How to Condition a Dog's Dry Skin

Medium
5 - 10 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

Dry skin in dogs can have a number of causes; medical conditions such as metabolic or hormone imbalances, allergies, and parasitic, bacterial or yeast infections can all cause or contribute to dry skin. Poor grooming, lack of grooming, under bathing, or overbathing with detergents and soaps that dry skin can also be factors, and environmental conditions such as exposure to heat and low humidity can cause dry skin in your dog, much the same as it does in humans.

Conditioning your dog's dry skin can provide relief, however, addressing underlying causes is also recommended to keep your dog's skin in good shape. Dry skin can become more easily damaged from itching or interference, or subject to infection with bacteria and yeast, so counteracting it is important for your dog’s health.  There are a number of things you can do to condition your dog's dry skin.

Dog's Perspective

If you notice your dog constantly scratching, licking or chewing at his skin, dry itchy skin could be the issue. When we humans suffer from dry skin we apply moisturizer over our smooth, hairless skin. Easy, right? However, that is not always quite as practical for your fur or hair-covered dog. Your dog takes measure to groom himself, hopefully, licking off dirt and debris and spreading body oils with his tongue. That should help prevent dry skin, but sometimes he may need some help. Taking steps to help with grooming and applying topical conditioning to alleviate dry skin can make your dog more comfortable.

The Routine Grooming Method

Most Recommended
4 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Pin Brush
Comb
Towel
Step
1
Brush regularly
Brush your dog daily to remove debris and prevent mats and tangles that can contribute to dry skin by restricting air flow to skin. Brushing also helps to distribute your dogs natural doggy oils.
Step
2
Massage
Massage your dog with a rubber glove to further distribute body oils and increase blood flow to skin and provide nutrients to skin tissues.
Step
3
Bathe regularily
Bath your dog regularly, 1-2 times a month, and not more than 1-2 times per week, to prevent over or under bathing. Buildups of oil and dirt can cause dry skin, as can excessive exposure to water and soap.
Step
4
Use moisturizing bath products
When you bathe your dog, use a moisturizing dog-safe shampoo. Rinse well to remove residual buildup and apply a moisturizing conditioner available at your local pet supply store. Do not use human shampoo and conditioner.
Step
5
Air dry
Do not use a blow dryer to dry your dog, instead pat dry with a towel, and put your dog in a warm, dry location to air dry or use fans to dry your dog.
Recommend grooming method?

The Special Conditioning Method

Effective
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Shampoo
Step
1
Oatmeal shampoo
Use a shampoo and conditioner containing colloidal oatmeal. Certain essential oils can be added to shampoo to combat dry skin.
Step
2
Rinse with vinegar
Rinse your dog with apple cider vinegar. Mix vinegar 50/50 with water.
Step
3
Apply coconut oil
Apply coconut oil to your dog's skin. Melt coconut oil until it is in liquid form--make sure it is not too hot, just warm. Rub the oil on your dog's hair and use a brush to distribute it through his coat.
Step
4
Moisturize nose and paws
Apply commercial moisturizers to your dog's nose and paws. Products made with natural materials are available at pet supply stores or you can apply coconut or olive oil directly to paws and dry skin on your dog's nose.
Step
5
Make changes
Discuss nutrition and environmental changes with your vet. Making some adjustments could relieve and prevent your dog's dry skin, such as diet changes, increasing humidity in your home or avoiding possible allergens.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • If your dog is suffering from dry skin, try to determine if a medical condition such as an allergy or infection, dietary factor or environmental factor plays a part and address these issues.
  • Test moisturizing products such as lotions, shampoos, and conditioners on your dog’s skin prior to applying over your dog's body to ensure that adverse reactions don't occur.
  • Make sure that essential oils being applied to your dog topically are not ingested and that they are non-toxic to dogs so that absorption through the skin does not make your dog ill.  Several plant essential oils are safe for humans but are not appropriate for dogs, as they do not have liver enzymes to metabolize the substances.

Conclusion

We are all familiar with dry, itchy skin, especially those of us that live in a dry climate, whether it is cold and dry or hot and dry. Your dog is not immune to dry skin just because he is covered in hair. In fact, this just makes it harder to treat his dry skin, as his hair forms a natural barrier when applying moisturizer and conditioner.  

Investigate causes of dry skin and address issues. Regular grooming and appropriate bathing with moisturizing shampoos can help alleviate Fido's dry skin. Dietary supplements and humidifiers can help mitigate medical conditions and environmental factors. Several natural moisturizers can be used on your dog's dry skin and especially on exposed skin on the nose and paw pads, including coconut oil and olive oil. 

There is no need for your dog to suffer from dry skin. Even a trip to your kitchen cupboard can help; oatmeal, vinegar, and oils can all be used to bring relief to your itchy pooch.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

Question
Lupo
Labrador Retriever
11 Years
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Question
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Lupo
Labrador Retriever
11 Years

I moved into my new place and this sweet boy I guess came with it?? He was very undernourished and as you can see not well taken care of..I have had some concerns on his hair loss and scratching and licking of his back and legs. I have treated him for fleas they were terrible.. Please help me if you can..Thanks

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hi Misty, it's wonderful that you are taking care of Lupo so well. You have treated Lupo for fleas; I hope the eradication of these pests gives him relief. Your home will need treatment, too to ensure that all fleas and eggs are removed. Based on the fact that Lupo is malnourished and has skin problems, I think a vet visit is warranted to check on his health and make sure that he can move forward with continued improvement. The vet can also advise on how to get rid of fleas in the house. All the best with Lupo!

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Question
Douggie
black mouth cur
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Douggie
black mouth cur
3 Years

He has dry itchy skin and scratches a lot ( I heard this is common for this breed which we think he is , not sure because he’s a rescue from Mississippi)
Does putting coconut oil in his food help ? What can I do on a daily basis to get him relief !?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hi Lisa, Dougie looks like a beautiful companion! My advice would be to take him to the veterinarian so that they can determine the cause of the itching. There could be reasons such as ticks, mites or other parasites that are difficult to see, an allergy such as to his food or due to an environmental cause, or even heat rash. The vet will be able to diagnosis the cause and provide treatment which will give Douggie the relief he needs. I recommend the vet because often itching can lead to secondary infection (say, if Douggie has raw skin and dirt from his paws enters the wound). Hope this helps!

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Question
Oralie
German Shepherd
9 Weeks
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Question
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Oralie
German Shepherd
9 Weeks

She continously bites and scratches herself. We thought maybe becuase of fleas but they arnt visible and didnt​ come out when we gave her a bath. Any idea what it could be if so what can I do for her?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hi there, because Oralie is so young, I would take her to the vet to rule out conditions like pyoderma, allergies to food, hypothyroidism, or a parasitic infection that is not visible to the eye. A lot of itching and scratching can lead to secondary infection and I am sure you must want to see Oralie find relief. There can be many reasons for the problem, so it is crucial that the right cause is treated. Good luck!

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Question
Tokey
Husky mix
1 Year
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Question
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Tokey
Husky mix
1 Year

help! my dog recently went to the dog park and went in the swimming area and prior to that he went to the groomers about 2 weeks before. i first thought it was dry skin then it looks kind of infected and he has more than one patch but they are little ones not as big as the one in the picture. idk if it’s a flea allergy, or a reaction or the shampoo the groomers used, or if it was from the bacteria in the water at the dog park

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. It's hard to tell what this may be. I think the safest bet is to take Tokey to the vet. The skin issue could be any number of things including flea allergy, ringworm or other parasite, etc. Rather than have Tokey's skin get worse and develop into a serious infection, have the vet treat the problem. There is a possibility of the skin condition being contagious so that adds another aspect to the situation too. The vet can also advise whether your house and belongings need a cleaning process, too. Good luck!

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Question
Sake'
Boston Terrier
8 Years
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Question
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Sake'
Boston Terrier
8 Years

So my girl has very dry flaky skin. It looks like dandruff when I move the hair around. I am going to try the coconut oil bath treatment, but what else do you recommend I try? She had pancreatitis so I can't give her dog food that is too high in fat or give the salmon or other oils ingested. Also does the vinegar for the rinse have to be ACV? Or will regular white vinegar work the same?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question about Sake'. How long has she had the dry skin and has the vet assessed the condition yet? Consult your vet to rule out a health issue. Try the coconut oil treatment but make sure that she does not ingest it since she has pancreatitis. As for the regular vinegar, I think it may be more harsh and drying than the Apple Cider Vinegar. Most natural remedy recipes use Apple Cider Vinegar. Keep in mind that too much bathing can have the opposite effect - overbathing can dry the skin out. The vet will have a reliable and gentle product for dandruff as well, so mention that if you do contact your vet. Good luck!

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Question
George
Newfoundland
1 Year
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Question
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George
Newfoundland
1 Year

We have 4 animals, 2 dogs and 2 cats so when George started scratching and licking himself frequently, we assumed it was fleas. We proceeded to check the other other animals as well as George but found nothing and as Our other 3 animals weren't scratching more than normal we concluded that fleas are not the problem. We haven't changed his food, or anything else in his lifestyle/routine. Our next step is to bring his to the vet but was hoping there was something else we could try before having to do that. Please help, want to he able to stop this. Thx

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. George is so handsome - I love the Newfoundland! There could be many causes for the itchiness and scratching. There could be a bacterial or fungal disease (and with George's thick coat it may be difficult to see). There could be an environmental or food allergy developing only now, or bug bites. Because there could be many reasons, I would take George to the vet, especially if it is something contagious to your other pets. All the best!

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Question
Ethel
Peruvian Inca Orchid
5 Years
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Question
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Ethel
Peruvian Inca Orchid
5 Years

We have a Peruvian Inca Orchid who has no hair apart from on her head, tail, and paws. She gets dry, we apply coconut oil but she licks it off is there anything else we can use?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Ethel is a very unique and cute dog! I am not familiar with the skincare for this breed. My recommendation is to ask the vet for suggestions to ensure that you are using a safe and effective product. The vet can suggest something that will not be harmful when licked. Ask about putting a humidifier in the room where she sleeps to add moisture to the air. As well, supplements like Omega-3 can be used - the vet can give you the proper dosage for Ethel. All the best and thank you for the question!

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