Dry Skin in Dogs

Dry Skin in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Dry Skin?

While some scratching is normal for dogs, excessive scratching and itching are signs that something is amiss with your pooch.  Allergies to pollen, dust, feathers, and flea saliva can cause a lot of problems for your pet, including dry itchy skin. If the condition is left untreated, it can result in atopic dermatitis which involves redness, inflammation, and itching leading to secondary skin infections.

Dry skin can also make your pet’s life miserable. Parasites, bacterial and fungal infections, and systemic disorders can also cause excessive dry skin on your dog. You will need your veterinarian’s help to diagnose and overcome these conditions.

There are many causes for dry skin in dogs, including allergies and parasites; it is vital to find out the cause to allow effective treatment.

Symptoms of Dry Skin in Dogs

While dry skin causes and effects can vary from dog to dog, there are a few common symptoms to look for that are associated with the condition. 

  • Increased and excessive itching, rolling around
  • Scratching or even biting the skin 
  • Scabs, pimples and sores caused either by scratching or by parasites/infections 
  • Hair loss, and lack of condition of their hair coat
  • White flaky skin that looks like dandruff 
  • Depression and lack of condition 
  • Inflammation and red skin areas 
  • Increased oiliness in some dogs 
  • Change in your dog’s odor

Causes of Dry Skin in Dogs

  • Metabolic diseases can be a cause of dry skin. 
  • Cushing’s disease is a metabolic disease which causes your dog’s body to make too much cortisol
  • This chemical is good in the right amount as it helps your dog to moderate his weight and stress levels, maintains healthy sugar levels and fights infection; too much or too little is a problem
  • Hypothyroidism is another disease that causes dry skin; the thyroid glands purpose is to make a hormone called thyroxine to control the metabolism process (turns food into fuel). With this condition, there is not enough of the hormone made
  • Neutering or spaying of your dog can upset the natural balance of hormones that regulate the oil production; while this is a very necessary process we just need to be aware that they are more vulnerable to dry skin problems
  • Harsh chemicals used to shampoo your dog, or products used to deter parasites can affect the skin(always used products designed for dogs, not human products)  
  • The quality of your pet’s diet plays a major role in his health; nutritional deficiencies cause the dry flaky skin condition 
  • Cold weather, dry air, and too much air conditioning in your dog’s environment 
  • Under or over bathing, too much of a good thing can be just as bad as too little 
  • Fleas, ticks and other such pests are a leading cause of dry itchy skin
  • Fungal and parasitic infections create skin problems on your dog 
  • Allergies to food products or chemicals 
  • Under or over grooming 

Diagnosis of Dry Skin in Dogs

Regular examination of your dog ensures that you can catch dry skin before it gets out of hand. While you can get a lot of valuable resources online, consulting with your veterinarian is the best and quickest way to find out the cause of your dog’s skin problem. If your dog has a medical condition such as Cushing’s disease, then he will have to treat both the disease and the skin condition. Tests for allergies can pinpoint any dietary or environmental causes. The most common food items that cause allergies in dogs are beef, soy, corn, wheat, dairy, chicken and eggs. Often it is avoidance of the allergen that is the best option. You may need to discuss a nutrition plan with your veterinarian and maybe he can suggest some supplements that may help. 

Your veterinarian may choose to examine a skin scraping under the microscope for a closer view of potential reasons for the dry skin. Parasites can be treated, and it is important to keep up with preventative controls. Sometimes you may need to experiment with the products you are using on your dog, the current products may be too harsh or your dog may have developed an allergic reaction to it. Your veterinarian will be able to suggest some natural alternatives that you can test on your dog. Dry itchy skin can be caused by any number of conditions but changing the way you feed, bath, and treat your dog can diagnose the reason and enable a cure.

Treatment of Dry Skin in Dogs

The treatment will vary depending on the cause. Parasites, bacterial and fungal infections need medication and treatment to suit each one. These infections are sometimes of a secondary nature which is why dry skin should always be taken seriously.  Dietary changes may be required, and supplements if suggested by your veterinarian. Sometimes adding a supplement of omega-3 for fatty acids can be a good fix for dry scaly skin. An elimination diet may need to be trialed to see what common foods are causing a problem. A regular overall health check will keep on top of any health problems, as prevention is far better than treating an escalating condition. 

Groom your dog on a regular basis to remove any buildup of dirt or debris, and check in any folds of the skin especially around your dog’s face. Environmental causes can contribute, such as a dry climate or when your pet is indoor in the air-conditioning; adding a humidifier to your home will mean the air will be more humid which is better for the skin.  Diseases such as Cushing’s disease need to be treated with medications to control them. While it can be annoying to have a dog scratching all the time, never think it is normal and disregard it, as it can lead to larger health problems and can cause your dog misery.

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Recovery of Dry Skin in Dogs

Being observant and taking actions to prevent further development of any conditions that are affecting your dog is the finest management you can do for your dog. With dry skin, the cause is not always obvious, but after consulting your veterinarian, you will have a plan of action to follow. With any medication, it is important to follow it through to the end, and observe the effects it is having on your pet. Moderation in all things such as bathing, brushing, and diet is always prudent, and avoid any harsh chemicals and products. Keeping up with parasite control and regularly deworming will help your dog remain healthy and happy.

Dry Skin Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Shih Tzu




5 Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

hello my dog is having a dry skin but also has little bumps like if she has a rash I bath her, brush her and it is fine. but later she start to have the same problem

Oct. 4, 2017

2 Recommendations

There are various causes of dry skin in dogs, many times regular bathing with a sensitive shampoo is enough to keep it in check. Dry skin may be caused by allergies, hormonal conditions or parasites so it may be worth bringing it up with your Veterinarian at your next visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 4, 2017

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