Why Is My Dog’s Skin Dry And Itchy?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 13, 2018

Dry, itchy skin is among the most common complaints vets hear from dog parents. Not only is this problem uncomfortable for your pooch, the constant licking, chewing, and scratching are enough to drive you crazy!

Uncovering the root cause of your pup’s brittle coat and flaky skin is easier said than done. There are several possible culprits from creepy, crawly parasites to simple changes in weather. As always, if your pooch is a senior or is suffering from severe itching, hair loss or skin lesions, it may be time to check in with your vet.

Skin Parasites

One legged french bulldog running

Fleas are usually the first thing that comes to mind when a dog starts scratching. The details of what they do to the canine body are like something from a horror movie.  They puncture the skin with their sharp mouthparts and suck your poor pup’s blood. Yep, that’s right. Fleas are basically tiny vampires.

As if that weren’t bad enough, they also cause tapeworm infections, reproduce rapidly, and may lead to allergic reactions. Dogs hypersensitive to flea saliva suffer intense itching throughout their body, not just at the site of the bite. They often lose their hair, and develop sores and scabs.

In addition to fleas, dogs may become infested with microscopic mange mites. Both Demodectic mange and Sarcoptic mange cause severe hair loss, scabs and itchy skin. While Demodex is often passed down from mother to pup, Sarcoptic mange – commonly known as Scabies – is highly contagious to other pets and even humans. Yuck.


Fleas aren’t the only allergy-causing trigger that can leave your dog itching and scratching. Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to just about anything. Common food ingredients like chicken, beef, soy, wheat, and corn could be the source of an otherwise healthy dog’s irritated skin and ears.

Similarly, many pups react to environmental factors such as dust mites, mold spores, pollen, or cigarette smoke. Some are even allergic to the dander of other pets in the home or the feathers inside your down comforter.

Bacterial & Fungal Infections

Brussels griffon mix in a suit

Did you know that Ringworm isn’t a worm at all? The dry, flaky bullseye-like lesions are actually caused by a fungal infection that is highly contagious to other pets and humans.

Dry, itchy dogs are also at an increased risk for developing bacterial skin infections. They tear and chew at their skin so incessantly that a lesion or hot spot forms, leaving them open to infection-causing microbes in the environment.

Systemic Diseases

Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease are common metabolic illnesses in older dogs. Both can cause dry, itchy skin and dull, brittle haircoat. Other symptoms include hair loss and skin infections. Certain auto-immune diseases, forms of cancer, and breed-specific conditions can also cause dry skin.


Frank English Bulldog Paw On Human Leg

Changes in temperature and humidity may also lead to dry, irritated skin in dogs. Similarly, air conditioned and heated homes may contribute to the problem. If you live in an area with low humidity, running a humidifier may help keep your dog’s skin balanced.


Excessive bathing or using overly harsh soaps may strip vital moisture from your dog’s skin. It can also cause irritation, damaged hair follicles, and an increased risk of bacterial and fungal infections. How often you bathe your dog depends on a number of factors including age, health and lifestyle. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian for advice and a shampoo recommendation.

Poor Nutrition

A lack of vital nutrients like protein and essential fatty acids can leave your dog’s skin and hair coat dry and dull. Luckily, proper diet, supplements, veterinary care, and lots of love can transform even the shabbiest pup into a shiny, lustrous show dog!

Chihuahua BarkBox Dog skin and coat supplement

BARK Dog Skin & Coat Supplement: Veterinarian-formulated, this supplement is made with all natural ingredients (including Omega-3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E) and comes in the form of 120 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help soothe your dog in their time of need. ($19.99.)

As always, if your pooch is a senior or is suffering from severe itching, hair loss or skin lesions, it may be time to check in with your vet.

H/T to & PetMD

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 13, 2018

Toothbrush-free dental care for dogs.

Fresher breath in 1–2 weeks.