For many people, dry skin is no more than an inconvenience, but for dogs it can be a total nightmare. Unlike humans, they can’t just slather on some moisturizer and make sure they’re staying well-hydrated to make the issue go away. Not only can dry dog skin lead to extra itchiness, it can in some cases become painful. Keep reading for what you need to know about recognizing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing dry dog skin.

The Symptoms of Dry Dog Skin

There are few things dogs love more than a good scratching session, but if you notice your dog scratching more than usual, they may have a dry skin problem. Excessive scratching is just one indicator of many that could be caused by dry skin in dogs, including:

• Change in odor
• Coarser-than-usual fur
• Dandruff
• Flaking
• Hair loss
• Increased oiliness
• Inflammation
• Itchiness
• Pimples
• Scabs
• Scaly skin
• Sores

Your dog may be presenting some or all of these symptoms, and which ones they display depend on on what’s causing the issue.

Potential Causes of Dry Dog Skin

Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Allergies to everything from certain food ingredients to environmental allergens can cause dry skin in dogs, in which case your main options for treatment are removing the allergen from your home, controlling the symptoms, allergy shots or oral medicine, or a combination of all three.

To start, look for any changes you have made in your dog’s routine or in your household. A new household cleaner, or laundry soap or even a new dog shampoo may contain an ingredient in it they’re sensitive to.

There could also be an issue with what you’re feeding your dog. Common food sensitivities include beef, dairy, and wheat, so if your dog is sensitive  to one of these and your current food lists any of these as ingredients, try switching them out for one without. A personalized nutrition plan like Puppo’s can also help you weed out the ingredient your dog may be sensitive to and make sure it’s not included in their new food formula.

Environmental Issues

Very cold weather, dry air, or too much exposure to air conditioning can also cause dry skin. (Dogs — they’re just like us!) You take care of your skin differently when it’s cold and dry out, and you should be doing the same for your dog. If you notice dryness and flaking on your dog’s skin, a soothing oatmeal bath will help. Use of shampoo and soaps should be limited during winter months; just stick to a soak in some warm water.

Humidifiers and fans can also help with air circulation to keep your pup’s skin from drying out. And bonus — it’ll help your skin too!

Breed

Your dog’s breed could very well be a factor in their dry skin. Hairless breeds are prone to various skin conditions, as are Huskies and Malamutes, breeds that can develop zinc-responsive dermatosis. Zinc is necessary in the healing of wounds and cell regeneration needed for healthy skin, so a deficiency can lead to major skin issues in dogs.

Infections

Your doggo may have developed a bacterial or fungal infection that your vet can diagnose by taking a skin scrape for analysis. Bacterial infections can be caused by a variety of things, like a wound that hasn’t healed properly or poor grooming — they can even be hereditary. Fungal infections can also have numerous causes, including eating foods with sugar or immune system suppression of some sort.

Parasites

Some dogs have bad reactions to the saliva of parasites like lice, fleas, and mites, and the bites could lead to dandruff and scaly skin. In the case of mange, a skin disease caused by mite bites, the itching will most likely be accompanied by hair loss, scabs, and sores.

Improper Grooming

Dry skin can also occur if you’re not brushing your dog enough (or brushing them too much). Regardless of coat length, stick to brushing them at least every couple of days to help remove dead hair and skin, and make sure to use an appropriate brush for that coat.

Medical Conditions

Thyroid diseases like hypo- and hyperthyroidism can lead to dry skin in dogs because they prevent the thyroid gland from producing a hormone called thyroxine, which controls metabolism and reduces the production of hormones essential to healthy skin.

How to Treat Dry Dog Skin

Dry skin is a huge drag for dogs, so it’s best to get to the root of the issue quickly. Because it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of your pup’s dry skin yourself, schedule a visit with your vet before deciding on a course of treatment. Your vet can help you determine exactly what’s causing the problem and recommend solutions for the ones above. You may also be referred to a veterinary dermatologist who specializes in canine skin issues.

Preventing Dry Dog Skin

Dry dog skin isn’t entirely preventable, but your first line of defense is the right diet. One of the most important factors in keeping your pooch’s skin and coat healthy the food they’re eating. Your dog’s food should include the proper combination of an array of vitamins and minerals, specifically the following for good skin and fur health:

• Vitamin A: Needed for skin growth and repair

• Vitamin E: Protects skin cells from harmful oxidants

• Biotin: Aids in protein utilization

• Riboflavin (B2) and Zinc: Needed for fat and protein metabolism

• Copper: Used in tissue pigment and antioxidant protection

Make sure your pup’s formula includes all of the above vitamins and minerals to keep your their skin in good condition and stay healthy and itch-free.