Dry Pet Skin- Pruritus

Does your pet wake you in the middle of the night due to excessive scratching or licking of their fur? Do they have flaky dandruff, irritated areas or cracked skin? We are here to help!

     Like you, certain factors can affect your pet’s skin- like the environment, diet or even allergies. Most commonly, pets with thick, double coated or long hair are subject to dry, itchy skin- or Pruritus to be more clinical. There seems to be many causes of dry skin, but most commonly are listed below with some tips on how to best help your pet. Pruritus can be as simple as irritating shampoo to as severe as mange- if your pet is chewing or licking itself raw, or has developed raw areas and is losing fur at an increased rate, let your vet decide the best course of action, as simply changing products or diet may not solve the root cause.

1. Over or under bathing

Pets have natural oils on their skin just like humans do- and harsh shampoos can strip them of their natural goodness. Over bathing or under bathing can be hard on your pet, and there’s a not so delicate line between the two. If you have a dog that is thick or double coated definitely bath your pet when they do their major shedding (most happen early summer, as it gets too warm for all that hair- like how we ditch our winter jackets… so do they, so help them out!) generally they shed once a year, and since they are trying to get rid of their coat, it’s easy to take a grooming rake through the coat, get all the dead hair off and then bathe them ( it’s also easier to get down to the skin then to really get rid of excess dandruff). Throughout the year, brushing is the best way to help stimulate the skin and help your dog get rid of any itchy dandruff. Otherwise, Bathing once a month works for most breeds, however dogs with oily coats (like a basset hound) may need more frequent baths. Smooth or short haired dogs generally do fine with less infrequent baths, as well as water repellent coats (like golden retrievers or great Pyrenees) who should not be bathed frequently to preserve their natural oils (DogTime, 2011). When giving a bathe for any pet, try to avoid shampoos that are harsh, or have sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) which is a chemical added to shampoos to achieve a bubbly lather- it doesn’t really have any benefit, and is actually what causes the stinging in your eye- instead look for a shampoo that has an actually cleaning ingredient listed high- like our Ultra Grooming Collection which has natural purified water first, and a natural, mild cleaning agent (coconut) second and comes in many varieties like puppy- which is hypo-allergenic and especially non-irritating as well as an oatmeal solution- which works great for dry skin. As always, try to ensure that your pet is well rinsed- as left over residue can be itchy, and avoid using a high heat setting for blow drying, instead air dry for as long as you can and maybe help out with a quick blow dry after. Many also suggest a moisturizing rinse after, just like we would moisturize our skin. slsfree shampoo

2. Under grooming

Pets need to be groomed on a regular basis to help rid them of dandruff, dead skin etc. Since most cats take care of their own daily grooming, and are not so prone to dry skin, we focus on the care of our dogs. Again, double coated and/or long, thick haired dogs need the most attention since dandruff gets caught in their fur. For most breeds, a quick rake through the coat is all it takes, in addition to your bath explained above. We all have busy lives, so sometimes once a week seems too unattainable but like humans no two dogs are alike and you know what’s best for your dog- however, since we are focusing on those prone to dry skin, every 1-2 weeks is ideal, and will save you from waking in the middle of the night from excessive scratching, and help your dog feel better.

3. Diet

Diet can play a role in your pet’s dry skin- if they are suffering from some nutrient deficiencies do a little research into your current food and try to find a brand that has quality ingredients like omega-3 & 6 fatty acids, lots of antioxidants, as well as a good source of quality protein and amino acids. One way to get more nutrients is to put a pump of fish oil in your current food. There are also brands out there that have specific formulas for sensitive skin, but as always if you’re going to switch your dog’s food do it gradually and possibly see your vet for specific instructions. Our sales associates are also equipped with knowledge about the brand formulations we carry, and would love to help you navigate the food aisles with some suggestions!

4. Environment


As you may have noticed by now, there are some common themes between human dry skin and pet dry skin- and climate is just another one on that list! When it gets dry out- like in the winter, or super humid- like in the summer, it can affect your pet as well. During these times, be sure to groom your dog to help shed the dead skin, and try moisture intensive treatment like you would yourself- you can both enjoy a pampered day!


Commonly dust, mold, pollen, mildew and other airborne allergens are the root cause of allergen-based dry skin. Unfortunately allergies are harder to address, and so if you feel like allergies are at play- i.e your pet’s dry, itchy skin or runny eyes seem to only happen during allergy season, go see your vet and they can recommend what the best course of action is. smithville