Dog Dry Skin Causes, Treatments & Home Remedies

dog dry skin

Although it is not a health concern in most cases, dog dry skin may be indicative of an underlying medical issue such as hypothyroidism and bacterial or fungal infections of the skin and coat. There are numerous home remedies that can help you get your dog’s shiny, moisturized skin back, but if these fail to offer relief to your dog, then it may be time to see your veterinarian for proper medical treatment options some of which are listed below.

Causes of Dog Dry Skin Patches on Back, Legs, Elbow

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from dry skin. This may be accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, flaking, and itching. Itching often causes the dog to scratch its skin against walls and other objects, sometimes leading to hair loss that manifests itself as patches on the skin. Depending on the underlying cause, the patches may appear scaly or crusty.

Dry skin may also occur on any part of the body but it tends to be more common on the back, and legs (particularly along the elbows).

Below are some common causes of dry skin in dogs:

Seasonal Changes and Dry climate

If you live in drier parts of the world such as the Southwest United States, some parts of central Australia, North Africa, and South Africa, your dog is at higher risk of dry skin. This is attributed to low humidity which then causes loss of moisture from your dog’s skin. As result, the skin gets dry, flaky, and sometimes itchy.

Seasonal change can also have the same effect. This is especially true of winter which is characterized by windy and cold weather. The associated use of indoor heating systems tends to make the condition worse as these further rob the room of its moisture.

In addition to dryness and flaking of the skin, your dog may also show other signs such as itching.

Harsh Shampoos

How often you bathe your dog and the products you use can have significant effects on its skin hydration levels.

Shampoos formulated for use by humans should not be used on dogs as they may contain harsh ingredients that strip the dog’s skin of its essential oils leading to a drying, flaking, redness, and itching. Some dog shampoos may also contain synthetic ingredients that irritate some dogs. Consider making your own simple and natural dog shampoo, and avoid commercial ingredients entirely.

Excessive Bathing Routines

Dogs need to be bathed regularly as this helps to get rid of dead skin cells and loose hair, but too much bathing, say every day, can cause drying out of the coat and skin and associated symptoms such as flaking and itching.


Grooming your dogs helps to get rid of dead skin and excess hair. This is in particular very important for dogs with a double coat (such as the German shepherd), long coats, and thick coats.

Without adequate grooming, dead skin often mixes with the dog’s undercoat. This may be a precursor for extensive drying out and flaking of the skin.

So how frequent should you groom your dog? Well, most pet care experts recommend grooming your dog every day but if that is not possible, you should try grooming three to four time each week at the very least.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Deficiency

Dogs require an adequate amount of fatty acids for optimal health of their skin and coat. Chief among this is an omega-3 fatty acid which is abundantly found in fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency – usually as a result of poor dietary intake – is often to blame for dog dry skin.

Processing of most dog foods usually involve heating and because omega-3 fatty acids are extremely sensitive to heat, they are often rendered inert in the process. This essentially means that the fatty acids are still present in the food, but they are in a form that is not useful to the dog’s body.

Omega-3 deficiency is a common culprit for a case of very dry and flaky skin.

Dog Neutering/Spaying

Dog neutering or spaying is another likely cause of dog skin problems, including dry skin. This is because neutering involves the removal of sex hormones which may, in turn, alter the body’s natural ability to regulate oil production in the skin. This is one of the possible consequences you need to be aware of before making the decision to neuter that canine.

Yeast and bacterial infections

Fungal infections and bacterial infections of the skin can also cause dry skin alongside other symptoms in dogs. Some conditions may increase your dog’s susceptibility to infections. Skin infections typically manifest themselves in itching (scratching) which is often accompanied by other symptoms such as skin redness, hair loss, and dry crusty (and sometimes thickened) skin.

Allergies and Adverse Reactions to Foods

Allergies are yet another common cause of dry skin in dogs. Among the substances most often to blame for allergies (allergens) in dogs are mold, dust, fleas, perfumes, certain medications, shampoos, and smoke. Dogs may also develop adverse reactions to certain ingredients in foods e.g. artificial dyes, additives, preservatives etc.

Allergies may in addition to dry skin and coat cause itching (manifested in scratching), runny eyes, sneezing, vomiting, reddening of the skin, diarrhea, snoring, and chewing of paws.


Dry flaky skin is a common symptom of mange. This refers to a communicable pet skin disease that is caused by an infestation with parasitic mites. Human beings may also contract mange which is characterized by the dry skin as well as itching, hair loss, scabs, and sores.

Mange Dry Skin

Treatment of mange involves the use of medicated shampoos, dips, and topical medications aimed at relieving skin irritation while curbing the parasitic infestation. It is also important to control the infestation around your home to avoid recurrence of the problem after treatment.

Underlying Medical Problems

Hormonal and endocrine problems are most commonly to blame for dog dry skin. Notable among these is hypothyroidism.

This refers to a condition characterized by decreased production of thyroid hormone, often leading to symptoms such as dry and brittle hair, hair loss, lethargy, slow heart rate, skin pigmentation changes, obesity, and sometimes seborrhea (a skin condition notable for greasy, dry, or oily dog coat and very scaly skin.

Other conditions that may cause dry skin in dogs are

  • Lupus
  • Skin cancer
  • Cushings syndrome
  • Diabetes

Dog Dry Skin Treatment and Solutions

Now, the question in your mind is most probably, “what can I put on my dogs’ dry skin?”

Well, because there are many causative factors for dog dry skin, the appropriate treatment will essentially vary from one case to the other depending on the underlying cause. Here is a breakdown of some of the treatment options typically used:


Dog dry skin rash or patches that are caused by bacterial and fungal infections usually necessitate treatment with topical and oral medications.

Antibiotics and anti-fungal medications are usually prescribed respectively but other medications may also be required to control any underlying medical problems that increase your dog’s susceptibility to infections.

All medicines should be used as directed by the veterinarian.

Medicated and Moisturizing Shampoos

Medicated shampoos may be used to control mites, fleas, and other skin parasites. Moisturizing shampoos may also help to restore your dog skin’s moisture and alleviate the dryness and flaking.

If you have been using a dog shampoo, try switching to an all-natural brand that is formulated for use on sensitive skin. One that contains colloidal oatmeal (such as the one by Nature’s Specialties) is an especially great consideration.

NB: It is absolutely important to only use shampoos formulated for use on dogs. Never use human hair shampoos on your pets.

Thyroid Supplementation

Thyroid hormone replacement drugs may be prescribed to control hypothyroidism and thus offer dog dry skin relief.

Allergy Treatment

Effective allergy treatment starts by identifying the underlying causative factor. For a dog with fleas, the starting point is flea control. As for suspected food allergies, your first line of action should be to switch to hypoallergenic dog food or diet.

Your veterinarian may help you develop an appropriate diet plan. Allergy shots may also be injected to control certain types of allergies. Lastly, medications may also be administered to help curb allergic reactions in dogs.

Dog Dry Skin Remedy – Homemade Treatments

And what I can put on my dogs’ dry skin at home, you ask. Well, paying close attention to your dogs living environment, dietary and bathing routines, and taking measures aimed at improving the hydration of your dog’s skin may help.

Here are home remedies for dog dry skin that you may want to consider:

Brush and/or Groom Your Dog Regularly

Grooming your dog helps to keep its coat and skin in its optimum condition. Hiring a professional groomer could do wonders to your dog’s skin, but if that is not an option for you, regularly brushing your dog’s skin is also beneficial as it not only helps to get rid of loose hair and dander accumulation but also stimulates the release of natural oils.

Get a humidifier

If your dog spends too much indoor with the heating system running, it may help to invest in a humidifier as it helps to replenish the lost moisture and keep your pet from drying out.

Humidifier What an easy yet effective way to treat dog dry skin at home.

A humidifier is especially important during winter months when humidity levels are typically very low.

Go easy on dog bathing

If your dog has developed dry, flaky skin, consider washing it no more than two times a month. A moisturizing lotion (or spray) specifically formulated for dogs may also help to restore the skin’s moisture and keep your dog hydrated.

In as far as the choice of dog shampoo is concerned, go for detergent-free, all natural shampoos such as Halo Herbal shampoo. A variety that contains colloidal oatmeal e.g. Nature’s Specialties could also make for a great choice if your dog’s skin is itchy.

Fish Oil for Dog Dry Skin Treatment

Fish oil not only helps to keep the skin moisturized by nourishing it with essential fatty acids, it is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help to cure the problem from the inside out.

This makes fish oil arguably one of the best natural remedies for skin dryness and flakiness. It is, in fact, one of the best home remedies for dogs dry skin. Any form of fish oil will do the trick but salmon oil and krill oil are particularly very potent and make for particularly great dietary choices for omega-3 supplementation.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is an amazing natural remedy for dry skin in dogs. When added to your dog or puppy’s food, it not only makes it tasty but also adds skin hydration potency to it. To use olive oil as a homemade treatment for canine dry skin, simply add 1 tablespoon to your dog’s food thrice every week.

Coconut Oil

Also rich in beneficial fatty acids, coconut oil also helps to rejuvenate and rehydrate your dog’s skin and curb dryness, itching and flaking. Adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to your dog’s food three times a week is recommended.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is also known to provide a holistic treatment approach to not only dog dry skin but also itching. In addition to stopping the itching, tea tree oil also helps to ward off infections of the skin thanks to its rich antiseptic properties.

Raw Eggs

Raw eggs are also touted to help restore moisturizes in dog’s coat and skin. Proponents of raw egg for dry skin in dogs recommend giving your dog one raw egg per week.


Oatmeal not only helps to combat dryness but also itching of a dog’s skin. To start with, oatmeal is rich in complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) that have been shown to nourish the skin when applied topically in the form of a paste. It also has an abundance of saponins which act as natural cleansers that rid the skin of impurities and irritants while at the same time being gentle to it.

To use oatmeal as a dog dry skin remedy, simply mix oatmeal and water in equal proportions, mix them thoroughly, and then apply the resulting paste on the areas of the skin with dry patches. Wash it off after 10-15 minutes. Repeat the process 1-2 times daily until your dog shows relief.

More Tips to Stop Dry Skin in Dogs At Home

  • Give your dog moist food (canned, cooked, homemade or raw) as opposed to dry foods.
  • Avoid setting the heat on the blow dryer very high when grooming your dog.
  • Ensure a consistent supply of clean, filtered drinking water for your dog
  • Add digestive enzymes to your dog’s meals