Dry Skin on Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Dry skin or flaky skin on dogs is a skin condition caused by a variety of reasons including lice, parasites such as the Demodex mite and others. In order to diagnose the reason for the dry skin, you would probably need to visit your vet.

The cracked, dry skin will be itchy and results in an unpleasant experience for your dog. Dry skin will make your dog’s coat and skin look scaly with dandruff flakes at the parting of the dog’s hair.

Is Dry Skin Common in Dogs?

Yes, dry skin can occur in dogs and puppies, irrespective of the breed type.

Causes of Dry Skin on Dogs:

Dry skin is caused by various reasons ranging from allergies to parasites and other infections. 

  • Allergies:  Dogs, like humans, have allergies to food or environmental changes, including mold and pollen. Food allergens can be dairy products, meat, soy, eggs, and gluten found in wheat. Dogs can also develop a skin irritation referred to as contact dermatitis once they material substances like pesticides or soap, if untreated, can lead to atopic dermatitis. Seasonal allergens include dander, grass, and dust, which can cause allergies resulting in dry, irritated skin in dogs. Some dogs can be allergic to the saliva of fleas which can cause flea allergy dermatitis, a most common skin disease in American dogs. Keep the environment clean and consult a vet for proper medication.
  • Parasites: The most common reason for dry skin is parasites that cause canine scabies, Demodex mite, cheyletiellosis. Dry skin due to parasites needs medical attention and sometimes from a veterinary dermatologist depending on the severity.
  • Other Infections: Bacterial and fungal infections can cause various skin conditions, including dry skin, and requires proper medication. Certain fungal infections like Ringworm can be transmitted to humans also.
  • Other Illnesses: Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism are the two primary metabolic diseases that can irritate and make the skin dry and make the hair rough and brittle. Other illnesses that dry out the skin include cancer and auto-immune diseases.
  • External Factors: Changes in the environment like cold weather, dry air, or using harsh soaps or shampoos while bathing or bathing more than necessary, and poor nutrition can also dry the dog’s skin. Consult a vet if you suspect the reasons for your dog’s dry skin to be nutritional deficiencies, environmental factors or wrong bathing habits.
  • Folliculitis: Superficial bacterial folliculitis leads to bumps, scabs, and sores, which infect the skin.This infection will be visible in dogs with short coats, but the infection can be identified from the dull hair and hair loss in dogs with long hair. Injuries and allergies can further trigger this infection.
  • Dandruff: Overproduction of oil through the sebaceous glands can make the skin flaky leading to hair loss and dandruff. 

Breed Specific Skin Conditions

Hairless breeds such as Chinese Crested and Xoloitzcuintli are susceptible to many skin conditions including dry skin, itching, and scaling. The sebaceous glands produce sebum onto the skin through hair follicles and keep the skin soft and moist. In hairless breeds the production of sebum is low to non-existent making the hairless breeds more prone to dry skin. Large breed puppies that can grow fast from puppyhood like Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are prone to zinc responsive dermatitis.

Is Dry Skin a Complicated Issue?

Yes, as dry skin can be a sign of other serious health issues in dogs, it should be taken seriously. Dry skin can result in secondary skin infections like Ringworm which can be transmitted to humans also. Dry skin will also lead to itching in dogs.

Symptoms of Dry Skin on Dogs

There are varieties of symptoms associated with dry skin on dogs, but not all dogs have the same symptoms, and some dogs can also suffer from a subset of the following symptoms:  

  • Flaky skin
  • Pimples 
  • Dandruff
  • Itchiness
  • Odor
  • Inflammation
  • Excessive oil
  • Scaling
  • Scabs
  • Hair Loss 

Diagnostic Tests to Determine The Cause Of Dog’s Dry Skin

Cytology is used to diagnose any fungal or bacterial infections. Allergy tests can be done to detect food allergens and environmental allergens. 

Treatment For Dog’s Dry Skin

The treatment varies depending on the causes after diagnosis. If food allergies cause dry skin, changing the diet can prevent allergies. Adding flax seeds, Omega 3, and probiotics like  Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidus in their diet will help maintain the skin’s overall maintenance. There is no cure for environmental allergies, so it can be controlled by avoiding the allergens or immunotherapy like allergy shots.

Treatment for dry skin, as a sign of other illnesses like Cushing’s disease, should be for illness and skin infection. 

Dry skin as a sign of other illnesses should be treated with medications for dry skin and the respective  illness. Demodectic mange is often linked with Cushing’s disease which can be tested and cured through treatments for Demodicosis and Cushing’s disease.Other forms of treatment include using the veterinarian recommended shampoos based on the skin pH and using humidifiers. Good quality food with all necessary nutrients and moist food can be served to dogs. Wet food and water will hydrate and control dry skin. Treatments to prevent fleas will also prevent any skin condition caused by the flea’s saliva.

Home Remedies to Treat a Dog’s Dry Skin

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E, used externally, helps in conditioning the skin, but it is not advisable to intake vitamin E. Vitamin E oil can be applied directly to the affected skin, or you can mix it with water, and the dog can soak in this water while bathing. It works by nourishing and conditioning the skin.  

To Buy Vitamin E Oil: Rejuve Naturals Vitamin E Oil

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Rejuve Naturals Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E, used externally, helps in conditioning the skin, but it is not advisable to intake vitamin E.

Olive Oil: 

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Including olive oil in a dog’s diet a few times a week will keep the coat lustrous and healthy. Olive oil applied directly on the skin will also soothe dry and inflamed skin.

To Buy Olive Oil: Pompeian Olive Oil

Pompeian Olive Oil
Including olive oil in a dog’s diet a few times a week will keep the coat lustrous and healthy.

Coconut Oil: 

Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and helps condition dry skin when applied directly to the coat. Coconut oil will also improve the texture of the coat.

To Buy Coconut Oil: Garden of Life Coconut Oil

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Garden of Life Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and helps condition dry skin when applied directly to the coat

Omega – 3: 

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Omega-3 fatty acids work wonders in treating dry skin and can be taken both externally and internally.

To Buy Omega -3: Amazon Element Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Amazon Element Omega 3 Fatty Acids


Trimming and brushing the coat regularly will remove any dirt or matting and avoid the deposits of external factors like dust, pollen, soaps, shampoos. Brushing every day helps in the even distribution of natural oils and will also help you to monitor the dog’s skin condition. 


It is recommended not to bath dogs more often than necessary and for a very long time. Prepare and stick to a bathing schedule and limit the usage of shampoo as per requirement. Avoid using human soaps and shampoos as dog skin is thinner than human skin. Excessive bathing and product usage can strip natural oils, and the skin will be dry. Condition the coat after bathing using shampoos and conditioners with essential oil or oatmeal shampoo to combat dry skin on dogs.

How to Prevent Dry Skin on Dogs at Home?

There are certain ways to prevent dry skin at home. They are 

  • Periodical overall health check ups.
  • Regular usage of parasite preventatives to avoid parasites.
  • Scheduled grooming.
  • Usage of recommended shampoos.
  • Cleaning facial folds in dog breeds with skin folds.
  • Feeding a high-quality, well-balanced diet.
  • Knowledge of breed-specific skin conditions and preventive measures.

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Dry Skin?

Breeds like Golden Retriever, Boxer, Poodle, Dalmations, Shih Tzu, Irish Setter, and English Setter have sensitive skin and can easily contract skin infections.Chinese Crested, Xoloitzcuintli, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies are some breeds more prone to various skin diseases including dry skin, dandruff, inflammation, and itching.

Recommended Products for Dogs with Dry Skin:

1.Dog Grooming Brush

Hartz Detangling Brush

2. Shedding and Dematting

Maxpower Planet Grooming Comb

3. Dog Grooming Kit

Pet Union Dog Grooming Kit

4. Dog Shampoo

Burt’s Bees for Dogs Skin Soothing Shampoo

5. Oatmeal Shampoo + Conditioner

Mighty Petz Oatmeal Shampoo and Conditioner

6. Dog Conditioner

EQyss Premier Pet Conditioner

7. Leave-in Dog Conditioner

Warren London Hydrating Butter Leave-in Conditioner

8. Dog Skin Moisturizer

Vet Recommended Dog Dry Skin Cream & Moisturizer

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