What to Do If Your Dog Has Dry Skin

Dry skin can indicate some underlying diseases in dogs, in addition to making them look unsightly. I know how frustrating and painful dry skin can be for both dog and owner. At one point, chewing, itching, and scratching became a real battle that literally consumed my dog’s life. In addition to this, my miserable, itchy dog developed a secondary skin lesion and infection that caused serious hair loss. This is when I realized how traumatizing it must have been for my dog. I knew that overlooking the issue may cause the problem to deteriorate. I did not want to put my pet’s health at risk. With that in mind, I decided to consult a veterinarian to see if we could identify the major causes and find a possible treatment option. If your canine friend is struggling with incessant scratching or is manifesting a skin issue, reading this article may help you understand more about the skin health of your dog.

Dry Skin in Dogs

Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) is the medical terminology used for dry skin problems in dogs. Dandruff and SD are indications of a disorder that mainly affects a dog’s seborrhea areas. While dandruff usually causes itching and scratching on the scalp without any visible inflammation, SD may affect various seborrheic areas. It involves flaking, itching, and inflammation. The excessive production of “sebum” (waxy oil) from the sebaceous glands is the main cause of this skin disorder. Simply put, the imbalance in the production of the sebum oil is what creates flaky and scaly skin. The flakes on your dog’s skin are sloughed skin cells. The coat of the dog, on the other hand, can appear dry and oily.

Some Possible Causes of Dry Skin

There can be plenty of different causes of your dog’s dry skin. But the good news is that SD or dry skin disorder is treatable if you identify the symptoms associated with various conditions and follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Below we have rounded up some possible causes of dry skin in dogs.


Parasites are some of the potential causes of dry skin or SD on dogs. Canine scabies, cheyletiellosis, and the Demodex mite are some common parasites that cause a condition commonly known as mange. These highly contagious mites or parasites burrow into your dog’s skin and cause itching and rashes. It will lead to hair loss if your dog does not receive medical treatment. You cannot see these parasites that cause dry skin with the naked eye. You will only notice scratching, itching, and missing fur. It is therefore vital to consult a veterinarian, especially one who specializes in veterinary dermatology. A specialist will know how to examine your canine to find out the real cause of your dog’s intense itching. I advise you to not consider parasite a trivial cause of itching. If not diagnosed in time, their presence in your dog’s coat/fur may impact their comfort and health. From mild itching and scratching to a serious infection, parasites may put your dog’s skin health at risk. Some external parasites include:
  • Mites
  • Fleas
  • Lice
  • Ticks


Like us, dogs are also susceptible to a wide range of skin allergies including environmental, seasonal, and food allergies. My beagle was allergic to pollen and used to get persistent itching when playing around pollinating plants. However, animal dander, grass, dust, flea saliva, and grain can also cause a number of symptoms, causing dry skin in dogs. If you leave allergies untreated, it may lead to Atopic Dermatitis – a skin condition that causes dry skin, redness, itching, and inflammation. Not only this, it may also lead to a secondary skin infection. Flea dermatitis, for example, is a common allergic reaction in dogs. Your dog may get infected from flea saliva and develop an allergy. You can avoid this allergic reaction by keeping your dog away from places that would expose them to fleas as well as keeping your house flea-free. However, if your dog somehow develops this allergy, make sure you discuss treatment options with your veterinarian.

Systemic Disorder

As mentioned above, a dog with dry skin can signify a larger problem. Systemic disorders such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are metabolic disorders associated with SD or dry skin. In either case, your dog will most likely suffer skin infection, hair loss, and brittle hair.  Plus, if your dog has suffered from cancer or any other auto-immune disease, it can also be one of the causes of dry skin. Remember that these are some serious conditions. Make sure you do not take dry skin symptoms lightly. Consult with your dog’s veterinarian.


Whether bacterial or fungal, infections can be the underlying cause of many skin-related issues in dogs. Veterinarians will often check for infection by taking several skin scrapes. Canine infections can be secondary to larger problems. That is why veterinarians take skin infections seriously. Note that infections like fungal ringworm are contagious to humans, so it is always better to take preventative measures.

Skin Conditions in Specific Breeds

This might sound bizarre to you but there are some breeds of dogs that are more susceptible to specific skin conditions as compared to others. Hairless breeds such as Chinese Crested dog and the Xoloitzcuintli (a.k.a. the Mexican hairless dog) are at a higher risk of developing various skin conditions. Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are large-breed dogs that often suffer from a skin condition Zinc-responsive dermatosis. The skin condition can be one of the causes of dry skin on dogs.

Dry Skin: Some Other Causes

While the above-mentioned problems encompass most possible medical conditions, dry skin on dogs may have some other causes. Environmental conditions are one such example. Dry air or cold weather can cause the symptoms associated with SD or dry skin. Additionally, if you use harsh soaps on your dog, give them excessive bathing, or feed them unhealthy food, this may affect their skin health.


Different breeds of dogs may manifest different symptoms of SD or dry skin. However, if you see the following symptoms, your pet will need to visit a veterinarian. Itchiness:  Itchiness is one of the most common symptoms of SD or dry skin. Dogs often show this symptom due to skin inflammation from fungal or bacterial infection, allergies, and parasites. Redness:  As with itchiness, this symptom occurs due to skin inflammation from any infectious cause or any allergic reaction. Hair loss: Many dogs experience hair loss when they have dry skin. Their hairs start falling because of incessant scratching and abrasion. The other causes of hair loss include autoimmune disorder, endocrine changes, fungal infections (ringworm), and parasites. Don’t forget that only a professional vet can diagnose the underlying cause of hair loss. Crusting: This symptom indicates an accumulation of debris, dead cells, and dried CBCs (red blood cells), as well as parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infection on the surface of the skin. Odor: If you detect a strong odor coming from your dog along with some of the above-mentioned symptoms, it may indicate a Malasezzia infection. This is one of the most common secondary infections. Some other common symptoms of SD are:
  • Pimples
  • Dandruff
  • Scabs
  • Increased oiliness
  • Flaking
Keep an eye on your dog’s symptoms to help your vet diagnose the causes of dry skin.

How to Treat Dry Skin in Dogs

As mentioned earlier, dry skin treatment of your dog depends on the diagnosis. Although you can study a lot about canine health on the Internet, consulting a veterinarian is always the best option to determine the exact cause of the skin problem as well as treatment options. In some cases, SD is a symptom of a more serious problem. Your veterinarian will then treat both the condition and the dry skin after diagnosis. Demadex mange, for example, is the primary symptom of Cushing’s disease. Your vet would then treat both Cushing’s and mange. These two conditions may have different testing and treatments, but they are both controllable and curable with medication. Treating allergies and infections that cause SD, on the other hand, may get tricky. If your dog suffers from any food allergy, your vet may advise an elimination diet. This is because food allergens do not have any reliable and effective diagnostic tests. You may have to eliminate certain food items such as eggs, wheat, soy, beef, and corn to find out which food is the culprit. In the same way, your vet can test your pet for environmental allergies, but these allergies generally do not have a cure. Some of the common treatments for environmental allergies include:
  • Controlling dry skin, itching, and other symptoms
  • Allergens avoidance
  • Immunotherapy options
In general, veterinarians try to use an effective combination of different treatments to control and prevent canine allergies. Other than that, your vet may suggest you avoid excessive bathing or purchase a humidifier in cold weather. Using a vet-approved shampoo is also a recommended treatment to solve dry skin problems if cold weather or bathing are the main causes. Moreover, switching to quality dog food products can also play a vital role in providing your dog with essential nutrients to improve their diet. A high-quality diet can help your dog maintain healthy skin and coat. That means your dog’s treatment can be based on a good nutrition plan and some supplements.

Remedies for Dry Skin in Dogs

It goes without saying that a veterinarian should be your first choice to go when your pet experiences dry skin symptoms. Seemingly minor or mild symptoms can indicate some serious medical conditions in dogs. In these cases, DIY remedies can be dangerous and ineffective and may cause more harm. However, if your pet suffers from a minor ailment, there are some home remedies that can be beneficial. Here we have listed some vet-approved remedies you can try to provide relief to your furry companion. Use Vitamin E Oil Many holistic and professional veterinarians like Dr. Judy Morgan consider vitamin E one of the most powerful antioxidants for skin. It is a great choice when it comes to maintaining skin health and keeping dryness issues at bay in dogs. Vitamin E protects your dog’s skin against UV rays, which can be an excellent benefit if your pet likes to spend time outdoors. Moisturizing your dog’s dry skin with vitamin E is an effective remedy. Apply it to dry spots, calluses, and warts. Oatmeal to Treat Itchy Skin Oatmeal is a popular remedy to soothe itchy skin. It contains phenols and avenanthramides – chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. That means your dog can find relief from superficial infections and skin allergies through topical applications of oatmeal. It is also an effective remedy to treat itchy feet. The best part is that oatmeal is non-toxic and does not have any side effects. Plus, it’s easy to make. All you need to do is grind and mix it with water to use it as a drying agent (poultice). If your pet can tolerate baths twice or thrice a week, adding this formula to bathing water is extremely beneficial. Yogurt Yogurt makes a healthy treat for the dogs. It is not only delicious but also rich in probiotic organisms. Add it to your dog’s diet to provide healthy nutrients that should help strengthen the immune system of your canine companion and fight against skin infections and other bacteria.


Humans are not the only species who need to take care of their skin to make it healthy, glowing, and youthful. No matter how bizarre it may sound, your pet’s skin needs an equal amount of attention to look good and stay healthy. However, skin problems, such as SD or dry skin, make it hard for your pets to enjoy your company or play around. Skin issues can have a number of causes and symptoms. Seeking the help of a professional dermal specialist is important when you notice any related symptoms. Only a vet can recommend effective products or prescription medications.


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