A dog's skin produces natural oils that keep it protected and hydrated, but your dog isn't invincible. Dry weather and medical conditions can make the skin dry and flaky, but if you take steps to hydrate it, you'll keep your dog healthy and happy.
Tip #1 - Bathe your dog only when you need to. Unlike humans, who need frequent bathing, your dog only needs it every two or three months -- once a month at the most. This gives his body's natural oils time to build up, spread through the coat and protect the skin. Bathing too often strips the oils and can dry out the skin. If you notice that your dog's skin is dry or flaky, use a canine moisturizing shampoo to hydrate it. Alternatively, you can try natural, gentle home remedies such as oatmeal baths or adding Vitamin E oil to your dog's bath water.
Tip #2 - Switch to a hypo-allergenic shampoo if your dog's skin gets irritated or dried out by the shampoo you're using. Your dog could be experiencing an allergic reaction to his shampoo.
Tip #3 - Run a humidifier in your home to treat the air. When the air is dry, it can dry out your dog's skin.
Tip #4 - Dry skin can also be the result of your dog's diet. To increase shelf life, many pet food manufacturers remove the beneficial oils that contribute to healthy, hydrated skin. Dry pet foods have an especially dehydrating effect on skin. Though dry foods also increase thirst, the water your dog drinks only partially remedies the drying nature of a dry-food diet. If you must feed dry foods only, you should add digestive enzymes to your dog’s meals. These enzymes improve the release of nutrients, and beneficial probiotic bacteria also assist in the digestive process. Probiotics also help with allergies that cause skin irritation. A healthy digestive system contributes to improved hydration by increasing the absorption of fluids from your dog's diet, increasing the moisture levels of the skin and haircoat.
Tip #5 - Consult your veterinarian about moisturizers for your dog's paw pads. Paw pads can get dry and even crack, especially during low-humidity months, like in the winter. Generally, wiping your dog's paws with a disposable, medicated moisturizing pad keeps them hydrated, but always defer to your vet's judgement, and follow the instructions on any medicated lotions you may use.
Tip #6 - If your dog's skin doesn't improve, your dog may have an underlying medical condition, which requires the help of a vet. Your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo or drugs to treat the condition.
By Tom Ryan
About the Author
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.