Dog dry skin is problematic for many dogs yet can't be diagnosed with skin tests; flea and tick treatments won't help, nor will changing your dog's food. Prescription medication may temporarily help with the itching but it won't take away the dry skin and can cause side effects. Not to mention the cost and hassle associated with repeated vet visits.
If you have an itchy, flaky dog, I can help you to assess whether your dog's itching is due to dry skin (or not) and, most importantly, how to treat it.
After years of trying to alleviate Hudson's itching, without much success, I finally found a solution that works wonders for my dog's coat and completely restores his skin. I also found a great home remedy that works for my dogs itchy skin.
I took my dog (Hudson) to the vet countless times, had skin tests done (all negative), tried lots of different foods and shampoos and kept current with flea and tick treatments but nothing stopped him scratching.
I did, however, begin to notice a pattern. He only really suffered from itchy skin in the cold months and the colder it got, the worse he gets. So I started on a journey of discovery.
I realized that my dog's dry skin was due to the forced-air heat in the house drying out his skin. Added to that, he was neutered at 11 months, which apparently, alters the hormones and can affect the skin/coat.
So, I spent ages researching how to get his skin in good condition to stop my dog's constant itching and finally found something that works great.
But before I get to that, you need to be sure it's dry skin that you are dealing with and that there isn't an underlying cause to your dog's itching.
Is your dog constantly scratching? Does he have flaky skin and a dull coat? Now, ask yourself this....Does it only seem to occur when the weather is cold? Or, when your heating is on? If you answered yes, then chances are your dog has dry skin. Although flakiness isn't always a symptom of dry skin, it can just be itching alone. My dog had dry itchy, flaky skin.
Yes, that's right cold weather is your big giveaway that it's dog dry skin.
As it gets colder outdoors we typically crank up the heating indoors, which causes the skin to dry out and there you have a perfect recipe for an itchy, scratchy dog.
Flaky skin will probably be another symptom and his coat may be dull.
BEFORE you start any treatment though, you can try our 3 simple steps to identify other possible dog skin conditions.
Suspect a skin infection if you dog has open sores, pimples, or is shaking his head
Suspect allergies if itching is linked to warmer weather or is all year long.
Suspect dandruff if there are flakes present or thinning of fur.
Suspect Mange if itching is severe that dog scratches himself raw and is losing fur.
After much trial and error, this is the treatment plan that I found works really well for dog dry skin.
Every day I supplement Hudson's dinner with 1 teaspoon salmon oil. Even though he only really suffers from dry skin in the winter I still use salmon oil during the summer.
Reason being, supplements work best when they are given over longer periods and can take a few months to get into their system to actually start working to support the skin.
I give him a good brush daily to stimulate his natural oils and to keep his skin in good condition.
The best products I found for dry skin is the Nature's Specialties range. They use the best natural ingredients which are nontoxic and biodegradable. I love this range and use it on my dogs all the time.
On a monthly basis I bathe Hudson with Natures Specialties Colloidal Oatmeal shampoo and follow with their Colloidal Oatmeal Creme Rinse. I also use Wham Anti-Itch spray for in-between baths.
After bathing Hudson in the Oatmeal shampoo and conditioning rinse, I follow up with the Wham anti-itch spray. I also use the spray in-between baths as it is great at stopping itching immediately.
Wham anti-itch spray is a medicated solution that contains antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. This means that it not only works to relieve itching due to dry skin, but can be used to relieve itching due to a range of skin irritation such as hot spots, yeast and dandruff.
The shampoo is concentrated so is best used when diluted with water. It'll also go further. Although oatmeal shampoo is good for dry skin, it works best if followed with a conditioning rinse. After shampooing, fully rinse with warm water and make double-sure that you rinse all the shampoo out. Next step is the key to treating the dog dry skin and stop the scratching. Use a good moisturizing rinse that gets right into the skin.
See here for full instructions on how to use the shampoo and creme rinse including dilution rations.
You can use any brand of dog shampoo (not human), but check the ingredients to ensure it contains colloidal oatmeal AND that it doesn't contain a ton of synthetic ingredients.
If you see a whole list of long names that you have no idea what they are, then stay away from that product, it may do more harm than good. Even though it may still contain colloidal oatmeal, the other (synthetic ingredients) will probably outweigh the oatmeal proving it to be less effective in relieving your dog's dry skin.
You can buy a doggie moisturizing conditioner rinse, (again, check the ingredients) or make your own (see below).I use Nature's Specialties Colloidal Oatmeal Creme Rinse which complements the shampoo. It's super concentrated so a little goes a long way and works brilliantly.
Finish by washing the moisturizing rinse off leaving your dog's coat silky and soft and his skin re-moisturized.
You can make your own moisturizing rinse using Alpha Keri bath and shower oil (or generic version). Mix about 1 ounce of Alpha Keri Bath Oil in a quart of water. After shampooing your dog and fully rinsing with warm water, pour the mix over him and allow it to remain on the coat as he dries. You don't rinse this off.
You can also make up a spray bottle containing one part Alpha Keri Bath Oil to three parts of water. Spray this to areas that are difficult to get to, or use on really problem areas, such as the belly and insides of legs. Again, don't rinse off.
The moisturizer won't come off or leave residue on your upholstery or carpets but your dog may appear to look wet long after he has dried. The downside to this remedy is that your dog's coat may continue to look wet or greasy for a few days after using it. It won't feel greasy though and it'll be a lot more comfortable for him.
If you find your dog still has itchy dry skin, you can squirt him with the Alpha Keri mix on a daily basis or you can use an anti-itch spray.
If your best pal spends most of his time indoors (as mine do), a humidifier will help to stop his skin (and yours) from drying out. Adding a humidifier to your home will mean the air will be more humid which makes it feel warmer at cooler temperatures, so you'll be more comfortable with a lower thermostat setting. The humidity is also much better for skin (dogs and humans) and has the added benefit of reducing your overall heating costs.
See here for more information on how humidifiers help in cold weather together with which ones are best.
If your dog has severe itching you can also include an antihistamine, but check with your vet. Start with the baths, moisturizing rinses and spray first before you add an antihistamine. If you're using a different brand shampoo, it maybe worth swapping to the Nature's Specialties range before adding an antihistamine.
A good antihistamine to try is Diphenhydramine (Generic Benadryl).