If you've ever suffered from dry skin, you know how annoying and uncomfortable it can be. Add to that the itchiness and potential dandruff that comes along with dry skin, and you have a frustrating health condition to deal with. 

Your canine companion can get dry skin, too, and it can cause many of the same symptoms. As a pet owner, it's up to you (and your vet) to get to the bottom of your dog's dry skin issue so that they can get some relief — fast. 

What causes dry skin in dogs? What do the symptoms look like? And perhaps most importantly, how can you  treat dry skin in dogs so that Fido can feel better? 

Read on to learn more about your dog's dry skin and how to deal with the problem.

Symptoms of Dry Skin in Dogs

The symptoms of dry skin in dogs can vary depending on the exact cause of the problem (more on that later). However, there are a few common symptoms that you'll probably see in a case of dry skin. They include:

  • Itchy skin and associated scratching
  • Chewing or biting at the skin
  • Hair loss and bald patches
  • Flaky skin/dandruff
  • Hot spots (red, moist areas of inflamed skin)
  • Scabs on the skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Increased oiliness in your dog's coat
  • Foul odor coming from your dog's coat/skin

The occasional itch isn't something to be concerned about — all dogs scratch themselves. But when your dog's itching becomes frequent or you notice other symptoms like hair loss, flaky skin, scabs, inflammation, or a foul odor, something is amiss. It's time to schedule a visit to the vet's office to have your pooch examined.

Causes of Dry Skin in Dogs

Dog scratching itself on street

A case of dry skin doesn't just happen out of nowhere. There is some sort of underlying cause. And some of those causes include serious health issues. 

Here are some of the common causes of dry skin in dogs:

Low Humidity/Dry Air

Does your skin get dry and flaky in the wintertime? The same kind of thing can happen to your canine friend. If you live in an area with low humidity, frequent cold weather, or dry air, your dog's skin may become dry and flaky. If your dog's dry skin happens without any other clinical signs, this might be the cause. 

Poor Nutrition

Your dog's diet can play a role in their dry skin. If they aren't getting the proper nutrients through their food, a poor coat quality and dry skin could result. Omega-3 fatty acids and other essential fatty acids are particular nutrients known to help with skin and coat health. Check to see if your dog's food contains these nutrients. If not, it might be time for an upgrade.

Allergies

Allergic reactions are some of the leading causes of dry skin in dogs. Dogs can suffer from environmental allergies, reacting to allergens like pollen, dust, dirt, grass, and mold, as well as food allergies. Allergy testing can confirm what substance or substances your dog is allergic to.

Flea allergy dermatitis is another leading cause of skin problems in dogs. This occurs when your dog's body has an allergic reaction to flea saliva. You'll want to talk to your vet about keeping your dog on a high-quality flea preventative to avoid the issue.

To help build your dog's natural defense against allergens, try Native Pet's Allergy Chicken Chews. They can target itchy skin and help build long-term immune system support.

Infection

Bacterial infections, as well as fungal infections like ringworm, can cause dryness in the skin. Yeast infections (a type of fungal infection) are also relatively common. These infections can cause itchiness, red and inflamed skin, flaking, and odors in addition to dryness.

Parasites

We've already mentioned the issues a flea infestation can cause for your dog. They're the most common parasites to cause skin issues, but they're not the only ones. Mites cause a serious skin condition called mange, characterized by extreme itchiness, crusted skin, redness, and hair loss.

Metabolic Disorders

It's also possible for metabolic disorders (hormone disorders) to cause dry skin in dogs. Hypothyroidism is one example. In this condition, an overactive thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone, and symptoms include a dull coat, excessive shedding and hair loss, and dry skin. Cushing's disease, which occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol, can also result in a poor coat quality and dry skin.

Treating Dry Skin in Dogs

Vet treating dog dry skin

As you can probably guess, treating your dog's dry skin will depend on the cause. Step number one is to call your vet's office to set up an appointment. Once they’ve diagnosed the cause of your dog's dry skin, treatment can begin. 

  • If allergies are to blame, your vet might recommend a hypoallergenic diet or a food trial to pinpoint the offending allergen. Allergy medications for dogs are also available. 
  • If a bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection is causing your pooch's skin issues, antibiotics, anti-fungals, or anti-parasitic medications will be prescribed.
  • If a hormonal issue like Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism is discovered, the focus will be on managing symptoms and maintaining a good quality of life. These diseases can't be cured, but they can be successfully managed throughout your pet's life with medication and lifestyle changes.
  • If a poor diet or nutritional deficiency is the cause, your vet will recommend a better food for your pup. Adding dietary supplements might also help — a fish oil supplement like Native Pet's Omega Oil can help to support healthy skin and improve the coat quality. 
  • If the cause of your dog’s dry skin is found to be nothing more than low humidity and dry, cold air, several home remedies might be recommended. Running a humidifier at home can help add moisture to the air, but be sure to properly position and clean it to avoid mildew and moisture issues. Using hair products like a specialized conditioner or moisturizer can help, too. Ask your vet for further insights. 

It's important to note that some dog breeds seem to be more prone to dry skin than others. This could be because of genetics, but the exact reasons aren't clearly understood. 

Hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested are prone to skin conditions including dryness, simply because their skin is more exposed. And it seems that breeds like the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Poodle, English and Irish Setter, Pug, and various terriers are especially prone to having sensitive skin, allergies, and other skin conditions. 

Dealing With Your Dog's Dry Skin 

Dry skin isn't uncommon in dogs. It can happen simply because the air is dry and cold. Nutritional deficiencies, skin infections from bacteria or fungi, parasitic infestations, allergies, and metabolic disorders are other possible causes. 

No matter the underlying cause of your dog's dry skin, it's wise to deal with the problem as soon as you can. That way, your four-legged friend can start feeling comfortable again soon.

As soon as you notice symptoms like intense itching, inflammation and redness, hair loss, scabs, or a foul odor emanating from your dog's skin, it's time to call the vet. The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the sooner proper treatment can begin. 

For more insights into your dog's wellness needs, check out the Native Pet blog here.


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