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How to Treat Dogs with Dry Skin

Dog with Itchy Skin due to Dry Skin, Fleas, Parasites or Allergies

Dry skin on dogs is frustrating for dogs and owners alike. There are many potential causes for dry skin, which can make diagnosing skin conditions in dogs tricky. If dry, itchy, or flaky skin is making your dog uncomfortable, here is what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and best treatment options for your pet.

Pruritus or Itchiness

Pruritus is the medical term for itching. It is common in many types of skin disorder and could be a consequence of dry skin conditions. It's often accompanied by red, inflamed areas of skin and may lead to skin infection called pyoderma. If severe enough, the pet may develop hair loss, scabs, and raw/bleeding skin from self-trauma. Read on for what are the possible causes of itchiness.

What Causes Dry Skin on Dogs?

​Dry skin might not seem like a big deal, but it can actually be a sign of a much larger problem in your dog. Dry skin is a symptom associated with a wide range of conditions, from allergies and parasites to serious medical disorders like Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism.


Dogs get allergies just like people do. Food allergies, and environmental allergies and seasonal allergies, such as pollen, dust, feathers, grass, animal dander, grain, and flea saliva can cause a host of symptoms in dogs that often include dry skin. 

If left untreated, these allergies can result in a skin condition called atopic dermatitis, which causes dry skin, itching, redness, and inflammation and can also lead to secondary skin infections. 

Try using Pannatural Pets Hypoallergen Shampoo and Conditioner to help your dog with any allergies. These are produced locally and are a completely natural solution to itchy skin.

Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. Flea allergy dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to flea saliva, is the most common skin disorder in American dogs. The best way to avoid flea allergy dermatitis is to keep your dog and home free of fleas and to talk to your veterinarian about treatment options for your dog’s allergies.

Consider using Bravecto Spot on for Dogs or if you prefer Nexgard's Chews for ticks and fleas. The latter two treatments are available for dogs of any size. 


Parasites are another potential cause of dry skin on dogs. Dry, flaky skin can be a sign of parasites that cause mange, such as the Demodex mite, canine scabies, and cheyletiellosis (Walking Dandruff), or it could indicate that your dog has lice.

Diagnosing parasites that cause dry skin on dogs requires a trip to the veterinarian. Your family vet may refer you to a specialist in veterinary dermatology if he feels that your pet requires the attention of a specialist.


Bacterial and fungal infections can cause a variety of skin-related symptoms in dogs. Veterinarians usually diagnose canine skin infections by taking skin scrapes for cytology.

These infections are sometimes secondary to a larger problem, which is why dry skin should always be taken seriously. Some infections, such as the fungal infection Ringworm, are also transmissible to humans. 

Systemic Disorders

Sometimes, dry skin is a sign of a much larger problem. The two main metabolic diseases associated with dry skin on dogs are Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism. In both cases, dry skin is often accompanied by dry and brittle hair, hair loss, and skin infections, among other symptoms. Auto-immune diseases and cancer can also cause dry skin on dogs.

These conditions are serious. Dry skin should not be taken lightly, so make sure you take your dog in to see your family veterinarian as soon as you notice symptoms of dry skin.

Cushing Disease

Cushing’s disease in dogs is most commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs—from about 7 to 12 years old.

There are three types of Cushing’s Disease in dogs:

  • Adrenal Gland Tumour
  • Pituitary-Dependent Cushing’s Disease
  • Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is more commonly diagnosed in these breeds:

  • Poodles, especially Miniature Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Staffordshire Terriers

There are a variety of symptoms that can appear in a dog with Cushing’s disease. Here are some of the most common signs of Cushing’s disease in dogs:

  • Drinking more water
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Hair loss or poor regrowth
  • Panting
  • Pot-belly appearance
  • Thin skin
  • Blackheads
  • Recurrent skin infections
  • Recurrent urinary infections
  • Sudden blindness
  • Lethargy
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Seborrhea or oily skin
  • Firm, irregular plaques on skin (called calcinosis cutis) 

Breed-Specific Skin Conditions

Some breeds are more prone to skin conditions than others, especially when it comes to dry skin. Hairless breeds, such as the Xoloitzcuintli and the Chinese Crested, are prone to a variety of skin conditions, and Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and fast-growing large-breed puppies can get a condition called zinc-responsive dermatosis. Veterinarians can narrow down the possible causes of your dog’s dry skin. 

Dog Breeds that Suffer from Allergies

  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • Maltese
  • German Shepard
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bull Terrier
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Boxer

Atopy is a problem with your dogs immune system that makes them more likely to develop allergic diseases. The age of onset is generally between 6 months and 3 years.

Signs are usually seasonal but may be seen all year. Itching is the most typical sign. The feet, face, ears, front legs, and abdomen are the most frequently affected areas, but scratching all over the body is common.

Scratching can lead to secondary signs of wounds, scabbing, skin and ear infections, hair loss, and scaling. Other signs of atopy include licking or chewing the paws and rubbing the face and eyes. Pannatural Pets Itchy Skin Relief Shampoo can also help alleviate the itchiness experienced.

The skin is the main target of atopic dermatitis, but about 15% of affected dogs also develop inflammation inside the nose (rhinitis) and asthma. Longterm or recurrent ear infections may be the only sign in a small number of dogs. To help with any Ear infections or consider using Pannautural Pets Ear Cleanser that helps with ear itchiness.

Dry Air

The most common reason for run-of-the-mill dry skin is low humidity in the air. Your dog's skin needs some moisture to maintain its elasticity and resilience, and really dry air can cause it to lose that moisture.

If you notice that your dog is mildly itchy with some skin flaking during the winter, or if you live in an arid climate, try using a humidifier in your home. Forced-air heat in particular can really dry out your dog's skin. Using a humidifier can help to keep everyone more comfortable, including you and your human family members! 

Nutritional Needs

Nutritional deficiencies can also cause dry skin in dogs. Your dog's diet may not be providing enough of the fatty acids that help to keep the skin healthy. Check your dog's food to make sure that its PFI approved to ensure it contains all the nutrients your dog needs. If you feed a homemade diet, work with a veterinary nutritionist to create a recipe that meets all of your dog's needs.

For many cases of dry skin, supplementing with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids does wonders for skin and coat health. 

Too Many Baths

Another cause of dry skin in dogs is bathing too frequently. This can strip away the necessary oils on your dog's skin, leaving it fragile and dry. Most dogs only require baths on an as-needed basis, usually a couple times a year.

If you find yourself bathing your dog more frequently due to odor or greasiness, consult with your veterinarian to see if your dog has a skin condition that is causing the symptoms you're seeing.

Many people use mobile grooming services for ease and convenience and frequency will depend on the type of dog and if your dog has long or short hair, but consider bathing your dog 1-2 months and if your pooch really doesn't smell good consider using waterless solutions or wipes!

Oatmeal-based shampoos are a great option for soothing dry skin and can be used on most dogs. Always make sure you rinse your dog thoroughly after a bath to remove any shampoo residue.

Symptoms of Dry Skin on Dogs

Dry skin does not present in the same way for every dog. Symptoms associated with dry skin include:

  • itchiness
  • dandruff
  • flaking
  • pimples
  • scaling
  • hair loss
  • inflammation
  • odor
  • increased oiliness
  • scabs

Some dogs experience only one of these symptoms while others present with several. Keeping an eye on your dog’s symptoms can help your veterinarian diagnose the cause of your dog’s dry skin.

Preventing Dry Skin on Dogs

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the saying goes, and it proves true when it comes to skin conditions in dogs. While some breeds are more prone to dry skin than others, there are a few things you can do to prevent dry skin on dogs:

  • Feed a high-quality, balanced diet from puppyhood
  • Prevent parasites by keeping up-to-date on preventatives
  • Groom your dog regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris
  • Give supplements when necessary as prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Schedule regular veterinary checkups to monitor your dog’s overall health
  • Keep facial skin folds clean in breeds with folds
  • Research your breed to discover what skin conditions they are predisposed to and how to prevent them

The best way to prevent dry skin in dogs is ensuring that your pet leads a happy, healthy life. Some skin conditions cannot be prevented, but by being a conscientious owner who regularly examine her dogs, you can catch your dog’s dry skin before it gets out of hand.

Adapted from the original article.

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