Dogs make cute faces when they scratch, but there’s nothing cute about chronically itchy and dry skin. It’s uncomfortable for the dog and distressing for the pet parent to watch pups itch and scratch and lick to try and find relief from dry skin.
What to do for dry skin on a dog is one of the most common dog health questions out there. Fuzzy vets chat with pet parents every day about skin issues. Here’s some basic dog health advice on the topic, starting with the most common symptoms of dry skin.
Signs of Dry Skin on Dogs
Dogs can’t tell anyone when their skin feels dry, so it’s up to pet parents to keep an eye out. Key signs of dry skin include:
- Calluses on joints
- Cracked skin in exposed areas or paw pads
- Dandruff in the coat or bedding
- Flaking skin in sensitive areas
- Hot spots — itchy and red inflamed areas
- Itching and scratching
Dry skin symptoms can also indicate a deeper problem with a dog’s health, such as an allergy or infection. It’s best to talk with a vet about what might be going on if making minor adjustments to their nutrition, shampoos, or grooming routine is not causing any improvements to their condition.
Causes of Canine Dry Skin
Dogs get dry skin for many different reasons, including:
Allergies. Dry skin is often the sign of a food or environmental allergy. Skin problems can get worse if the allergy goes untreated.
Environment. Like humans, when dogs live in a colder region with low humidity, their skin can get dangerously dry.
Illness. Certain hormonal, thyroid, and auto-immune diseases can cause dry skin. So can some cancers, though it’s important not to jump to that conclusion.
Infections. Dogs are susceptible to many bacterial and fungal skin infections that cause dry skin. Some, like ringworm, can also affect humans.
Parasites. Mites, scabies, and other parasites can cause a dog’s skin to become dry, flaky, and itchy.
Poor nutrition. Many commercial pet foods, especially dry kibbles, lack the natural oils that dogs need to keep their skin healthy and hydrated.
Sometimes, like in the winter when the weather gets dry, it’s easier to tell why a dog is suddenly scratching. Still, it’s always best to talk things over with a vet and ask for dog advice.
How to Help a Dog With Dry Skin
What to do for dry skin on a dog depends on the cause of the dry skin. If a dog has an illness or infection of any kind, treating the dry skin alone will only bring temporary relief. The condition needs treatment before the problem will go away long-term.
Dietary dehydration and environmental dryness are much easier to deal with at home.
Some dogs with dry skin need a completely new diet to fix dehydration or micronutrient issues. A high-quality wet food usually does the trick, though some pet parents choose to go the homemade route.
In that case, it’s important to make sure that the dog is getting all of the nutrients, fats, and oils they need. There are plenty of digestive supplements for dogs out there. Choosing the right one is just a matter of matching the dog’s diet with the supplement’s nutritional profile.
Remember, it’s always important to consult with a vet when planning a dog’s diet. Fuzzy offers free dog nutritional consultations with all membership levels. There are multiple factors at play when it comes to a dog’s health, and nutrition is too important to leave to chance.
Dry Skin Supplements
Supplements can also help with a dog’s dry skin symptoms if the problem is environmental. A dog skin and coat supplement can help a dog’s skin stay moisturized from the inside.
Omega-3 based products are particularly helpful. Omega-3’s are natural fatty acids that reduce inflammation and nourish the dog’s skin cells, keeping dryness at bay.
When humans have dry skin, we put on moisturizer. Pet parents can do the same for dogs, though it’s harder to apply all over the body with medium to extra large sized dogs.
Topical anti-itch medicine for dogs will usually work best on exposed skin areas like the paw pads, stomach, ears, and nose. It also works anywhere the dog has calluses that are exposed through the fur.
Shampoos and Conditioners
For dogs with dry skin that will submit to baths, medicated shampoos and conditioners can help to keep the skin hydrated. It can also help to add a post-bath treatment with a medicated skin mousse, which won’t wash away.
Fair warning, though — as effective as these dog skin care treatments can be, it’s important not to overdo it. Bathing a dog more than once or twice a month can irritate their skin and make dry skin worse. It is also worth noting that dish soaps are NOT recommended by vets for a pet’s itchy skin. Though cheap and well-marketed, itchy skin and oil spills are two very different things. Dish soap will strip the essential oils on the pet’s skin and in their coat to keep skin healthy, thus making dry skin issues worse.
If conditioning with a dog shampoo (medicated or over the counter) twice a month doesn’t seem to be enough, consider an itch relief spray that can soothe minor irritation and dryness between baths.
When in Doubt, Ask a Vet
Dry skin can be as stubborn in dogs as it is in humans. Some pets may even need anti-itch medication for dogs.
For personalized advice and recommendations for dog health care products, become a Fuzzy member today and access 24/7 Live Vet Chat. Members of the Fuzzy vet team provide dog medical advice and recommendations on all topics, from what to do for dry skin on a dog to what dog health products work best.