Causes and Solutions for Itchy, Dry Skin in Dogs

Your dog provides you with loyalty, companionship, and love, which is why it can be upsetting when you witness them suffering. Even the most rudimentary ailments can be the most agitating for your pet, causing them to be miserable and not their usual selves. A typical cause for agitation in dogs is itchy skin, which they will demonstrate to you by scratching, licking, or biting their skin, sometimes to the point of hair loss or injury.

Dry, irritated skin can be the result of many causes, including:

  • Flea or tick bites

  • Mites (mange)

  • Allergic reaction

  • Lack of nutrition in diet

  • Bathing with irritating soaps or shampoos

  • Thyroid issues

  • Cold, dry weather

In most cases, the development of dry, irritated skin is avoidable if pet owners practice anticipatory methods.  

How to Prevent Skin Irritation in Your Dog
Every dog is different, which is why it’s important to consider these preventative measures in relation to your pet’s unique medical history and your personal preferences. You should always seek the advice of your dog’s veterinarian before making any drastic changes to their lifestyle or diet or administering non-prescribed medications.

Provide a proper diet

Lack of proper nutrition can manifest itself in the form of a skin rash causing your dog to experience unpleasant itchiness. Dogs require a high protein diet with plenty of leafy greens or appropriate substitutes. Larger or more physically active canines may need more frequent feeding or complex carbohydrates to help them maintain a healthy metabolism.


Familiarize yourself with their allergies

If you haven’t already, set up an appointment with your veterinarian for a blood test on your dog. Blood tests are one of the easiest and most efficient methods of discovering any allergies. Once you know what your pet is allergic to, you can eliminate their exposure and narrow down the possible causes of their skin irritations.


Research dog-care products

Making an informed buy is both a preventative measure and a handy step in alleviating dry skin in your pet. Before purchasing a new bathing shampoo or pet food brand, always research the ingredients. Certain additives in food can cause allergic reactions in your dog which reveal themselves as patches of red or inflamed skin, whereas harsh chemicals in shampoos can dry out your pet’s skin, causing them to scratch. These additives or preservatives found in some pet shampoos can disrupt the naturally-occurring oils that help dogs maintain the perfect balance of potential hydrogen (pH balance) for healthy skin and hair.


Particularly, sulfates are responsible for drying out skin. Most shampoos, whether for animals or humans, contain sulfates as this is the key ingredient responsible for creating a lather or bubbles. While not as harmful as other additives (like isopropyl alcohol,doazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quarternjum-15, or parabens), over time sulfates can strip your dog’s coat of its essential moisture, leading to skin irritation and chronic itching. Keep a list of harmful preservatives with you the next time you make a trip to the store and carefully scour shampoo bottles before you purchase.


Pay proper attention to parasitic bites

Parasites such as mites, fleas, and ticks are a common cause of skin irritation in dogs. They’re easily passed on to other pets you may own or even to you or others in your home. It’s due to their ability to contaminate an entire home that proper attention is vital in elimination.

In serious cases, infestations of mites on an animal can lead to the skin disease, mange, which results in rapid hair loss and mass scabbing. Preventative and alleviation methods include isolating the dog that’s suffering from parasitic bites from other pets or people and following a rigorous schedule of sanitation; bathing the dog frequently and washing anything the dog may have touched, such as their bed, to kill or scare away parasites. In some cases, quarantine and frequent bathing will be enough to rid your dog of their unwanted guests, but, as always, asking your veterinarian for a prescription designed to prevent and attack parasites is recommended.


If your dog is expressing constant or chronic skin agitation, make an appointment with your veterinarian who may refer you to an animal dermatologist. They will prescribe the proper medication or treatment based on the cause of your dog’s dry, irritated skin. While you and your pet wait for the skin to heal, you can keep your dog as comfortable as possible by petting them soothingly, bathing them with skin-sensitive shampoos, and avoiding any exposure to substances they may be allergic to.

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