Dry Skin in Dogs: Basic Remedies for Your Pooch

Dry skin on dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Humans deal with various skin problems that are common and often are easily treated. Unlike a person who can put moisturizer on his/her skin if it gets dry, dogs cannot do that. It is up to their owners to observe them, identify the causes why they have dry skin and to treat them. Dry skin in dogs is also a mild issue, just like in the case of persons. However, it may determine a pup to scratch a lot and to spread its dead skin cells all around the house, not just on its fur. This is an aspect that might irritate a pup’s owner, so preventing it or finding a cure fast should be a priority.

There are a few rare cases when a dog’s dry skin appears as a reaction to dermatitis, an autoimmune disease, a tumor disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney failure and chronic diarrhea. Therefore, it is not an affection that manifests only in an aesthetic way. The feeling of having an accumulation of dead skin cells on a pooch’s fur and on its skin is as uncomfortable as it is for people.

Even if it looks like your quadruped has a common dandruff problem, it needs to be solved as soon as possible. If you notice that your pet starts scratching a lot, you might want to check why. Dogs that have light shaded furs might not look like they are having a problem. Dandruff is more easily noticeable on dark colored furs. Regardless of your dog’s fur color, you should do a body check at least once a week.

Causes for dogs’ skin affections

There is a series of serious factors that can determine a pup to have dry skin that manifests and looks as unaesthetic as dandruff looks like. These factors make a dog prone to developing skin affections. One of the factors is age. Senior pooches are known to suffer of this unpleasant condition. Other than that, some owners wash their pups way too often, fact which doesn’t remove dandruff, but it makes it even more persistent than it was before.

This happens because all the natural oils from a pup’s skin are removed, thus its skin gets dry faster and without exceptions. If people use special shampoos to get rid of this awful thing called dandruff, they should not try to apply the same measure on their quadruped because it is not efficient for them.

In general, a dog owner should keep in mind that what works for a human is not always beneficial for a dog as well. Not even a solution that does good to one dog might not be good for another. Moreover, dogs that are not fed right are prone to have dry skin as well. These three factors are the most common and have no connection with any serious disease a pup might have that could lead to dry tegument. As it follows, we will look into causes and remedies for this bad condition.

For more detailed information on the causes of skin infections, please read our article on skin diseases in dogs.

Incorrect feeding and nutrition diseases

When searching for the reason why your pooch has dry skin that desquamates excessively, you should start with the most frequent ones. Incorrect feeding can sometimes lead to the development of this affection. Your dog might not benefit of a diversified diet that contains all the necessary nutrients or it might have a nutrition disease.

This does not mean that you are intentionally feeding it the wrong food, but maybe your pup has a diverse reaction to something contained by the canned or dry food that you give it. Also, the occasional treats you slip under the table while you eat might not do it any good.

Incorrect dog feeding

Unlike other canine diseases, the nutritional and metabolic ones are not transferable. They develop in time as a result of an inadequate diet. If the necessary measures are not taken immediately, these diseases might get more complicated and affect a pup’s organs. The consequences are not fatal for a quadruped, but they can be painful, annoying and uncomfortable.

In addition, the treatment for chronic diseases is complicated, time-consuming and also expensive. A dog that suffers from a nutritional or metabolic disease will have warning signs all over its body. It is up to its owner to realize when the physical aspect of its fur and skin changes in a visible manner. The dog’s skin gets dry, its fur does no longer shine and its hair falls.

To ensure you’re providing your dog with the right nutrition, read our article on the five common mistakes made in dog nutrition.

Seborrheic dermatitis and allergic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition characterized by the occurrence of white skin flakes that are dry or greasy. Dandruff and flakiness are both forms of seborrheic dermatitis. They are the result of a keratinization defect or the cornification of the skin’s function. This is not a contagious disease and it can appear in both canine and feline pets. Certain dog breeds are more likely to suffer of this skin condition, such as cocker spaniel, chow-chow and golden retriever.

The clinical signs of this type of dermatitis are an unpleasant odor of the dog’s skin, itching, the accumulation of epidermal cells under dry or greasy form that are generally located between the pet’s hairs or just in certain areas such as head, back and tail. The smell should be similar to rancid fat. This sort of dermatitis can become worse and get infected with Malassezia, both creating pyoderma. While these complicated denominations might not be too useful, they can definitely emphasize the importance of treating a symptom as soon as it appears.

Dry skin around eyes

Some dogs might have an allergic reaction to food, hygiene products and certain environmental factors such as pollen and insects. A dog affected by allergic dermatitis will scratch a lot in a persistent manner until it hurts itself. Its skin looks dry, it desquamates and it is swollen or just irritated.

These signs can only be observed by an owner who pays close attention to the pup’s behavior. Pooches are known to hide symptoms and they have no way of telling their owner when something is bothering them except barking. This condition cannot get worse if the dog is not exposed to the same allergenic factors.

Mites, fleas, parasites and microorganisms

A canine pet’s skin can be irritated externally by mites. Moreover, fleas can cause the occurrence of dandruff in different body areas such as thighs, while scabies affects areas around the ears and feet joints. The presence of certain parasites or microorganisms on the pup’s skin can cause its exfoliation as well. Chyletiella is a mite that causes the so called walking dandruff, which is characterized by itching and abundant dandruff.

Fleas infographic

The denomination of this mite was given because they move under the desquamated skin giving the impression that the skin moves on its own. In addition, certain fungal or bacterial infections might cause puppies to have dry skin. As terrifying as these may sound, luckily they are not serious problems and they can be treated with special solutions and antibiotics or creams prescribed by any veterinarian.

Your dog may even be allergic to fleas. To determine if that’s the case, invest some time reading our article on flea allergy in dogs and its symptoms.

A list of remedies for your puppy

Change your dog’s diet

The first step you can take in case your puppy suffers from a nutritional disease is to change its diet. This is a step that must be taken gradually. You should not replace one type of food with another. You must combine the two until the proportions change exponentially. The transition period should last between one and two weeks.

The new type of food for your dog must be chosen after a conversation with a veterinarian because only a specialist can properly diagnose such a disease and recommend the best products. Fatty omega acids are essential for a doggy’s healthy skin and fur too.

If the food lacks this type of fatty acids, then the dog’s skin will get dry. You can safely choose a supplement that contains omega-3 and amega-6 fatty acids. However, try not to feed your canine friend with vitamins and minerals that are not prescribed by a specialist. They can do more damage than good. Both deficiencies and overdoses are sources of problems. A complete and healthy diet is essential for your pup.

Limit your dog’s exposure to allergens

If the cause of allergy is known, then you can simply limit your pooch’s exposure to it. However, in most cases it is hard to determine the exact allergen. Not treating the cause induces a state of discomfort and makes the pup scratch intensively and hurt itself.

There are certain allergy remedies sold at pet shops that contain fish fat and other ingredients that confer moisture to a dog’s skin. The products that contain antihistamines are also good. Chewable tablets, ointments and sprays have a general beneficial effect when trying to combat allergies in pups.

Bathe your dog regularly, not often

You can clearly buy an anti-dandruff shampoo for your pet and use it when you wash it. However, although you must bathe your pet regularly, you must not bathe it often. Once a month is more than enough. The excess of water and shampoo removes its protective oil layer. When this layer is removed, the skin becomes dry and more prone to infections.

If it gets dirty by playing in mud or in other conditions, you can use just water to remove the dirt and postpone the usage of shampoo for when it was scheduled to be used. Dry dog skin is as painful and as susceptible to infections as it is for humans, so it is not at all negligible.

Brush your pup’s fur

Brushing your pup’s fur once a day could prevent the occurrence of dry skin and dandruff. In this way, the factors that cause skin exfoliation do not cumulate anymore. You will spend quality time with your dog and it will not have to scratch anymore. Use a soft brush if you know that it has sensitive skin or possible inflamed areas on its body.

After you are done with this ritual, you can go on and use a special spray for furs. That is especially created to make a pooch’s fur shine and to remove exfoliated skin. It contains essential oils that contribute to skin hydration and prevent the occurrence of dandruff as well.

Ensure an active life for your puppy

A healthy dog is a dog that has a lot of exercise; a dog that is not kept in an apartment all the time; a pup that can run and enjoy fresh air. A pup with a sedentary life is prone to multiple types of diseases. Taking your dog out and letting it run freely will also build a strong immune system for it, thus protecting it from multiple risky factors.

Healthy, dandruff-free conclusions

Although there are multiple serious causes that make your doggy’s skin get dry, this does not necessarily mean that your dog is a subject to any of them. In most cases, a puppy with dry skin does not have huge health issues. For example, whenever the temperatures drop for a longer period of time, you might notice that your pooch’s skin is dryer than usual. This is not an alarming sign.

This is exactly what happens to humans when the temperatures drop and it is not something that cannot be easily treated with some moisturizing cream. However, it is necessary to monitor your dog and make sure that is gets everything that it needs.

Bathing a dog

Your pet’s health is really important, so spending time feeding it right and brushing its fur once a day should be a priority for you. Not only will your quadruped be thankful to you and love you even more, but you will also be satisfied and full of joy. Health issues generate stress for both humans and animals, so preventing them might be the best thing one can do. Now that you know the causes, it will be easier for you to prevent your beloved pet from having unexpected issues of this sort and keep it healthy all the time.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.