While you might not be worried that your dog's dry skin is a sign of a problem, something more serious may cause your pup's skin to flake and cause unfortunate discomfort. To provide relief from dry skin and other unwanted symptoms, you'll want to see your vet. Otherwise, treatment may avoid the underlying concern or even exacerbate one of the many causes of dry skin.
Dry skin in dogs is commonly an allergic response known as allergic dermatitis. Your dog may develop a skin reaction to allergens such as dust, chemicals, or pollen that exist in your environment. These factors may cause seasonal allergies in dogs, just like in humans. Dogs can even be allergic to other animals. Food can also cause a skin reaction. Because so many things cause dry, itchy skin, some of which are difficult to identify, your veterinarian is a useful resource.
While technically under the umbrella of allergen dermatitis, flea allergies are among the most common skin conditions dogs experience. Not only do fleas bite, but our poor pups are allergic to their saliva! Fortunately, treatment is easy enough with the appropriate medicine, shampoos, and combs. Once you've rid your dog of fleas, you can prevent new infestations and reactions with routine medication or flea collars.
Fleas aren't the only parasites that can, unfortunately, infest your four-legged friend. Demodex mite, canine scabies, and cheyletiellosis can also produce dry skin, along with hair loss, scabs, lesions, and itching. The condition caused by these parasites is known as mange. Although lice do not cause mange, the insects may be the reason why your dog has dry skin. A variety of medications and medicinal baths help combat these parasites; however, no single treatment covers every canine infestation.
If your dog experiences dry skin symptoms like dandruff along with greasy skin, it could be due to seborrhea. This unsightly condition causes scales and sometimes appears in youth and persists for a lifetime. Dogs can also develop temporary seborrhea in response to allergies, hormonal imbalances, or other medical problems. Treating those problems can also clear up the flaking, greasy skin and help your dog feel normal again.
Bacterial and fungal infections
Our environments are full of bacteria and fungi, although many are benign or even helpful. When fungus or bacteria invade our bodies or levels become imbalanced, the immune system tries to fight them off. However, these infections can be more than our immune systems can handle. Without medication, the infection and the dry skin and discomfort it causes can run rampant. Some infections are also contagious, which means that other animals or even people in your household could contract them.
Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism are two metabolic conditions that impact your dog's entire body (systemic disorders). Dry skin might be one of the first signs that your pet is unwell, especially if you notice that your pup's fur has become brittle and dry. Skin infections may also result from cancer and certain auto-immune diseases, in which the immune system is not operating correctly. Left unchecked, these disorders can cause far more damage than simply dry skin.
Hairless breeds, including Xoloitzcuintli and the Chinese Crested, are especially prone to skin conditions, which can include dry skin. You can apply a cream rinse or moisturizing cream to your hairless dog after bathing to prevent skin dryness. On the other hand, when Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute puppies grow quickly, they can develop a condition called zinc-responsive dermatosis. This happens when the dog's intestines do not absorb zinc correctly or when the dog's diet lacks enough zinc. Zinc supplements can correct the condition and decrease symptoms such as dry skin in your dog.
Lack of grooming
One of the less serious causes of dry skin in dogs could simply be that they need more grooming. Routinely grooming your dog offers multiple benefits to its skin and coat, including distributing healthy skin oils to prevent dry skin. Grooming also removes fur that can build up and interfere with your dog's oil glands, which will then respond by overproducing oil that can lead to clumpy dandruff appearing in your dog's coat. Plus, grooming is an excellent way for you to bond with your dog!
Overbathing or lack of nutrition
Although we all want to provide the best care possible for our pets, it's possible that some of our efforts can actually do more harm than good. For example, bathing your dog too frequently or using harsh soap might be why your dog has dry skin. Additionally, if your dog's diet isn't balanced, it might develop dry skin and flakes. Fortunately, a less frequent bathing schedule, milder soap, and switching dog food are fixes you can try yourself without needing to see a vet.
Weather and temperature
Not every cause of dry skin in dogs is serious. For example, your dog's skin may become dry and itchy because the air is dry. If this is the case, you may only notice flaking and scratching during dry seasons. Protecting your dog from the elements by keeping them inside or dressing them in cold-weather gear and ensuring proper hydration can help if this is the cause. However, an environment that's too warm, especially for dogs with thick coats, can also make their skin dry and flaky. For temporary cases of dry skin, you might consider topical moisturizers or supplements such as fish oils to improve your dog's coat and dry skin.