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Help Treat & Relieve Dry Dog Skin & Allergies Symptoms

Dry Skin on Dogs

Just like humans can have dry skin, dogs too can experience uncomfortably dehydrated, damaged, or flaky skin. And they don’t like it, either. Some scratching is normal, but if your pup is constantly rubbing her back on the carpet and using her paws to claw at her skin – something is probably wrong.  

 Dry skin on dogs can be caused by several things. Dog allergies are some of the top culprits, but dry skin can also indicate a larger health issue in your pup. Some dogs scratch because they have fleas, infections, or other breed-specific disorders. Even the wrong shampoo could cause your dog to get dry skin.  

 There are many ways to treat dry skin on dogs at home. In some cases, however, a visit to the vet may be warranted. Read on to learn more about dry skin issues in dogs and how to treat them.

What Causes Dry Skin on Dogs?

If your dog starts scratching, don’t assume the worst. Your dog could be scratching for a problem that is easily remedied at home. Most causes of dry skin in canines have to do with external irritants, though sometimes an internal illness could result in skin that gets too dry.  

 Some of the most common causes of dry skin include: 

  • Dog allergies Puppies and dogs can be allergic to most of the same things that we are. We’re talking grass, pollen, dust, dander, food, mold, and more. If dog skin allergies are to blame, removing the allergen from your dog’s environment whenever possible will help. Sometimes your pup might also need meds.  

  • Fleas, mites or parasites Fleas and other biting insects irritate your dog’s skin. Making matters worse, your dog will naturally start scratching the area and make the skin even drier. Over-the-counter treatments will often clear up the issue, or your vet can help.  

  • Skin irritants Sometimes the wrong shampoo will irritate your dog’s skin and dry it out. Your dog may be allergic to a specific shampoo, but that’s not the only way to end up with dry skin. If you use a shampoo not meant for dogs, you can dry out your dog’s skin, too. Stick with shampoo for dogs.  

  • Poor diet Getting the right nutrients helps your dog keep their shiny coat and hydrated skin. If you notice dry skin after a food change, you might need to consult your veterinarian about switching back or add some supplements to the daily menu. 

  • Thyroid problems Some pet parents don’t realize that dogs can also experience thyroid issues—hypothyroidism results when there is an imbalance of certain hormones in the body. In addition to weight gain and lethargy, thyroid problems can also lead to dry skin in many dogs.  

  • Cushing’s Disease This disorder is fairly common in dogs. Also called hyperadrenocorticism, it results from a tumor on the pituitary gland. Cushing’s Disease causes extreme thirst, thinning skin and hair, and may also lead to dry skin in some animals. 

  • Weather factors Sometimes extreme temperatures can also lead to dry skin on dogs. This is particularly true in cold weather. Ensuring you keep the house humidified in the winter will help both humans and dogs from experiencing dry and cracked skin.  

Your dog may experience one symptom or multiple symptoms of dry skin. Sometimes, you might also notice your dog is tired or seeming unwell before you see the scratching. Dry skin can also be caused by other factors like fungal infection or mange.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Dry Skin?

Your furry friend doesn’t have to suffer in silence. Most causes of dry skin have solutions that will clear up the problem sooner than later.  

 Here are some of the most common treatments for dry skin.  

  • Administering medication If your dog has allergies, your vet can administer allergy meds for dogs to help relieve symptoms. This can include allergy shots for dogs or oral medication. Other chronic skin issues may also require medication.  

  • Removing allergens If you can identify an allergen, obviously removing that from your dog’s life will help their skin return to health. This might include changing shampoos, avoiding fresh cut grass, or staying inside on high-pollen days.  

  • Using parasite prevention You can avoid a lot of fleas and parasites by giving periodic treatments. Some of these over-the-counter meds are applied to the skin, making them easier to administer.  

  • Feeding supplements Sometimes vitamins and minerals can be administered that help keep skin and coat healthier. Dog skin and coat treatments can make a big difference.   

  • Increasing check-ups Going to the vet more often may help you identify skin issues more quickly and stay on top of treatments. Ask your vet if bi-annual visits may be worth it for a while.  

Just like in people, it can take a few weeks or more to see results. Don’t give up after a few days of treatment if your dog skill has dry skin.  

What Can I Give My Dog For Allergies?

Your veterinarian can recommend the best dog allergy treatment for your pup’s needs. Dry skin on dogs that is caused by allergies can be reversed through one of these common therapies. You may be able to give some of these allergy-specific treatments at home, or you might have to take them to the vet.  

  • Antihistamines Antihistamines are not always effective in dogs, but your vet may try them to suppress an allergic response to certain irritants—especially pollen.  

  • Steroids If your dog has a very serious allergic reaction, a series of steroid shots may be called for. This is not a good long-term strategy for relieving allergies but may be helpful as you get allergies under control.  

  • Medicated shampoos Dry skin from allergies can also be relieved with sensitive shampoo or medicated shampoo. Sometimes an oatmeal bath may also offer temporary relief from itchy skin in dogs.  

  • Improved diets Your veterinarian is likely to recommend dietary changes as a way to treat allergies in dogs. This helps you rule out food as a cause of dry skin and can help improve overall well-being.  

It’s worth repeating that avoidance is the most effective way to eliminate allergic responses in addition to these treatments. Even though it’s tough, you may have to keep your dog away from the grass or out of the garden to see a change.

When Do I Need To Take My Dog To The Vet?

If you notice dry skin, you may want to try giving your dog a bath with sensitive shampoo and keeping her inside for a few days. Some dog parents also have results with over-the-counter itch relief for dogs. You’ll also want to check for fleas or other bugs. You could also try the dreaded cone to stop your pup from licking and biting her skin and see if things improve. 

 If you start to see redness, bleeding, or hair falling out – you can’t tackle the issue alone anymore. It’s time to go in for dog allergy testing and see if a doctor should administer one of the more aggressive medications or treatments mentioned above. Your vet can also check your furry family member for serious conditions that require long-term strategic care.  

 Dry skin in dogs is not uncommon, especially if you have a pup who spends a lot of time outdoors. Check out dog skin and coat care for at-home treatment options or seek veterinary services for additional help.

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.