What Do I Do If My Dog Has Dry, Itchy Skin?
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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Q: Help! My dog is breaking out! Her skin is flaky and she is very itchy. What is going on?
A: Oh, the joys of winter. I am so sorry to hear your furbaby is itchy, but it is pretty common this time of year. Winter weather often means low humidity, and lots of time spent indoors. Indoor environments are often dry and warm, which can lead to drying of a dog’s skin and coat. Additionally, small bacterial infections (commonly known as zits, or pyoderma) can crop up as well. Luckily, there are several things that a pet parent can do to help get her more comfortable.
Bathe her. Wintertime bathing is often overlooked, but frequently can help solve skin problems. I highly recommend a soothing shampoo and cream rinse (or conditioner), usually made with colloidal oatmeal. Oatmeal is very soothing and anti-inflammatory, and can help to drive moisture back into her coat. Always follow her shampoo with a cream rinse to help provide additional emollients. During the winter, you should bathe her every 2-4 weeks, with tepid or warm water. Always towel dry her afterwards; do not blow dry! Blow drying greatly decreases the humidity, and the heat can be drying to her coat.
Brush her. All dogs should be brushed daily, but increased frequency of brushing can be very helpful in the winter. Brushing can help to remove loose hair and debris, as well as stimulate her skin. Massaging can also help. By stimulating her skin, you can move oil from her skin glands around her skin, helping to prevent dry and itchy spots.
Supplement her. Fish, olive, coconut, corn oil—which is the best? For dogs with a dry coat, I recommend supplementing Omega 3 fatty acids, best found in fish (salmon) oils. Specifically, you want to supplement her DHA and EPA levels. Omega 3 oils have a natural anti-inflammatory action (as opposed to oils heavy in Omega 6 or 9). A variety of brands are available, both for humans and for dogs. Either can be used, but be careful about the dosage. Overdose of Omega 3 oils are not common, but they can result in diarrhea or in difficulty with healthy blood clotting. Large doses of Omega 3 oils should not be given prior to surgery.
- Feed her. If her dry skin seems to be a year round problem, but worse in the winter she may not be getting the best balance of nutrients. Just like with people, what we put into our dog’s bodies is reflected in energy, stamina, and health-inside and out. If you are concerned your dog may not be getting a great diet, or if she struggles with frequent itchiness, you should speak with your veterinarian. She may have a food allergy, or she may need a different diet.
When your pet is uncomfortable you worry about her and want to help; itchy skin is no fun for anyone! I hope these tips can help get you both on the right track to improved skin health!