Puppy Dry Skin – Symptoms & Treatment Options

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 6/10/2024
Woman kisses puppy while holding it in her lap

Dry skin can be an extremely irritating problem for puppies. If their skin begins to turn dry, it will also turn itchy.

Young puppies won’t be able to resist this itch, and you will find them constantly scratching to try and relieve the itch. Scratching these itches can be very harmful and damaging. Scratching leads to broken skin and bleeding, which can then lead to even more severe skin issues.

The good news is there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk of dry skin, reduce any itching and keep your puppy’s coat looking and feeling its best.

What is Dry Puppy Skin?

Dry skin in puppies occurs when the skin loses too much water or oil. However, in some cases, dry skin can be caused by a more serious issue such as allergies. Continue reading for information about the causes, symptoms and treatments for dry puppy skin.

What Causes Dry Puppy Skin?

Puppy allergies can be caused by a number of factors that stem from their food, environment or seasonal changes. The following allergens could be the cause for their dry skin:

  • Pollen 
  • Dust 
  • Grass 
  • Animal dander 
  • Feathers 
  • Flea saliva

A puppy’s dry skin could also be caused by overbathing or using a shampoo that’s not suitable for their skin. It’s important to remember that a puppy’s natural oils work hard to keep their skin healthy. Bathing your puppy too much can strip their skin of these beneficial oils. 

Moreover, if you use any shampoo other than one formulated specifically for puppies or dogs, you run the risk of harming their delicate skin and coat. Be sure to always use a puppy- or dog-specific shampoo.

Symptoms of Dry Puppy Skin

You’ll most likely notice the symptoms of dry puppy skin through itchiness, redness or inflammation. There are other symptoms, too. This list of symptoms below should prompt you to take a closer look.

Dry Puppy Skin Treatment

To treat your puppy’s dry skin, the first step is to determine its cause. While internet searches will point you in many different directions for the cause of the dry skin, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. They’re best suited to pinpoint the actual cause and recommend a course of action for treatment.

Skin Conditions

If your vet finds that your puppy’s dry skin symptoms are the result of a bigger issue such as a skin condition, they’ll likely find a remedy for both the dry skin and the overarching condition.

Food Allergies

In situations where your vet suspects your puppy may be allergic to the food they’re eating, they might recommend an elimination diet to pinpoint the allergen that’s causing the symptoms. Unfortunately, testing hair, saliva or blood to identify food allergens isn’t reliable.

Environmental Allergies

As for environmental allergies, there are tests available to identify the cause. Unfortunately, there are no cures for the allergies once the allergen is identified. Your vet may suggest avoiding the allergen altogether, prescribing ongoing medications to control the symptoms or immunotherapy such as allergy shots. 

Overbathing

An issue like overbathing is much easier to treat compared to conditions and allergies. Aside from reducing the number of baths, you should also use shampoo formulated for puppies. Your veterinarian can recommend a guideline for how frequently to bathe your puppy as well as a shampoo that’s safe and gentle for your puppy’s skin and coat. 

How to Prevent/Reduce Dry Puppy Skin

To proactively prevent or reduce the chances of your puppy developing dry skin, try the following tips.

Brushing

Brushing the coat is one of the best ways to prevent dry skin in dogs. Each time you brush your puppy’s coat, it wipes away any dry skin flakes resting on the surface. These skin flakes can cause irritation if left to build up, and this irritation will ultimately lead to your dog scratching.

Brushing also helps to encourage oil glands in your puppy’s skin to develop. These glands are an important part of keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy and at its best. Brushing your puppy from a young age gets them used to grooming and helps make it a fun, lifelong habit.

Puppy Shampoo

If you have to bathe your puppy, make sure you are using a puppy-based shampoo. Don’t ever use your own (even if it says it is moisturizing or gentle). Our skin has a different pH balance from that of our dogs, and what is perfect for us will not suit your dog’s skin and may well make the itches far worse.

Puppy shampoo can support your puppy’s coat as they are developing into an adult. Most puppy shampoos contain a range of different oils and ingredients to improve the elasticity of your dog’s skin. These special ingredients also help to repair and nourish any skin that may have become slightly dry.

If your dog came from a breeder, ask them to recommend the best shampoo for your puppy’s coat type or else ask your vet to recommend the best pet shampoo for your dog’s age and breed.

Hydration

Keeping your dog hydrated is important for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that a dehydrated puppy could develop skin and coat problems. Skin issues, such as loss of elasticity and wrinkles, are a sign of dehydration.

Always make sure your dog always has constant access to fresh, clean water. If your puppy resists drinking or you don’t think they are drinking enough, you should take them to your vet to check that they are hydrated enough and to make sure there isn’t a more serious issue behind the problem.

Choosing the Right Food for Healthy Puppy Skin

The kind of food you feed your puppy can impact the health of their coat and skin. If you’re looking for a complete dog food that’s clinically proven to support healthy skin, consider Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach and Purina ONE Skin and Coat. Each bowl helps reduce possible skin discomfort associated with food sensitivity thanks to a selected source of protein (more than 90% coming from salmon) and the inclusion of skin-targeting nutrients, such as zinc, essential fatty acids and vitamins A, E and B.

For more expert tips on puppies, explore our other puppy health articles.

 

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