How to improve your dogs dry skin

German Shepherd Breed, Grooming, Health & Wellness

My German Shepherd’s skin is really dry. That’s a fairly common frustration for GSD owners – and just like any dog problem, it needs to be fixed ASAP.  We don’t want to see our dog in distress if there is something we can do to help.


In this article, you’ll learn all that there is about dry skin in German Shepherds – signs, causes, and most importantly, how to address the issue.

How can you tell if your dog has dry skin?

Dry skin on dogs manifests almost the same way across all breeds, but these symptoms vary quite a bit from an individual dog to another. Here are some of the symptoms you’ll observe on your dog:

  • Scaling/flaking of the skin
  • Dandruff
  • Hair loss – this will be distinctly different from the normal shedding. Usually, the skin is visible in the most affected areas.
  • Itchiness – your German shepherd can’t stop nibbling and scratching himself
  • A generally rough coat – this is largely due to the combined effect of the above symptoms. Your dog’s coat will be coarse to the touch and maybe bumpy at various places.

So why would a dog exhibit these symptoms?

Or, more plainly, what causes dry skin on dogs?


My German Shepherd’s skin is really dry – the causes:

Just like the symptoms, the cause of dry skin on dogs vary a great deal.  It could be something that’s totally out of your control like environmental issues, or something that you can be directly responsible for like excessive bathing or your choice of soap.

Here’s our breakdown of possible causes;


Allergic Reactions

Like humans, dogs can have allergies to elements in their immediate surroundings. These can include things like shampoos and conditions, grass, pollen, laundry detergent, dust, grain, and even their food. Usually, these allergic reactions are accompanied by several effects and if not treated can become more serious with time.

Environmental allergens like grass, pollen, and dust mites tend to be seasonal which means your dog’s dry skin problem varies in severity throughout the year.

According to the American Kennel Association, untreated allergies can develop into atopic dermatitis with one of the symptoms being dry skin. Other symptoms include inflammation, itching, and redness.



Sometimes it’s possible that your German Sepherd’s scratching and shedding is part of a bigger problem beyond the skin itself. Some whole-body disorders have been found to also affect the skin, leading to some of the symptoms.

Here are some of the disorders that might give your dog dry and / or itchy skin:

  • Disorders of internal organs – internal organs here refers specifically to the pancreas, liver, or kidneys. A disorder with one or more of these organs has been associated with inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) that causes redness, crusting, and hair loss among other symptoms.
  • Lumpy Skin Disorder – still caused disorders of internal organs, the kidney, in this case. Lumpy skin disorder is most prevalent in German Shepherds, occurring in other breeds only occasionally.
  • Hypopituitarism/Dwarfism – Dogs with dwarfism are way shorter than they should naturally be. They also retain much of their puppy coat that tends to be longer than usual. Later on, they lose the coat leaving them with exposed – and thus dry skin.
  • Cushing’s disease – it’s caused by an increase in the activity of the adrenal gland. Among other symptoms, it causes hair loss and dandruff (usually oily).
  • Cancer – generally causes dry skin on dogs.


Poor Nutrition

You might also want to look at what you’re feeding your dog – specifically if your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs. A low-quality diet can mean a lack of one or several nutrients which may lead to dry and itchy skin.


Excessive Bathing

Unless your dog is running and rolling in mud every day there really is no need to give them a bath that often.  Of course when they roll in that dead rabbit or cow dung then it’s straight to the bath or to the hose! 

If you bath your GSD every day, chances are they are going to lose much of the natural oils found in their coat and skin – which is bad news – a dry and itchy skin will often be the results.  You know how your hands can feel when they’ve been in water lots.


Harsh Soaps

Aside from bathing frequency, harsh soaps/shampoos are just as likely to get your dog scratching and shedding. Or sometimes the shampoo might not be necessarily harsh but it’s just that your dog is allergic or intolerant to it.  Ensure you use products which are designed for dogs – both shampoo and conditioner. There are plenty of good options available to choose from.  Look further down our post for a recommended option.



Parasites such as fleas, lice, and mites cause excessive itching. Additionally, they can spread diseases with symptoms such as dry, flaky skin. Cheyletiellosis (Walking Dandruff), mange, and canine scabies are some of the most common diseases spread by parasites.

Fleas, in particular, cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) which is an allergic reaction to flea saliva.


Environmental Issues

Of course, dogs can also be on the receiving end of the elements. Dog shedding and dandruff are almost a given during Winter when humidity is low. Indoor heaters during this time can also have the same effect, leading to dry skin.



An itchy and shedding dog might very well be suffering from a bacterial or fungal infection, which can cause a range of other problems such as inflammation and hair loss.

In the case of a fungal infections like ringworm, there is an added risk of your dog transmitting the same to other pets in your household and even you.  If you suspect an fungal infection then ensure you see your vet asap. 


So how can you deal with your dog’s dry skin?  Here are some treatment options to consider:

As you’ve seen, dry and itchy skin can be caused by many factors, and you may have to looks at severals ways to treat it one you have pin pointed the cause.  Here are a few remedies you can use for a general case:

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your dog’s skin. The quantity is usually outlined on the package so it’s going to vary.

Alternatively, you can also feed your dog some well cook boneless salmon – it’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important in reducing itching and inflammation caused by dermatitis.

Combine a treat with treatment! 

Try this all natural ingredient treat to give allergy and itch relief to your four legged friend.  They’ll love you for it.

Give hip and join support too!


Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a ton of benefits including healing dry skin and soothing itchiness. So it’s certainly one of your best options as far as your German Shepherd’s dry skin is concerned.

You can either feed the coconut oil or put it directly onto its skin.

For the oral route, be sure to start with small amounts as you monitor your dog for any signs of intolerance. These include diarrhoea, weight gain, and greasy stools.

1 tablespoon daily is a good start. You can increase this dose after 2 weeks if your dog shows no sign of intolerance.

Applying directly is as straightforward as it sounds. Just rub a small amount of the coconut oil into your hands and run your fingers through his coat.  They’ll may just smell just like a pina colada too!

Olive Oil

This is much the same as coconut oil. Just add 1 tablespoon per day to your dog’s food or even apply it directly to his skin.

Before applying the olive oil, add roughly 5 drops of it to a cup of water and rub the mixture into your dog’s coat and skin.

But you might want to skip this step if your dog has an open wounds. Olive oil is anti-inflammatory so it might interfere with the healing process.  Or at least avoid that area whilst it is healing.



Eggs are a rich source of linoleic acid and Vitamin A that are essential in maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat. So including them in your dog’s diet can go a long way in helping with his dry skin.


Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt contains probiotics that are beneficial to your dog’s skin problems, especially if they’re caused by a yeast infection.  Just make sure you avoid any yogurt that had added sugars and flavours – those artificial ingredients sometimes added.


Medicated Shampoo

Medicated shampoos are specially formulated to relieve itching and other effects of parasite infestation.  So they’re a great temporary as you try to figure out the real issue with your dog, but we don’t recommend using them for an extended period as they are simply too harsh for your dog’s skin.

We like this calming shampoo from Duuxo – great for dogs and cats!

It provides soothing relief from the discomfort of itching and inflamed skin due to allergies.

It’s the NUMBER 1 non-prescription topical brand recommended by US vets.


Reduce Exposure to Allergens

Of course, here you’ll have to know the specific allergens and see to it as much as possible that your dog doesn’t interact with them.

For food allergies, the usual remedy is an elimination diet that excludes a certain ingredient that your German Shepherd might be allergic to.

Other allergens can be treated by using allergy shots and managing the itching and the various symptoms. Of course, the treatment here will be best handled by your vet.



Some final words on dry skin and dogs

Hopefully with a good overall health plan your dog will have healthy skin and a beautiful cost, and our top tips to achieve this are:

  • Feed your dog a high quality balanced diet,
  • Limit how frequently you bathe your dog,
  • Groom your German Shepherd to rid his coat of dead skin and hairs, a couple of times a week is ideal,
  • Take your dog for regular check-ups with your vet.
  • Visit your vet for help with a diagnosis and treatment options. Early discovery of the problem can help with a treament plan and avoid unnecessary suffering.

Dry skin on dogs – your vet has the final say….

All said and done, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice from your local vet. If the simple options given above are not providing any improvement then it’s time to make that visit. Dry skin isn’t always a straightforward issue, it may be caused by something more serious, and a visit to your vet for help with a diagnosis and treatment options can help with early discovery of the problem.  They can provide you with a treatment plan and avoid unnecessary suffering by your dog.

Here’s to a healthy and happy German Shepherd

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We’ve grown up with many pets over the years including gold fish, tropical fish, gerbils and bunny rabbits home for the school holidays, two tortoises called Zaza and Fred, and Allana even had a crazy horse on loan for a while

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