How to Fix Dry Skin on Dogs

Dry skin can lead to irritation and infection.
Dry skin can lead to irritation and infection. (Image: Ronja 5 image by Nadine Wendt from

Dry skin in dogs is a symptom of an underlying problem. Usually, the first sign that your dog has dry skin is scratching and licking. Upon closer inspection of your dog's skin, you will see the flakes of dry skin on the surface and you may also spot a potential cause of the dry skin. Regardless of the cause, dry, itching skin is uncomfortable and excessive scratching can cause irritation and infections in the skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Medicated shampoo for dogs
  • Grooming brush

Use a medicated shampoo specifically for treating dandruff or seborrhea on dogs. Most pet stores have several versions of this type of shampoo available.The shampoo should contain sulfur or salicylic acid, which are for dry skin. When bathing your dog, use warm water and add a conditioner or after-bath spray that helps the itching. Don't use regular dog shampoo or shampoo made for humans because it can cause irritation and increased drying of the skin.

Add a source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E to your dog's diet. You can do this by changing to a higher quality food or by using supplements available from your local pet store. Your dog may also have dry skin because he is allergic to some or all of the ingredients in his current food. Changing food should be done slowly, with small additions of the new food mixed with the old over a few weeks so that your dog doesn't become ill from a sudden change.

Groom your dog regularly. Grooming gets rid of dead skin cells and also stimulates the oil glands to lubricate the skin. Don't use a brush on your dog's skin if he has irritation or open sores. Gently brush your dog, following the direction of his fur, and check for any indications of parasites such as fleas that may be causing the dry skin. If you prefer, take your dog to a professional groomer who can also bathe him with dog-safe shampoo. Prior to bringing your dog to the groomer, let her know about your dog's skin problems so she can bathe him accordingly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always check your dog for ticks when he comes inside. Ticks can burrow into the dog's skin and cause irritation and infection if left untreated.
  • Some skin problems on dogs can be transmitted to humans, such as ringworm, so if you are unsure why your dog has dry skin, take him to your vet. If your dog's skin develops hot spots, significant hair loss or open sores, take him to the vet immediately. These can be a sign of a severe allergy or underlying thyroid disorder.

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