6 Tips For Treating Your Dog’s Dry Skin This Winter

time
9 Minute Read
Updated November 2, 2021

Has the dry winter air been damaging your dog’s skin? Do dogs get dry skin in the winter? From dandruff and shedding to itchy skin and hot spots, our harsh Canadian winters can do a number on your dog’s skin and coat.

Winter weather can bring drier air, and the effects of these cold spells can cause multiple skin and coat issues in your pets. Protect your dog’s dry skin this winter with some simple skin and coat tips. 

You may be asking yourself what I do for my dog's dry skin in the winter? How do I treat my dog's itchy, flaky dry skin in the winter? We have many tips to help you treat your fur babies.

Let’s look at some of the easiest ways to rejuvenate your dog’s skin and ditch the winter itch.

Do Dogs Get Dry Skin in the Winter?

Dog skin is very similar to human skin. Because of this, it can be difficult to keep moisturized in winter. This is largely due to the fact that winter brings a more arid, cold, and dry wind – which can lead to chapping on the skin underneath your furry friend’s coat.

This can be made worse if they already struggle with diet limitations or allergens, or if they spend an excessive amount of time outside.

Dry skin in the winter can affect dogs of a variety of breeds and sizes. While dry skin isn’t inherently life-threatening, it can make your pup very uncomfortable - and lead to itching, inflammation, and even infection.

Symptoms of Dry Skin in Dogs

Dry skin is not the same for all dogs, but we’re sure if they could speak they would all agree – it can come with some uncomfortable symptoms! There are many things that dog dry skin can cause:

    • Itching
    • Dandruff
    • Flaking
    • Pimples
    • Scaling
    • Hair loss
    • Inflammation
    • Odour
    • Increased Oiliness
    • Scabs
    • Cracking

Other Causes of Dry Skin in Dogs

Beagle-chewing-on-itchy-leg (1)

While the drastic change in the weather and frigid temperatures are usually the culprits of your dog’s dry skin when we reach the winter months, there are other causes that can be making your dog’s skin dry, itchy or flaky.

If you’re noticing your dog is suffering from pretty severe symptoms, there might be an underlying cause.

There are many conditions or issues other than the weather that can mean your dog has dry, itchy skin in the winter. These include dog food allergies, parasites, and serious medical disorders such as Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism.

Allergies

Flea saliva can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. Dogs can get allergies just like humans. Dog allergies can include seasonal allergies and food allergies as well as environmental allergies. These allergies can often lead to dry skin and other symptoms. Things like flea salvia, pollen, dust, and animal dander can cause these allergies. These allergies can lead to a skin condition called Atopic Dermatitis. This can cause dry skin, itching, and redness, as well as secondary skin infections.

Flea bite allergies are one of the most common skin conditions in American dogs. Keep your dog and house free from fleas, and talk to your veterinarian to discuss possible treatment options.

Parasites

Parasites can also cause dry skin in dogs. Dry, flaky skin could be an indication of parasites, which can cause mange. This includes the Demodex mite and canine lice. A trip to the vet is necessary to diagnose parasites that cause dry skin in dogs. If your family veterinarian feels that your pet needs veterinary dermatology, he may refer you.

Learn more about the dangers of bug bites and how to treat them in Recognizing and Treating Bug Bites on Dogs

Infections

Dogs can also develop skin problems from fungal and bacterial infections. Canine skin infections are usually diagnosed by veterinarians who take skin samples for cytology. Dry skin is a sign that the infection may be secondary to a bigger problem. Some infections like the fungal infection Ringworm, are also transmissible to people.

Systemic Disorders

Sometimes dry skin can be a sign that there is a more serious problem. Two main metabolic conditions that can cause dry skin in dogs are Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism. Dry skin can be accompanied by hair loss, dry and brittle skin, and other symptoms.

Dry skin in dogs can also be caused by Autoimmune diseases or cancer. These are serious conditions. Dry skin is not something to be taken lightly.

Breed-specific Skin Conditions

Some breeds are more susceptible to skin conditions than others, particularly when it comes to dry skin. The Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and other hairless breeds are more vulnerable to skin conditions. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes can also be affected by zinc-responsive dermatosis. A veterinarian can diagnose your dog’s dry skin.

6 Solutions for Your Dog’s Dry Skin in Winter

While cold, dry air may not be the only contributor to your pet’s skin issues, it is still a factor. Talk to your vet to rule out parasites, allergies, and other health conditions that could be the underlying cause of their skin and coat woes. Here are the 6 simplest solutions for conditioning your dog’s skin and protecting against the effects of seasonal changes:

1. Humidity

Humidity 

Dry, winter air can be one of the causes of your dog’s dry skin. You can’t control the weather outside, but you can affect the environment in your home. Try using a small humidifier in your house to increase the moisture level of your home.

Another factor that can affect the humidity in your house is how high you're blasting the heat. It may feel colder than Mars outside, but remember that your dog wears a fur coat 24/7. Turn the heat down a few degrees and throw on some slippers and a sweater instead.

These few degrees can make a big difference in the moisture level in the air.

2. Hydration

Hydration 

Adding moisture to your dog's environment will help, but keeping your pet hydrated will be the most critical factor in their skin and coat health. Hydration is especially important if you are feeding a strictly dry diet, like kibble. While these diets are complete and balanced, they do not supply enough moisture.

Combat the dehydrating effects of dry food by encouraging more moisture intake. Most dogs do not drink enough naturally, so get creative. Moisture can be added to their food, their treats, and even their toys. Add fresh and wet foods to their meals or offer your dog some delicious bone broth as a treat.

You can even make your own bone broth and customize it to your dog's health needs and taste preferences. Check out our homemade recipe.

3. Healthy Fats and Oils

Healthy Fats and Oils 

Adding healthy fats and oils into your pet’s diet can help to soothe dry skin and reduce inflammation that can cause their itchiness.

They help to support the cell cycles in your dog’s skin, keeping the cells alive for longer and allowing them to shed less frequently. This will not only reduce itchiness but also limit general shedding and dandruff.

Animal sources, like wild-caught salmon oil, are the most effective, as they contain a wider variety of omega fatty acids, and a better balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Plant-based fatty acids, such as flaxseed oil and coconut oil, are a great option too.

Supplementing with healthy fats and oils is a yummy addition to any meal. They are easy to incorporate and welcomed by any dog. Start by adding a tiny amount to introduce the flavour, and slowly work your way up to a full dose.

4. Evaluate the Diet

The best treatment for dry skin in dogs might be getting to the root of the cause. And sometimes skin issues can be caused or exacerbated by changes or allergens in your dog’s diet.

Before trying this measure, always be sure to consult with a vet to create an elimination-style diet with your dog, and check for any adding in components depending on how the skin manages.

Check out What Should I Feed My Dog for tips on navigating the confusing world of dog food. 

5. Grooming

Grooming 

Regular grooming should always be a part of your pet’s care routine, but it’s especially important during seasonal changes. Daily brushing can help to reduce skin and coat shedding, as well as to remove dander and bacteria that collect on the surface of the skin.

Stick to a simple slicker brush or a comb to avoid over-grooming your pet. Deshedding brushes should be used no more than 1-2 times per week, as they can remove healthy fur and irritate the skin when used too frequently.

Occasional baths can help too, but bathing should be infrequent. Aim for once every 4-6 weeks. If you need to bathe your dog more frequently, then you should consider using just warm water with a small amount of baking soda. This can help deodorize without stripping any of the healthy oils from their skin.

Hop over to our Ultimate Dog Grooming Guide to find out how to safely groom your pooch at home. 

6. Topical Moisturizers

Topical Moisturizers 

Sometimes soothing your dog is best done by topical treatment for your dog's dry skin. Topical moisturizers like Vet's Best Conditioning Spray, can reduce the itch and prevent your dog from licking or scratching the affected areas raw, causing hot spots.

If you’re looking for instant relief and want to try a DIY dry skin treatment for dogs, there are natural remedies you might have at home. Coconut oil, pure Aloe Vera, and even apple cider vinegar dilutions can help to eliminate the itch caused by dry skin. All are safe to consume in small amounts, so they are safe to apply to areas that your dog can lick.

Don’t overdo it with topical treatments. They can help soothe and condition, but they are rarely a total solution. They are best used to reduce irritation quickly, but alone, they will not get rid of the underlying cause.

Bonus Tip: Winter Protection

Dog Sweaters & Coats

The tips above will help to reduce symptoms of dry skin in your pet, but acting preventatively can ensure that your pet is prepared for any seasonal changes. Make sure you have all the tools to keep your pet protected from cold weather.

Winter gear isn’t just about fashion. Finding the right coats, boots, or paw waxes can protect your pet from frigid outdoor temperatures, as well as ice melters, salts, rain and ice.

Consider seasonal changes and adjust your routines and activities to prevent the effects of cold weather on your pet. Winter means shorter days, so walks may be better scheduled during the warmest, sunniest parts of the day, as opposed to early mornings when the temps are more savage.

Make an Informed Decision for Your Dog’s Dry Skin

When determining what to do for your dog’s dry skin in winter, the best course of action is always to consult with your vet first. They can properly evaluate and assess the cause of your dog’s irritation, and seek an appropriate resolution.

They will be your best help in deciding the best treatment for your dog's dry skin. The best treatment for your dog's dry skin is staying ahead and trying your best to prepare your dog for the harsh conditions outside. There are many remedies for dogs' dry skin in the winter.

Treating Your Dog’s Dry Skin

You may have noticed that many of the tips we mentioned work the same for you as they do for your dog (except for the bathing one - that should be much more than occasional!!). If you notice signs of dry skin in yourself, then chances are your pet is suffering the same.

Although the signs may not be visible, all our tips can be used preventatively. You may not see your dog’s dry skin, but that doesn’t mean that winter isn’t taking its toll. Anticipate your dog’s dry skin this winter by building a consistent and healthy skincare routine all year round.

Skin & Coat

How do you care for your dog's dry skin in winter? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.

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