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10 Reasons Your Pet Might Be Suffering from Dry Skin

dog-dry-skinDry skin, itching, and dandruff have a variety of causes in pets, with most cases triggered from  allergies, parasites, or dry weather. Some cases of dry skin are treatable at home with dietary or lifestyle changes, but many require veterinary care. If your pet’s dry skin does not respond to home treatment, lasts longer than a week, or is accompanied by open sores, excessive hair loss, constant licking or rubbing, or a rash, visit your veterinarian right away.

10 Common Causes of Dry Skin

1. Contact and Environmental Allergies

Allergies to soap, pollen, or fleas can cause dry, flaking, and itchy skin. Itchiness is generally the primary symptom in skin allergies, which can help differentiate it from other causes. Avoiding the offensive substance is the best treatment, but allergy medications for pets can help manage symptoms when avoidance is not possible.

2. Food Allergies

Like contact and environmental allergies, food allergies can cause dry, itchy, flaking skin. Pets with possible food allergies may require specialized pet food or daily medication to ease symptoms.

3. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections cause symptoms similar to those associated with allergies and require treatment with a topical antifungal medication. Recurrent yeast infections may indicate the presence of an underlying health condition.

4. Parasitic Infections

Mange is a disease caused by various mites, some of which normally reside on the skin of healthy animals. Symptoms of mange vary depending on the location, type, and severity of the disease, but may include itching, baldness, redness, flaking, dryness, scabbing, and skin odor. Fleas and mites are other common causes of skin irritation in dogs and cats. Scratching due to these infections can quickly lead to redness, dryness, flaking, and other symptoms. Do not attempt to treat severe parasitic infections at home.

5. Dry Weather

Low environmental humidity levels can cause dry, flaking skin in both humans and animals. This cause of skin dryness is most common during the cold, winter months and during summer when air conditioning runs nonstop inside. Use a humidifier in the room where your pet sleeps to restore some moisture to the air, and apply a moisturizing lotion to your pet’s dry skin.

6. Dehydration

Mild dehydration can dry out the skin without causing any other obvious symptoms. Make sure your pet has continuous access to clean drinking water, especially during the summer, and check her periodically for other signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or sunken eyes.

7. Poor Diet

Nutritional deficiencies are a common cause of dry and flaking skin, especially in older pets. If you are concerned about your pet’s diet, try changing your pet’s food, supplement with fatty acids, and speak with your veterinarian about a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.

8. Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Skin infections with fungi or bacteria can cause dry, red, flaking, and irritated skin. If an infection is suspected, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis. Your pet may need topical or oral medication to clear the infection.

9. Hormonal Disorders

Hormonal problems, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, can lead to flaking skin, dryness, and other symptoms. Dry skin that is accompanied by any other symptoms, such as fatigue, rash, reduced appetite, or weight loss, requires urgent veterinary attention.

10. Grooming

Bathing your pet too frequently, especially if you use harsh soaps, can remove the natural layer of oil that protects the skin and helps maintain its moisture content. Reduce the frequency of baths and switch to a gentle, moisturizing shampoo designed for use on dry skin.


American Animal Hospital Association

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