How food can help alleviate dry skin in dogs

dog dry skin diet

Is your dog constantly scratching due to dry itchy skin? If your pup suffers from dry skin there are some healthy foods that may help to provide relief.

While there are many causes of dry skin in dogs, dog food can play a critical role in managing flaking, itching, and other uncomfortable symptoms that often come with dry skin.

Let’s first, take a quick look at some things that can cause itching and flaky skin in dogs

7 Things that can cause dry skin in dogs

dog dry skin diet

1. Bacterial infections

If your dog has dermatitis they may present with moist itchy skin. Sometimes dogs will scratch so much that they bleed.

You will need antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria, most likely your veterinarian will give your oral and topical antibiotics.

2. Fungal infections

Much like bacterial infections, if your dog’s itchy skin is due to fungal infections can cause large accumulations of dead skin which owners may mistake for simple dry skin flakes. Your vet can prescribe oral and topical antifungal medications to help get rid of the problem.

3. Shampoo

That’s right, some shampoos can irritate your dog’s skin, so if you’ve recently switched to a new shampoo and you notice your dog is suddenly itchy that may be the culprit.

Also, shampoo residue can cause some dry or itchy skin in dogs. I always tell clients to make sure they have rinsed their dog well and then rinse a second time to ensure there is no shampoo remaining on the fur.

4. Overbathing

Overbathing is a common practice, especially for new pet owners. If you are bathing your dog weekly, it may be too much on their skin and coat. Some owners bathe more thinking that will get rid of their dog’s dry skin. However, this usually only serves to make the problem worse.

If you have a puppy that is in constant need of a bath you may want to try over-the-counter wipes for dogs or dry shampoo for dog’s skin.

5. Allergies

Food or environmental allergies can affect your dog’s skin and coat. If you notice that your dog’s coat health seems to be declining after moving or switching to a new diet that may be the culprit of your dog’s dry skin.

Skin allergies are common in some breeds of dog, but only a small percentage are actually due to food and the majority are caused by environmental factors, like grass or pollen.

6. Seborrhea

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disorder that causes flaky, scaly, itchy skin it can be moist or dry and will require a visit to the veterinarian for treatment.

Of course, you should also check your dog for ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and mites (by your veterinarian)

7. Ectoparasites

Bugs like fleas, ticks, and mites (which you can’t see with the naked eye) can cause a tremendous amount of itchiness in dogs and sometimes lead to dry skin. Often times your dog may scratch so much that they have hair loss and their skin becomes raw due to these pests. These little critters can wreak some serious havoc on your dog’s skin and coat, not to mention affect their owners too!

How does food help to ensure optimal skin and coat health

While food is not the only factor to take into account it is a primary factor especially if your dog is prone to allergic reactions.

Dog’s skin can’t perspire the way humans do to help promote the elimination of toxins and much of what they need to get out will be eliminated through the digestive tract.

How to choose hoose an Appropriate dog food for dry skin

dog dry skin diet

Choosing the appropriate nutrition for your pup is critical in alleviating skin dryness. Ideally, you should look for foods that include the following ingredients to help keep your dog’s coat healthy.

Alternatively, you can also add supplements to your dog’s regular meal that includes these ingredients. But if you want your dog to have healthy skin look for food with many of the ingredients listed below

1. Omega 3 essential fatty acids

Dog foods rich in omega 3-fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, salmon oil, fish oil, green-lipped mussels, and leafy greens.

If you are feeding a high-quality diet for a dog’s skin and coat they will most likely have whole food ingredients which are high in fatty acids already included

2. Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid plays a significant role in a dog’s skin health and is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Foods like coconut oil and chicken are high in linoleic acid and included in many dog food formulations for dry skin or sensitive skin

3. Quality proteins

By ensuring your dog is getting high-quality lean proteins like chicken and fish, you can ensure they are contributing to healthy skin and muscles in your dog.

Foods high in protein include chicken, salmon, and eggs

4. Vitamins

Of course, most dog food will be enriched with the correct vitamin levels, however, if it is a diet for skin and coat they will probably have foods like hemp seeds- which serve to help strengthen the skin, and brewers yeast which is loaded with skin-healthy beneficial vitamins.

In addition, any supplements you get for your skin will most likely include vitamin B, vitamin C and

  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is well-known for its antioxidant effects but it is also great a great anti-inflammatory agent for the skin. In dog food, vitamin E is usually found in leafy greens and pumpkin.
  • Vitamin C: helps with collagen production
  • Vitamin B: helps in cell regeneration and promotes a healthy coat and improves your dog’s skin

5. Minerals

Minerals like zinc can also help to protect your dog’s skin from harmful UV rays

6. Fiber

Aside from being super powerful antioxidants foods rich in fiber like chia seeds and flax seeds help to improve your dog’s circulation which translates to a healthy shiny coat.

Other things you can do to help improve your dog’s dry skin

dog dry skin diet

Ensure they have enough water

Not only does water ensure your dog remains hydrated, but it also helps to flush out toxins that build up in the body

See your veterinarian

If you suspect that your dog has ectoparasites like fleas or an infection see your vet ASAP for testing and treatment. If you allow these skin issues to go on for too long they can worsen and develop into serious skin problems like hot spots, fur loss, or painful lesions and your poor pup will be miserable.

Also, ensure that your dog is up to date on their annual flea and tick medicine to prevent having to deal with any fleas

Change foods

If your dog is prone to allergies, their dry skin may be due to an allergic response. In this case, feeding them a novel protein dog food may help relieve some of the itchiness. Here are other signs of an allergic reaction in dogs. Common allergens are chicken and beef in food and grass in the environment.

In fact, the latest veterinarian research shows that otitis externa, which causes itchy ears in dogs is usually due to diet in most dogs.

Brush them often

If you can brush your dog regularly to help spread the natural oils to their skin as it can help promote healthier skin and subdue itchiness.

What is the best dog food for dry skin in dogs?

There are so many pet foods on the market that it can be difficult to find what works for your dog.

Sometimes it is trial and error but speak with your vet or a pet food expert and get their opinions as well.

Ultimately the best dog food for your pup with skin health issues is the one that works for them. Unfortunately, many times it can take months of dedicated trial and error to discover a great dog food for dry skin. In some cases, dogs need prescription foods from their vets.

There are many great dry foods on the market and the following foods have shown tremendous promise in helping dogs that suffer itching and dryness

What can I add to my dog’s food at home?

dog dry skin diet

If you are feeding your dog a well-balanced diet, many dog foods will most likely have all of the essential nutrients necessary and won’t have to add much to your pup’s food, however, some owners have found benefits in adding the following ingredients

  • Fatty acids or fatty acid supplements like fish oil or green-lipped mussels. Many supplements may also include other oils like coconut oil and olive oil.
  • Chia and flax seeds – click the links to learn how to feed them properly to your dog
  • Pumpkin puree – if you purchase canned pumpkin puree to add to your dog’s food, ensure that it is just pumpkin and nothing else added, you want to prevent adding unnecessary preservatives into your dog’s system as much as possible
  • Bone broth – specifically made for dogs or homemade here is a great recipe
  • Pre and probiotics – prebiotics and probiotics help promote good gut bacteria and assist in any gi issues that may be causing skin issues in your dog like leaky gut
  • Sweet potatoes – Adding sweet potatoes to your dog’s food can prove to be very beneficial for their skin and coat when given in small amounts. Sweet potatoes should not be fed raw and always be blanched or steamed prior to serving.
  • Vegetables – vegetables like green beans and leafy greens are great as treats if your dog will eat them, and when given in moderation. They not only help with inflammation and oxidation, but they also pack tremendous nutrition in their small packages
  • Vitamin E – as stated before this vitamin is not only a great antioxidant but also helps in promoting skin health

Natural topical therapies for itchy skin in dogs

Many dog owners have had some success when topically applying small amounts of the following to their pet’s skin

  1. Coconut oil – while you can give your dog some coconut oil orally, many owners have had some luck with soothing their dog’s skin using it topically
  2. Apple cider vinegar – make sure your apple cider vinegar is diluted. The best way to use apple cider vinegar is by placing a small amount in a spray bottle and spritzing your dog’s fur. Monitor your dog to ensure they are not licking the apple cider vinegar

Select Healthy Treats for Dogs With Dry Skin Conditions

While many owners are vigilant about their dog’s diet, they will often neglect to watch what is in their dog’s treats.

When selecting treats for your dog’s skin health avoid foods with artificial colors, preservatives, and fillers. Opt for treats that are whole foods like vegetables and fresh fruits. In addition, treats that include nutritious foods high in fatty acids and are formulated to promote healthy skin in dogs are optimal.


There are many causes of dry skin or poor skin health in dogs but including things like fish oil, essential fatty acids, and alpha-linolenic acid. There are many foods that include these ingredients so due your due diligence in reading the ingredients on the packages.

In many cases, the fix for dry skin is simple and may be treated easily but if it is something that food can not fix, like parasites or allergies you should seek the care of your veterinarian. In addition, you should speak with your vet prior to changing anything in your dog’s diet or about choosing a beneficial dog food.