Dry Skin on Dogs

Dry skin on dogs can lead to itching and scratching. It can be indicative of a change in the weather or of a medical condition. Dry skin can effect any dog, but if you notice that your dog is scratching and the skin is scaly, you need to pay more attention to his grooming, get a milder shampoo and talk to your vet if need be.

Causes of Dry Skin

Dry skin on dogs can be caused by wind or cold weather conditions. However, it can also be caused by:

  • Allergies to food, inhalant allergies or contact allergies
  • Parasites that will deteriorate the skin’s condition
  • Bacterial or fungal infections; the most common canine skin infection is the yeast infection
  • Liver problems
  • Thyroid problems

When to Contact the Vet

If your dog has dry skin, you can treat the condition at home. However if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should consult the vet:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Severe skin irritation with bumps, sometimes filled with pus
  • Sores
  • Open wounds caused by scratching
  • Severe hair loss
  • Hair that can be easily pulled out

Treating Dry Skin

Dry, flaky skin can be treated, but the treatment options depend on the causes of the condition.

In many cases, the use of a gentle dog shampoo can restore the pH balance of the skin.

Diet is also important. Talk with your vet about a more nutritious diet that contains more fish oil and vitamins.

If the dog has a skin infection, the vet will administer a few topical ointments in addition to oral antibiotics. The topical ointments may contain antibiotics or cortisone.

Parasites such as fleas or mites can be healed with a few sprays that contain insecticides, and with proper grooming habits. Shampoos that protect against parasites are also available.

In case the flaky skin is caused by allergies, assess your dog’s condition and try to determine the allergens. If the allergens are certain food ingredients, you will have to switch to a different diet. Antihistamines, steroids or allergy shots will be your treatment options for contact or inhalant allergies.

Prevent Dry Skin on Dogs

If it's not due to an internal problem, scaly skin can be prevented by employing a few techniques.

  • Perform a regular grooming at least twice per week, but don’t bathe the dog every week during the colder seasons.
  • Get a gentle dog shampoo. If the formula you are using is a mild dog shampoo but still gives your dog itchiness, opt for a moisturizing shampoo with oat extracts.
  • Reduce your dog’s exposure to extreme weather conditions, and if he is allergic to grass or pollens, administer some antihistamines during the spring.
  • Be mindful of your dog’s diet. A diet poor in nutrients will reflect on your dog’s health and skin. You should opt for a few fatty acid supplements, antioxidants and even some herbal extracts.
  • Boost your dog’s immunity with some herbal extracts or dietary supplements. Dogs with a strong immune system will have fewer skin problems.