Dogs with dry skin feel itchy and uncomfortable. Many face the possibility of infection. The key to managing your dog’s dry skin is to find the underlying cause first, then implement the appropriate management. However, this isn’t always as easy as it seems.
There are lots of causes of dry skin, some minor, some requiring a trip to the vet. It might not seem like dry skin on dogs warrants medical intervention–after all, we only need to slather on some lotion for our own dry skin–but in dogs, there are key signs to watch for and steps to take. In this article, we’ll walk you through the causes of dry skin on dogs, how to treat your pup, and when to call the vet.
Can Dogs Get Dry Skin?
Dogs experience dry skin much like we humans do with a wide range of underlying causes and treatments. It’s critical to identify the cause, though, before you begin treatment of your dog’s dry skin, so let’s look at some possible reasons your pup’s skin might be dry.
Causes for Dog Dry Skin
- Environmental allergies (dust, pollen, mold, and so on)
- A poor diet
- Food allergies
- Parasites like fleas
- Fungal infection
- Yeast infection
- Metabolic disease (Cushing’s or hypothyroidism)
- Weather changes (cold weather, dry air, overpowering A/C)
- Excessive bathing
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Allergic response to chemicals used in the yard or the home
- Over- or under-grooming
Signs of Dry Skin on Dogs
Identifying your dog’s dry skin is the first step to helping him or her feel better. As you examine your dogs’ skin, be sure to look all the way through the coat, not just on exposed patches. You need to see as much skin as possible, so use a comb to lift sections of the coat to see the skin below.
However, don’t only check your dog’s skin. You should also examine your dog’s paws and nose for signs of dry skin, too. Stay on top of skin issues like dry skin by completing a monthly body scan of your dog. This method will keep you on top of any potential issues so you can act quickly to help soothe your dog’s dry skin.
Here’s what to look for to determine if your dog has dry skin:
- Excessive itching and scratching
- Rolling around, as if to scratch an itch your dog can’t reach
- Biting or licking the skin
- Hair loss
- Oily skin
Sometimes dry skin can cause behavior changes, too. When your dog feels uncomfortable, he or she may seem depressed or irritable–understandable! If you notice your dog acting out of character and you notice one of the signs listed above, it’s probably time to head to the vet.
Management and Treatment for Dogs With Dry Skin
Unless you already know your dog’s underlying condition causing dry, itchy skin, a clinical exam is usually warranted. The treatments for each cause differ so widely that it’s impossible to implement a plan without knowing why your dog’s skin is dry. You wouldn’t give your dog a medicated bath for Cushing’s, for instance, nor would you start an allergy pill because your dog is reacting to your laundry detergent. Before you begin treatment, you need to know what you’re treating in the first place! So, head to the vet.
Seek Veterinary Care
If your dog scratches so much to open the skin, your dog is now at risk for a serious infection. For other conditions like metabolic diseases, parasites, yeast infections, and so on, a trip to the vet is required. That’s why we recommend starting from the clinic so you can rule out all these serious possibilities before you begin an at-home treatment. When dealing with dogs with dry skin, a call to the vet is a great first step!
Implement Healthy Habits
Routine hygiene can prevent your dog’s skin from becoming itchy in the first place. Keep up with monthly flea treatments. Maintain your dog’s grooming routine. Keep your home’s air filters clean, and sweep and dust often, especially during high pollen seasons.
Start with a healthy diet. If you think food might be the culprit, it’s most likely an intolerance instead of an allergy. Consider switching your dog to a healthy, balanced food. Add in healthy treats, like those with Omega-3, to support skin health.
Seasonal Allergy Management
Seasonal allergies plague lots of dogs. Take steps to soothe your dog’s skin before it can become an itchy mess: Using a damp towel, wipe down your dog’s paws and coat when you come inside. This removes the pollen and spores that can cause the worst itching. If your vet gives you the OK, start an over-the-counter allergy medication. If your dog’s symptoms are more severe, your vet can prescribe a stronger med or administer a monthly allergy shot.
Changes at Home
Dry air from HVAC systems can wreak havoc on your dog’s (and your) skin. Consider investing in a humidifier to counteract the dry air. Likewise, if you suspect a cleaning product or yard chemical is affecting your dog, find a more gentle product and experiment to see if your dog’s skin heals.
Dogs with dry skin can feel miserable. Luckily, dry skin in dogs is often treatable at home or with simple environmental changes. Once your vet rules out any possible underlying causes, you’ll be able to find a management plan that soothes your pup’s sore skin.
Has your dog ever experienced dry skin? How did you treat it? We’d love to know what worked for your pet in the comments below!
We encourage you to monitor your dog’s skin condition as part of your monthly routine. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. All you need to do is take the time to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Pet health and dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by conducting a body scan on your dog and signing up for Pet Health 5.
About the Author: Maggie Marton writes about dogs, cats, and kids–and often the intersection of all three–for print and web publications and on her award-winning blog, OhMyDogBlog.com. Maggie co-authored Pet Blogging for Love and Money, a guide to launching and running a profitable pet blog. She lives in the Indianapolis area with a dog, two cats, a tank of fish, two preschoolers, and a patient husband.