Dry Skin On Dogs: What Causes It And How To Treat It

Just like us, dogs can get dry and flaky skin. While sometimes the cause is a change in weather and low humidity, other times it’s a sign of a larger problem, like parasites.

An easy way to see if your dog is suffering from dry skin is to part his hair and look at the skin. Is it cracked, flaky, and does the slightest touch cause Fido to itch like crazy? If so, your dog has dry skin. The next step is to figure out the cause…


Dry skin is a common cause of itching in dogs, but figuring out what is causing the dry skin can be a bit trickier. If your dog is suffering from dry and itchy skin, read on to see what could be causing it, symptoms, and how to treat it.

What Causes Dry Skin On Dogs?

Weather Changes

More dogs suffer from dry skin in low humidity areas and during winter months due to the lack of moisture in the air. Harsh winds, indoor heating, and low humidity combined draw moisture out of the outermost layer of our skin, leaving it dry and itchy. 60% relative humidity is ideal to prevent dry skin, reports dermatologist Elizabeth Farhat, MD.


Excessive Bathing

While giving your itchy dog a bath using a moisturizing or soothing shampoo can be beneficial, doing it too often can actually dry the skin out even more.

Diet Deficiencies

Your dog’s diet could be the culprit of the itchy skin. Diets that are deficient in protein, fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals can cause dry skin.


Food, environmental, or seasonal allergies can all cause skin irritations, but most are difficult to identify. Common allergens like mold, grass, and pollen can dry the skin out and are a place to start.


Some parasites like Demodex mite, canine scabies, and lice can cause your dog to have dry skin that can lead to mange.


Symptoms of dry skin on dogs

There are a wide range of symptoms, and your dog could be suffering from one or several of them. When in doubt, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet.

  • Itchiness
  • Flaky skin/dandruff
  • Irritated or red skin
  • Hair loss
  • Odor

Treatments for dry skin on dogs

While frustrating to both dogs and their owners, dry skin can usually be resolved with one of the following treatments.


Moisturizing Shampoo or Topical Solution

If your vet has ruled that Fido is suffering from a case of dry skin, you can try a soothing shampoo or topical salve to help moisturize his skin and keep him happy and itch-free.

Oatmeal is another soothing option which you can add to a bath or make a paste by mixing ground oats and water. Apply the paste it to your dog’s irritated skin for instant relief. This also works great for dogs suffering from allergies.



If the cause is a deficiency in your dog’s diet, you can add a supplement or change food. Veterinarian Robert Silver advises dog owners who feed their dogs dry food to add digestive enzymes to their meals.

These great tasting chews promote healthy skin, normal shedding and may alleviate discomfort from dry or itchy skin.

Avoid Irritants

This solution is easier said than done. Since there’s no sure way of testing to see what food your dog is allergic to, you must remove items from his diet and see if he improves. Once you have found what you believe is the cause, make sure Fido avoids it at all costs. Common food allergies in dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy or gluten (from wheat), states VCA Animal Hospital.

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Parasite Prevention

Fleas, ticks, and countless other bugs can cause harm to your dog, so the best way to keep Fido bug-free is with a regular parasite preventative medicine. Talk to your vet to see which is the best fit for your dog.

Additional Resources

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Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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