Dog Dry Skin
Relief for Itchy, Scratchy Dogs

For a dog, dry skin is really itchy and uncomfortable.  Of course its the same for us humans too, but when we suffer from dry skin we slather on moisturizer and feel a whole lot better. Unfortunately, that's really difficult to do with dogs, given all that fur and hair, but there is still plenty we can do to give them relief - including using a doggie moisturizer!

There are many reasons why your dog's skin maybe dry but getting to the root cause is the only way to treat it effectively. Here I've listed the common causes of what can dry a dog's skin out, along with how you can resolve it naturally.

Relief for an itchy, scratchy dog that suffers from dry skin.

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. 

German Shepherd Dog scratching with dry skin.

That's my dog, Hudson, in the picture to the right, he was always scratching, so he's my poster-child!

After years of trying to alleviate Hudson's itching, without much success, I finally found a plan that works wonders for his coat and completely restored his skin.  

I took 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.  


Dry skin with a dull, brittle, thin coat may also be a sign of a protein deficiency. If your dog has these symptoms check with your vet.

He seemed to be getting miserable with constantly scratching and so too was I. So I started on a journey of discovery.  It was then that I discovered there were more than a couple of reasons why my dog's  skin was dry and I had to address as many as I could to stop the itching. 

How To Determine If Your Dog Has Dry Skin

Is your dog constantly scratching? Does he have flaky skin and a dull coat?  Now, ask yourself this....How many of the below causes of dry skin applies to your dog? If you answered yes to two or more, then chances are your dog's itching is due to dry skin. Although flakiness isn't always a symptom of dry skin, it can just be itching alone.  Hudson had dry itchy, flaky, skin and most of the causes applied to us!  

To enable you to do the same for your dog, review the common causes of dry skin in dogs and see how many you identify with.

Top Six Causes of Dry Skin in Dogs

Dog Dry Skin

1) Nutrient Deficiency in Diet

Without a doubt, this is by far the easiest way to treat dry skin in dogs.

Dogs need fatty acids in their diet for optimal skin and coat health, especially omega-3 typically found in fish oil.  A lack of omega-3 fatty acids is an extremely common cause for dry, flaky skin. Simply adding fish oil (fatty acids) to your dog's diet can help combat dry skin.

Unfortunately many of the processed dog foods are heated to such high temperatures that even if they contain fatty acids, they are no longer active once they reach your dog's bowl. The heating process virtually renders them useless so supplementation of omega-3 is a good fix for dry skin.  Salmon oil is an excellent source of omega-3 but make sure you buy one that is from fresh, wild caught Alaskan salmon, not farm-raised.  Preferably one that is manufactured in a facility that has received the stamp of Good Manufacturing Practices.

Pawsome Naturals Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil

A good one to try is Pawsome Naturals Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil.

This is an all natural product and has a nice pump bottle that makes adding the oil to your dog's food easy.

It is manufactured in the USA in a facility that conforms to the Good Manufacturing Practices so you can be sure that they've made every possible effort to ensure this product gets to you in the purest, most natural condition.

$20.99 (16 fl. oz.)

Now available on Amazon Prime with free 2-day shipping!

2) Over or Under Bathing Your Dog

Regularly bathing your dog with a good quality shampoo is key to the overall health of their skin and coat.  How often depends on your dog's skin, for a dog with dry skin, once a month is good.  I must admit, I wasn't bathing Hudson that often as I wrongly believed that you shouldn't bathe a dog with dry skin too often.  But...I since found out that if you don't bathe your dog regularly, it allows dead skin and hair to buildup which causes flaky skin. 

Using a harsh shampoo, one with lots of synthetic ingredients, or worse, human shampoo, strips your dog's skin of it's natural oils, causing dry skin and lots of itching.  Also if you use a homemade shampoo (particularly one with vinegar) and you don't get the pH exactly right, it can result in drying out your dog's skin. 

The best type of shampoo to use on a dog with dry skin is a natural one containing Colloidal Oatmeal.  Even better is to follow up with a good moisturizing rinse.  Just as we use moisturizer on our skin to combat dry skin, a good moisturizing  rinse will do the same for a dog's skin.

I use Nature's Specialties Colloidal Oatmeal shampoo and Colloidal Oatmeal Creme Rinse as I find them to be the best.  I also use their anti-itch spray for in-between baths and those really itchy areas.

Nature's Specialities Colloidal Oatmeal Shampoo

16 FL. OZ $17.99

Nature's Specialities Colloidal Oatmeal Creme Rinse

16 FL. OZ $14.99

Nature's Specialities Wham Anti-Itch Spray

16 FL. OZ $19.99
8  FL. OZ $11.99

3) Under-Grooming

Dogs need to be groomed regularly to get rid of that dead skin and fur.  Especially dogs with a double coat (yep, that's my German Shepherd again).  If you don't brush your dog on a regular basis the dead skin starts to mix with the undercoat and tons of dead flakes will buildup on the surface of the skin. You'll see this if you part your dog's fur.  

Long coated dogs, dogs with thick coats, and double-coated dogs are all likely to accumulate a ton of dead flakes under all that hair if they are not groomed regularly.  Daily is best, but at least three or four times a week.  Short-haired dogs are less prone to this as they don't have that thick undercoat for skin to get trapped in.

4) Dry Climate or Forced Air Heating

Basically, the drier the air, the more likely your dog will have dry skin.  If you live in an area with a dry climate then your dog is more likely to suffer from dry skin.  The most common places for this type of weather is southwest United States, northern Mexico, Argentina, North Africa, South Africa and central parts of Australia.  If you live in a dry climate, I'm sure you're already aware that's it dry, but here is a list of the driest cities in the United States.

Having said that, you don't have to live in  a dry climate for your dog to suffer from dry skin. Many dogs outside these areas have dry skin too, especially if they spend a lot of time indoors or meet all the other criteria above.  

Speaking of indoors, another contributing factor to dog dry skin is forced air heating.  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.

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. 

You can get humidifiers that add moisture to a specific room or if you want to increase the humidity in the entire house you can opt for a unit that attaches directly to your existing furnace which will pump additional moisture into all rooms.

Portable Humidifier - 1 room

Whole House Humidifier

5) Neutering/Spaying

I found out that dogs that are neutered or spayed have a much higher risk of suffering from skin and coat problems, especially dry skin.  This is because removing the sex hormones can upset the natural balance of hormones that also regulate oil production in the skin/coat.

I'm not saying you shouldn't neuter or spay your dogs, there are many good arguments for spaying and neutering, and my own dog, Hudson, was neutered at 11 months old. Nevertheless, it is helpful to know that we need to be more aware of potential skin and coat problems, particularly dry skin, if our dogs are neutered/spayed

6) Other Potential Causes

Finally, and before you treat your dog's dry skin you need to ensure that it is dry skin you're dealing with and not some other underlying cause.

Dog with yeast infection biting his paw.

Here's how to get rid of dog dry skin using a treatment remedy based on natural dog shampoo that gives instant itch relief.

See if your dog suffers from one of  the 6 top causes of dry skin.

Suspect a skin infection if you dog has open sores, pimples, or is shaking his head a lot.

Canine Allergies

Suspect allergies if itching is linked to warmer weather or is all year long.

Suspect dandruff if there are large flakes present or thinning of fur.

There are two different types of dandruff; dogs with oily skin or dogs with dry skin.

Dog with Mange

Suspect Mange if itching is severe that dog scratches himself raw and is losing fur.

If you're still unsure if your dog's itching is due to dry skin, you can also try our 3 simple steps to identify other possible dog skin conditions

Now, let's get to the treatment!

Treatment for Dogs With Dry Skin

Skip forward to the best ever shampoo to treat dry skin.

After much trial and error, this is the treatment plan that I found works really well for my dog's 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. 

On a monthly basis I bathe Hudson with a good quality colloidal oatmeal shampoo and moisturizing rinse. 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.

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.  See above for their colloidal oatmeal shampoo and moisturizing rinse that works well for dry skin in dogs.

Nature's Specialties are also recognized in the grooming industry as the best premium products available today and are used by many competitive groomers.  

After shampooing, fully rinse with warm water and make double-sure that you rinse all the shampoo out.  Next, use a good moisturizing rinse that gets right into the skin, this step is the key to treating your dog's dry skin and stop the scratching.


You can also apply Vitamin E as a massaging oil as close to the skin as you can.  

I don't actually use this as it's quite difficult on longer coated dogs (like Hudson's) and I don't find I need to with the Nature's Specialties range.  

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.                          

Medication for Dog Dry Skin

 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).  There is a specific "doggie" version called Banophen which is sold in 25mg minitabs for small dogs or 50mg caplets for larger dogs.  If you're unsure which Diphenhydramie to get then I would recommend you get Banophen, it's a generic version of Benadryl and lists dosage by dog's weight.

Banophen 25mg minitabs

Banophen 50mg caps

WARNING: Do not use any kind of antihistamine that contains decongestants or one that is used to treat multi-symptoms such as cold and flu medicines.  These are toxic to dogs.

You only want it to contain Diphenhydramine only. If in doubt, you can get a specific Benadryl for dogs from pet suppliers, just look for one labelled Antihistamine - Diphenhydramine and/or Generic Benadryl.  If you're unsure, you can get the "doggie" version which is Banophen (see below).

Anti-Itch Spray to Treat An Itchy Dog

An anti-itch spray stops the itching immediately and can be used after the shampoo and conditioner.  It can also be used alone to stop itching and is great for use in-between baths.

The 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.

16 FL. OZ $19.99
8 FL. OZ $11.99

Home Remedy for a Dog's Dry Skin

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.  Or, you can buy an anti-itch spray to use on these areas.

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 will 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.

Quick Check List to Treat Your Dog's Dry Skin

  • Add essential fatty acid supplements to your dog's diet (wild Alaskan salmon oil)
  • Daily brushing
  • Regular baths with oatmeal shampoo (once a month)
  • Finish bath with a moisturizing rinse and/or anti-itch spray
  • Antihistamines (if severe)
  • Install humidifiers in living/sleeping areas
Remember: If you are not sure your dog's itching is caused by dry skin, review the symptom checker on Dog Skin Conditions.

Other Pages You Might Like.....

Dogs with allergies
Dogs with skin infections
Dogs with dandruff
Dogs with hot spots

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