. Silver cream contains colloidal silver, an antibacterial, and beeswax which is protective. Good for minor cuts, sore, cracked and broken skin.


Again, ditch the clothing, but if you have a dog who suffers from stress generally then Dorwest Scullcap and Valerian tablets are brilliant, especially before a car journey or a vet visit.

Making sure your dog has some space to call their own, away from the hustle and bustle in the home will go a long way to minimising their stress too. Consider using a plug in pheromone de-stresser like Adaptil, or Pet Remedy, available online and from pet shops. These release synthetic calming pheromones that mimic your dog’s own and can promote calm.

Fleas & Mites

This is a simple one to keep on top of. Move over to Billy No Mates herbal flea treatment, available in wet or dry form. This works systemically by making your dog unattractive to fleas, ticks, mites and mange. So even if you have a dog that likes to swim they will still be protected, unlike with spot on treatments.

Another way is to spray your dog daily (plus their bed and the inside of any coat they do need) with Skinny Spray. This is a neem and essential oil based spray that will kill any parasites currently dwelling on your dog, prevent others hopping on, and really take the itch out of any bites. Skinny Spray can also be sprayed directly onto bites to stop the itch and begin to heal the bite site.


Again, Skinny Cream is great for dermatitis in small to medium sized areas, soothing and healing. Apply twice a day to the affected area. If you have a dog who itches all over then add Yumega Itchy Dog Oil to food and wash them with Skinny Shampoo.

Washing your whole dog will reduce itching significantly within minutes, while the Yumega on food will get to work from the inside out, bringing moisturising oils back into the skin.


Inflammation of the ears, and ear mites can be treated using Lintbells Silvercare ear drops. The colloidal silver is antibacterial and will kill any mites too. At the same time it will reduce the inflammation and promote healing so you should see some relief almost immediately. Use with giant cotton buds or kitchen paper.

Which dogs do need coats?

Unless it's below freezing outside then most dogs will be fine without a coat. Double coated dogs; huskies, Alaskan malamutes and German shepherds, for example, will hardly ever need a coat. While thin, fine coated specimens; Chihuahuas, greyhounds and lurchers will often need a coat in winter.

Other than that, simply by ditching the jumpers, dresses, tutus and bootees you may find that many skin problems won’t reoccur. Not only is this a free solution to a potentially expensive problem, you will save money on future outfits too. Dogs are cute enough already.

Sunday, 19 March 2017  |  17:51

This was very help full. I've had 2types of dogs 1 st black lab lady 2 and was a scottish terria Scottie now iam getting a Yorkie tea cup Bruno . 4months old now I now about clothes Scottie never like clothes unless it was very cold no coat for my Len I just nrw it but my Yorkie winter time should he have a coat in winter . April 4'2017 when Bruno will be arriving at his new home. Can't wait. I now they get colder so do they need a coat in winter I say yes but I want to make sure before he comes home.ty Linda chevalier🐩🐩🐩

Sally Stubley
Tuesday, 18 April 2017  |  6:36

My dog is scratching a lot especially on his leg and paw. It has taken all his hair on his leg and he seemed in a pot of discomfort. Please advice what is the best thing to do to stop the itch.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017  |  10:30

Hi Sally

Thanks for your comment. I would use Skinny Cream on his leg twice a day until it's healed.

Is he rubbing on anything in particular? Does it smell at all? If you want to let us know more email and we will help be more definitive.


Susan Hannon
Friday, 15 December 2017  |  1:57

I have a 6 1/2 pound schitzu maltese mix. She wears sweaters in the house and certainly outside in the winter cold. If not she wont walk to go potty. If not covered she definitely shivers...she does not have fur. She has hair so I am comfortable dressing her and certainly during winter.
I have noticed when she is outside and experiences cold she shakes her ears but does not luke her ears covered.
Thanks for all the hints and great information!!!!

Friday, 8 December 2017  |  14:41

My dog wears a hoodie indoors BECAUSE of itchy skin. Our vet is aware of this and has never told us otherwise. She is a French bulldog with a serious allergy problem and she scratches so vigorously that she can make her skin bleed in under 5 seconds. Weíve tried everything, shampoos, immunology, medication, different foods, deterring her from scratching with negative/positive reinforcement when necessary. Nothing has worked better than a good old hooded jumper (hooded so she canít get to the back of her neck.) she has it on for the first few hours on a morning before her medication has kicked in, itís an absolute godsent. She doesnít wear it outside because as you said, she overheats. We would never leave the jumper on all day but I just wanted to mention that with limited dog clothing options for dogs with an itch (a breathable baby-grow) for example, a jumper can be the cheapest, most helpful option. Also I have a Boston puppy who wears a hoodie when she goes outside, she spends the whole time scratching against walls, trying to get it off, but when you take it off she stands shivering like a statue and refuses to move. I have not yet found a solution to this problem, but I canít wait till summer comes around for this little one. Most awkward dogs in the world

Deirdre Miller
Saturday, 27 April 2019  |  12:58

My dog's the same. I changed his pellets to really expensive pellets for allergies. And no chicken or rice anymore. It's helping so much.

Deirdre Miller
Saturday, 27 April 2019  |  12:56

I have to share this story with you. My sister in Hermanus in the Cape, has an old labrador. Last winter she bought a cheap knitted coloured coat and put it on the dog for 2 days. The dog was sweating in the jacket unbeknown to her and got a terrible allergic reaction to the colourants in the wool. Her entire back got burned! Under the fur was a huge scab from her neck down to the base of the tail and down to the sides! It eventually dried out and the fur grew through and over it. But the scab never went away. It's totally under the skin and fur, and you can knock on it and it's as hard as a scab can be! The vet had never experienced anything like it, nor have other vets he spoke to. Still now we knock on her back with our knuckled like knocking on a door - it's hard! You can even get your fingers under it around the edges and lift it slightly, yuk! Doesn't bother the dog in any way. It's just there and she's as healthy as anything and the vet can do nothing about it. Have you ever heard of such a thing???