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How to Treat Your Dog's Dry and Flaky Skin

Your dog's dry and flaky skin isn’t just unsightly – it’s uncomfortable and sometimes painful for them! That’s why it’s important to identify it when it happens, figure out why it’s happening, and treat dry and flaky skin quickly.

Symptoms of Dry and Flaky Skin in Dogs

It can be harder than you think to identify if your dog has dry and flaky skin. Their skin may be difficult to see, especially in dogs with long hair or thick coats. And different dogs display different symptoms. 

Here are the most common symptoms of dry and flaky skin in dogs:

  • Dandruff
  • Hair loss
  • Scratching
  • Biting the skin
  • Pimples
  • Scabs
  • Oiliness
  • Bad smell
  • Scaly skin
  • Redness/inflammation
dog scratching herself

If you see these symptoms in your dog, the next step is to pinpoint the cause – and then find the best solution.

Here are the top seven reasons for dry and flaky skin in dogs and the six things you can do to treat them.

Top 7 Reasons for Dry and Flaky Skin in Dogs

1. Allergies

While we may think of allergies as a uniquely human problem, our canine friends can suffer from them, too.

These include seasonal allergies to pollen, environmental allergies, and food allergies. When your dog is suffering from allergies, it triggers inflammation in their body. In turn, this inflammation can cause dry, flaky, and itchy skin in our dogs.

flowers and pollen

2. Humidity changes

Overly dry air can wreak havoc on human and canine skin alike. Winter is the worst time of year for dry skin caused by low humidity. Not only is the air dryer overall, but indoor heating dries it out even further.

This dry air can leech the moisture from your dog’s skin (and yours!), leaving you both with dry, flaky skin.

3. Parasites

If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors (or hangs around with animals who do), they may have picked up some undesirable hitchhikers. Fleas, ticks, and other parasitic creatures can cause irritation and itching – and dry, flaky skin.
a dog scratching herself

4. Medical disorders

Certain auto-immune diseases, like immunoglobulin deficiency, list dry skin among their symptoms. Cushing’s disease and hyperthyroidism are two other disorders that can lead to dry and flaky skin in your dog.

5. Infections

Fungal infections, viral infections, and bacterial infections can all cause or contribute to dry, flaky skin in dogs. Fungal infections include things like ringworm, which is transmissible to humans.

Bacterial and viral infections can be related to recent injuries or be connected to other underlying issues.

6. Too much bathing

While we definitely want our dogs to be clean and healthy, we need to be careful that we’re not giving them too much of a good thing.Repeated bathing can dry out their skin, especially if you use harsh soaps.
a dog taking a bath

7. Breed-specific conditions

Certain breeds of dogs are more likely to develop skin problems than others. Wrinkly dogs like Shar-Peis and bulldogs, for example, can develop skin irritation where the skin folds back on itself and causes the opposing hairs to poke the skin. Hairless dogs are also more prone to skin infection since they lack that protective layer of hair.

Once you’ve narrowed down the possible reasons for your dog’s dry and flaky skin, what can you do about it?

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Top 6 Solutions for Your Dog’s Dry and Flaky Skin

1. See your veterinarian.

If you suspect that your dog’s dry skin is caused by an infection, an underlying medical disorder, or allergies, then your veterinarian can help.

For infections and possible medical disorders, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier an infection or disease is diagnosed and treated, the better outcome your dog will have.

a dog being checked by the vet

Your veterinarian is also a great resource if you think allergies are to blame. They can assist you in narrowing down the cause of the allergies and may prescribe allergy medication in more severe cases.

2. Eliminate or reduce allergens and irritants from your home.

For dry skin issues caused by allergies, often the best offense is a good defense. By defending your home from allergens, you can help keep your dog healthy and dry-skin-free.Different allergens require different tactics.

For airborne allergens like dust or pollen, installing a high-level air filter in your home’s heating and cooling system can greatly improve your home’s air quality and reduce allergens. For dogs and humans with severe airborne allergies, making the switch from carpet to hard flooring can also help.

a small black dog

When your dog has food allergies, switching to limited-ingredient dog food can help. Your veterinarian may also recommend an elimination diet to make sure you’ve identified what food your dog is allergic to.

3. Protect your dog from parasites.

Even if they spend the majority of their time indoors, most dogs need to go outside regularly to use the bathroom. And when they do, they can be exposed to parasites.

If you have grass around your home, keeping it trimmed can reduce places for fleas and ticks to hide and make it harder for them to hitch a ride on your dog. If your dog spends time in heavily wooded areas, make sure to check them over for ticks and other parasites afterward.

a dog on a hike

However, most pet parents find that some sort of pest-prevention solution is necessary to keep their pets totally pest-free. Your veterinarian can help you decide which solution is right for you and your dog.

4. Reduce bathing if necessary.

If you suspect frequent bathing is the culprit behind your dog’s dry and itchy skin, simply reducing the number of times you bathe them should fix the problem.If you can’t reduce the number of times your dog is bathed, you might consider switching to a gentler dog shampoo. This may reduce irritation and improve your dog’s dry, flaky skin.

5. Get a humidifier.

Especially during those dry winter months, a good humidifier can make a world of difference in your dog’s skin.

This doesn’t just apply to dogs. Using a humidifier can help your entire family maintain good skin health in those chilly winter months.

a dog near humidifier

6. Supplement with Omega-3 fish oil.

Omega-3s (often called “fish oil”) are a great way to help your dog fight dry, flaky skin from the inside out.

For dogs with allergies, omega-3s help fight the inflammation that leads to those dry skin outbreaks. It also can help reduce allergy symptoms overall.

If your dog’s dry skin is caused by infections or other medical issues, omega-3s can offer support there, too, since they strengthen your dog’s immune system.

Even for dry, flaky skin caused by things like low humidity or breed-specific problems, omega-3s can help. They promote a shiny, healthy coat and skin in dogs regardless of any other factors.It’s important to note that while many dog foods do contain omega-3s, they are typically very processed and exposed to high heat. This makes them rancid and far less effective. Getting a quality omega-3 supplement is key - they are not all created equal!

We’re especially proud of our Omega-3 supplement because it has several qualities that set it apart from other omega-3 supplements. Our Omega-3 fish oil comes from small, wild-caught, cold-water fish that are low in the food chain, which means they are less contaminated with dangerous heavy metals. Our Omega-3 also comes in a powdered form, not a messy oil, so it’s easy to add to your dog’s food and stays fresh longer. Also, powdered Omega-3s can safely be given to dogs who don't do well with oils or suffer from pancreatitis or similar conditions.

Omega-3 jar with capsules


The Final Woof

Seeing our dogs suffer from dry, flaky skin is upsetting, but fortunately, there are many things we can do to help them. From reducing allergens to protecting them from parasites to supplementing their diet with a healthy supplement such as our Omega-3, we can make sure our dogs live a happy, healthy, itch-free life.
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