Is your dog suddenly itching and scratching non-stop?
Closer inspection might show dry flaky skin and scabs. It’s easy to see on a short-haired dog and quite tricky to see on a long-haired dog.
In case the problem persists, a visit to your local veterinarian is highly recommended.
Your vet may be able to visually diagnose the problem or may need to do further testing. Even for an experienced veterinarian skin issues can be hard to diagnose.
What are the most common reasons for dry and flaky dog skin?
A dog’s dry skin can be attributed to allergies, parasites, worms, but also due to immune disorders or dietary deficiencies.
You can easily treat dry dog skin at home with the tips and remedies we discuss in this article.
10 Reasons Why Your Dog Has Dry Flaky Skin and Scabs
Dogs suffer from dry and flaky skin due to allergies, parasites, yeast infections, dandruff, or simply inflamed hair follicles caused by fungi, immune disorders, or even a poor diet and skincare regimen (especially dogs with skin folds).
Some are easy to treat but hard to pin down, especially for a layman (i.e. poor diet or allergies) while others are easy to spot but can be nasty to treat (i.e. dandruff).
Certain fungal or yeast infections can be on both sides of the spectrum, depending on which type and if your vet is able to determine the cause quickly.
Other issues such as autoimmune disorders need extensive health testing and are not exactly easy to get rid of either (some are easier to manage than others though).
Below, you’ll also get to know how you can get rid of dry dog skin and finally free your dog from nasty itching and scratching.
Allergies are common in all breeds of dogs and can cause itching, irritation, discomfort and pain.
One of the first signs you will see is your dog itching himself more often than normal. He may also lick, bite, and scratch to ease the itch.
Environmental allergies can include:
- Products like dog shampoo, soap and other cleaning products
- Even the laundry detergent you use on your own blankets and towels could be making your pooch itchy
- Food allergies are also possible
Identify the source of your dog’s allergy with testing at the vet and proceed from there.
It’s best not to expose your dog to the environmental trigger. Change diets or household products if these are the trigger.
Fleas, ticks and mites are all pesky parasites that many dogs come in contact with at some point. They cause itching and skin issues.
Mites can cause a kind of skin disease called mange. It is common, but painful and often seen in dogs that have been neglected.
There are 2 types of mange: sarcoptic mange (also known as scabies) and demodectic mange (also known as red mange or Demodex).
Parasites are a natural and common occurrence. Most dogs will get attacked by some kind of parasite at some stage of their life.
They can be easily picked up from the environment (lawn, dirt, or gardens) or from other animals.
3. Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is an itchy skin disease. It is not contagious but dogs with a family history are predisposed and can pass it down from generation to generation.
An allergic reaction happens when an animal breathes in something they are sensitive to such as dust or pollen. The allergic reaction causes the dog to rub, lick, bite or scratch.
4. Immune disorder
There are many different kinds of immune disorders. Sadly, a lot of them are not curable but can be controlled with medication.
If your dog has an immune disorder, his immune system will attack itself causing illness and symptoms that can include skin issues.
5. Yeast Infection
Yeast infections can be seen on the skin and are a very common hazard.
Yeast dermatitis or Malassezia dermatitis is caused by the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis.
Folliculitis is the fancy name for an inflamed hair follicle. It’s one of the most common skin problems a dog can suffer from.
Folliculitis in dogs is most commonly caused by bacteria, but other culprits include:
- Fungal infections
- Systemic disease
- Immune system disorders
- Endocrine issues
- Canine acne or skin-fold pyoderma
In this case, dry skin mostly occurs on specific spots where your dog may scratch himself violently.
Canine Pyoderma is a common problem that usually appears on the face or paws. A rash turns into blisters with pus and then a yellow or brown crust will form when they burst.
Unclean conditions will be a breeding ground for impetigo and puppies are especially at risk.
Seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disorder. Basically, it’s dog dandruff.
It usually shows on the back, face, and flanks and is worse in the folds of the skin. You will also see it in the bedding.
The sebaceous glands of the skin make too much sebum causing scaly, flaky, itchy, and red skin.
Ringworm is also called dermatophytosis and is very common, especially for dogs who live outside or on a farm. A red circle will show up on the skin.
It’ll be itchy and can be scaly. Scabs and hair loss can follow if the dog is scratching a lot.
Dogs can pick up ringworm from dirt and soil. It can be passed onto humans and is quite contagious.
Learn how to prevent and treat dog worms.
10. Diet Deficiency
A poor diet can cause a dog to have skin problems.
If a dog is lacking the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he needs, that can result in an itchy rash, skin irritation and painful sores.
This can have a snowball effect and your dog could be prone to infection by parasites.
As your dog grows up, his diet requirements can change. Or if you suddenly have more time and your dog gets more exercise, a diet change may also be necessary.
This list is not exhaustive. Sometimes dry skin is a sign of a more serious problem. For example diseases such as the following may also display symptoms of dry skin:
- Cushing’s disease
- Skin cancer
If you’ve ruled out every other cause, check with your vet to detect and treat the underlying medical issue.
Is Your Dog Losing Hair Due To Dry Skin?
If your canine friend is losing hair, there is a strong possibility he has a skin condition.
A dog will instinctively itch and scratch himself when he has a skin condition. That will lead to hair loss.
It’s not easy to discourage a dog from licking, itching, and scratching itself if he feels the urge. Take steps to ease the itching while you get an accurate diagnosis of the cause.
Check your dog all over for dry skin, flaky spots, and irritation. A trip to the vet might be needed if you feel it’s serious.
If this is the first time your pet has developed a skin issue, you might find peace of mind by seeing your veterinarian.
Usually, you can expect the hair to go back once the problem is treated and your dog stops itching.
Below you can find some preventative measures and treatments you can apply at home to help your dog.
Does Your Dog Have Crusty Scabs On His Back?
A scab indicates a spot that has been scratched a lot. Then it heals with a scab forming on top of the sore spot.
If you have a short-haired dog you may be able to see crusty scabs on his back.
On long-haired dogs, it will be more difficult to see.
Check the whole surface of your dog’s body. See if there are any more scabs. If there are only a few, it is possible they were caused by some rough play outside.
Watch your dog to see if he’s scratching the area around the scabs. If it is itching more than normal you will know that the skin is irritated.
You can try the remedies listed below or book an appointment with your local vet.
A vet will do a physical examination and may run tests including blood tests, skin scraping, skin biopsy and skin tests.
What Does Dog Dandruff Look Like?
Dog dandruff is white and flaky and can be seen in a dog’s fur.
The flakes are small and are more easily visible on dark areas of fur. Also, you can see it in bedding, on the couch, and on the floor.
The dog dandruff (practically dead skin cells) will come off any surface the dog hangs out. So you might also notice it on your car seats, sofa, carpet, and other places.
Although messy, don’t worry as dog dandruff can be vacuumed up in a jiffy.
Grooming will help eliminate some of the dandruff that is coming off your dog.
A specifically formulated dog dandruff shampoo is recommended to clear up the problem.
Matching conditioner is also available. However, you can also opt for one of the home remedies like coconut oil below.
If you are unsure whether or not you are looking at dog dandruff, it looks very similar to dandruff that humans can get.
How To Get Rid of Dry Skin On Dogs
Home remedies like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and baking powder can help ease your dog’s dry skin problems.
Your veterinarian will prescribe medication for an allergy. This will often cure the problem, but it can return if you stop using the medication and may have side effects.
So you can try to pinpoint what is causing the allergy and avoid the trigger or take the time to build a stronger immune system in case it’s still a puppy.
Often identifying an allergy is a process that takes time. Eliminate what might be causing the allergy one by one and monitor changes in your dog.
Start with the easiest ones like changing the type of dog shampoo you use.
What about conventional methods like medication prescribed by your veterinarian?
While I do like going the natural route, some cases of ringworms, infestations, or other diseases might require conventional methods, depending on severity and cause.
So what do vets recommend to get rid of dry skin on dogs?
- Vets might recommend antihistamines or fatty acid therapy for issues like Atopic dermatitis
- Antifungal creams
- Oral medication
- Antimicrobial or medicated shampoo
- Biopsy to confirm the cause
If your dog just experiences itching and seems to be fine otherwise, you can treat your dog at home.
So what can you do at home to get rid of dry skin on dogs?
- Wash all dog bedding, blankets, and toys
- Deep clean house
- Hire a professional pest control company to eliminate parasites
- Provide your dog with a healthy diet (my Rottweiler is on a raw diet)
- Wash your dog with special shampoo
- Use coconut oil to get rid of fleas and moisturize the skin
- Vitamin E oil to help with skin issues
How To Prevent Dry Dog Skin
To make sure your dog’s not getting any infections in the future, there are a couple of preventative measures you can take.
Healthy Diet & Coconut Oil
As mentioned, a healthy raw diet can really help with skin issues. My Rottweiler’s coat is extremely shiny and her skin very smooth.
Owners who want to keep it natural may treat flea infestations with apple cider vinegar, but talk to your vet to see if a prescription treatment might be required.
Balance your dog’s diet and make sure he gets all the essential nutrients.
Make sure that your raw diet contains meaty bones, muscle meat, organ meat, and vegetables/fruit. Read more about the raw diet here.
Supplementing coconut oil can also really help with dry dog skin. Add it to your dog’s food and rub it on his skin.
Bath your dog as often as necessary but beware of overbathing.
Use a quality dog shampoo and ask your vet if they recommend any special medicated shampoo for your pet.
Grooming is essential for all dogs and should be a part of your dog care routine.
If you brush your dog often, he won’t get mats and the oil on the coat will be spread out evenly so build-up and skin irritation don’t occur.
Medication prescribed by your veterinarian should be given as instructed and finished even if the problems disappear (unless otherwise instructed). Issues can return too early if you don’t wean your dog off medication properly.
Protection From Weather Conditions
Make sure your dog is protected from the elements especially if you live in a climate with extreme temperatures – either hot or cold.
A raincoat and proper dog boots will help.
Seeing dry flaky skin and scabs on your favorite 4-legged friend can be stressful. Stay calm, find out the cause and start treating it at home with simple solutions like coconut oil.
Soon your puppy or dog will hop into the saddle again and wag his tail with smooth skin.
Here are some of my favorite products for dry dog skin
Thanks for reading, I hope your dog’s dry skin is nothing serious and doesn’t bother your dog too much. If you’re interested in what I’ve been using on my Rottweiler’s skin, here are a couple of cool products. These are all products I’ve used and would recommend to my own family.
Cleaning wipes: Most dogs get some form of debris stuck in their coat (even worse for long-haired breeds or those with wrinkly skin). Having good cleaning wipes is essential and I’m using them every other day.
Natural dog shampoo: Use a good shampoo that doesn’t dry your dog’s skin. For some, coconut+aloe alongside essential oils works well, others are using a veterinary formula, especially if other skin conditions plague your dog.
Dog balm: You can use natural dog balm on your dog’s dry skin. Depending on your dog’s skin, this may not be the best good solution though (long-haired breeds fare better with just a bamboo brush).
Thursday 2nd of February 2023
Hi Ray here, My Scottish terrier Wallace had dry flakie scabs on his back for two or three months, I was feeding him a very good quality food and tried various creams and shampoo but these did not help, Wallace is three years old, my Daughter Kerry suggested going back to using a puppy food as has a higher fat content and it has worked, his skin is now perfect after a month or so, hope this helps our furry friends out there.
Friday 3rd of February 2023
Hi Ray, I'm not a vet and can't possibly know what caused this issue for Wallace, but switching back to puppy food is generally not recommended. The formula is adjusted for growing pups, not for an adult dog's needs. I'd suggest a trip to the vet to rule out underlying issues. Also, it could theoretically be an ingredient in the specific food you previously fed that he's allergic to. Just a thought, best to consult your vet.
Saturday 10th of April 2021
Please do some research on vegetables for dogs. Veggies are not good,for,dogs. Dogs are Carnivores, they are not omnivores. Veggies cause the dogs pancreas to work harder, the harder it works the sooner it will stop working and start causing problems. Diabetes.
Saturday 10th of April 2021
Hi Deb, thanks for your input. Do you have a specific study or resource that states that vegetables are not good for dogs?
While the argument rages on whether or not dogs are carnivores or omnivores, I'd definitely call them "opportunistic omnivores". In the wild, wolves can fall back on eating fruits/vegetables. They also eat the bowel content of most dead animals, often largely plant-based.
While you shouldn't feed too much fruit/vegetables (<20% of the diet), it's definitely not toxic (apart from some ingredients you should avoid like avocado, some grapes, etc.). From all the available research on the gut microbiome, the only thing that can be said is that a raw diet is healthier for dogs in that aspect. There's also been studies on corn/starch stating that wolves in the wild do not go beyond 20% starch. But I've not seen anything similar for fruits/veggies, please let me know if you did. Thanks, Danielle