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Health & Wellness

Taking care of dry skin on dogs

When your dog’s skin looks flaky or irritated, here’s how to handle dry patches.

Maybe you've noticed dry skin or something that looks like dandruff flaking off your dog. Or maybe your pup is itching excessively and has red or inflamed spots due to scratching. Chances are, the dry or itchy skin you're noticing on your dog isn't anything to be overly concerned about — but you'll want to treat the root of the problem. 

Common causes of dry skin on dogs

According to Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California, there are many reasons your dog might end up with dry skin. Some may be more obvious, such as an allergy to something the dog came into contact with. Others may be a little less apparent, like a poor diet or over bathing.  

And while it's certainly less common, Dr. Richter points out that occasionally dry skin can be related to medical issues, like low thyroid function. So if you notice persistent flaky or dry skin on your pup, you may want to contact your vet for a checkup.

Symptoms of dry skin on dogs

The symptoms your dog experiences when they have dry skin aren't all that different from what you experience. When your skin is dry, it feels uncomfortable, and your dog likely feels the same — it may be itchy, flaky and red. 

The difference is that you can easily grab a bottle of lotion and address your dry skin yourself, but your dog doesn't have that luxury. Instead, they scratch or lick, which can lead to more issues — the dry skin may break open, leading to scabs and the potential for bacteria to enter and cause infections.

RELATED: What to know if your dog has skin tags

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Dog shampoo for dry skin

Treatment for dog dandruff can generally start at home. If you notice your dog scratching, Dr. Richter suggests bathing them in vet-recommended oatmeal or aloe shampoo, which are generally available at pet stores. The soothing effects of these products may help reduce itchiness and inflammation while restoring moisture to the skin.

On the other hand, if you were excessively bathing your pup before you noticed the dry or red skin, that constant bathing could contribute to the skin drying out. You shouldn't bathe your dog daily — work with your vet or a certified groomer to determine a good bathing schedule and safe products to use on your specific pup.

Dog dry skin home remedy 

What may be surprising is how closely linked diet is to dry skin symptoms in dogs. If dogs aren't getting a good balance of vitamins and minerals in their diets, their skin may start showing the effects. 

Likewise, breeds that tend to have food allergies may experience skin problems rather than (or in addition to) digestion issues. Dr. Richter says to try fish oil, fresh whole food diets or freeze-dried dog foods rather than canned or kibble if they're suffering from dry, irritated skin. Talk to your vet first, though — they'll know what's best for your pet.

When to consult a vet about dry skin

One thing to remember about dry skin on dogs is that its root cause can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. If there's a hormone imbalance or even a food allergy, your dog may continue to have symptoms even if you've changed their diet and started using skin-soothing products. If symptoms persist, it's always best to see your vet. 

"If the dog is very uncomfortable or itchy, or if there are odors or severe skin irritation, you should see a vet to determine the underlying cause," Dr. Richter says. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we're there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by vzee nguyen on Unsplash

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