Lucky for your pup, mild cases of dry skin can often be resolved at home.
Just like us humans, dogs can sometimes suffer from the seasonal perils of dry skin. This usually happens in the winter or when exposed to a lot of wind or dry air. Dry skin that is just accompanied by mild itchiness and flaking is nothing to worry about, but additional symptoms or signs of discomfort could indicate something more serious.
While there are a wide variety of potential reasons why your dog has dry skin, some are easy to fix while others are more challenging.
Reasons Why Your Dog Has Dry Skin
The most common reason for run-of-the-mill dry skin is low humidity in the air. Your dog's skin needs some moisture to maintain its elasticity and resilience, and really dry air can cause it to lose that moisture.
If you notice that your dog is mildly itchy with some skin flaking during the winter, or if you live in an arid climate, try using a humidifier in your home. Forced-air heat in particular can really dry out your dog's skin. Using a humidifier can help to keep everyone more comfortable, including you and your human family members!
Nutritional deficiencies can also cause dry skin in dogs. Your dog's diet may not be providing enough of the fatty acids that help to keep the skin healthy. Check your dog's food to make sure that it has an AAFCO Statement indicating that proper work has been done to make sure it contains all the nutrients your dog needs. If you feed a homemade diet, work with a veterinary nutritionist to create a recipe that meets all of your dog's needs—don't trust recipes off the internet.
For many cases of dry skin, supplementing with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids does wonders for skin and coat health. These supplements are available in liquid and capsule forms. Choose a supplement that has been approved by the National Animal Supplement Council or is recommended by your veterinarian.
Too Many Baths
Another cause of dry skin in dogs is bathing too frequently. This can strip away the necessary oils on your dog's skin, leaving it fragile and dry. Most dogs only require baths on an as-needed basis, usually a couple times a year. If you find yourself bathing your dog more frequently due to odor or greasiness, consult with your veterinarian to see if your dog has a skin condition that is causing the symptoms you're seeing.
Oatmeal-based shampoos are a great option for soothing dry skin and can be used on most dogs. Always make sure you rinse your dog thoroughly after a bath to remove any shampoo residue.
Parasites and Illnesses
Canine parasites can cause a lot of serious problems for your dog in terms of their health. Some common skin conditions caused by creepy crawlies include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Demodectic mange
- Cheyletiella mange
In addition to parasites, more serious chronic health conditions including food and environmental allergies, Cushing's disease, and hypothyroidism can also dry out your dog's skin. All of these conditions are typically accompanied by other symptoms in addition to dry skin, however.
Seek veterinary attention if your dog is experiencing hair loss, pustules, scabs, open sores, greasy skin, excessive dandruff, itchiness, licking his paws, ear infections, lethargy, weight gain, vomiting, or diarrhea. The underlying condition will need to be treated as well as the dry skin.
Home Remedies for Dry Skin in Dogs
As long as your dog doesn't have other signs of illness or discomfort, there are some remedies you can try at home to alleviate his dry skin without necessarily scheduling a vet visit.
- Use a humidifier to resolve dry air in your home. Bonus: this will make your own dry skin feel better, too!
- Start your dog on an omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplement to boost his skin and coat health. Supplements are not subject to the same level of regulation as medications, so not all supplements are equal. For the best results choose a product that has the National Animal Supplement Council Quality Seal or is recommended by your veterinarian.
- Give him a bath with an oatmeal-based shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Oatmeal works as a colloid and is soothing to the skin.
- Some people have also had success rubbing coconut oil onto their dogs’ coat and skin to help with dry skin.
If you find yourself needing to repeat any of these remedies frequently or if they don't help, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure that something else isn't going on with your dog's skin.