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Treating your dog’s sensitive skin

There are a number of factors which can influence your dog's skin. Read our advice on skin care for your dog.

Unless your dog has a habit of rolling in poo – or something similarly delightful - you shouldn’t need to shampoo him more than twice a year. Dogs with coats that require regular grooming, however, will often be washed more regularly, sometimes resulting in dry skin.
Dogs who suffer from an allergic skin condition or atopy can benefit from once to twice weekly shampooing using special prescription shampoo. These shampoos help to reduce the build up of bacteria and fungi, and improve the skin’s barrier to allergens, resulting in less itching. If your dog has itchy skin, it’s important to consult your vet, who can recommend a shampoo specific to your dog’s needs.
If your dog has mild-to-moderate scaly skin, there are lots of treatments available, from dog skin and coat supplements, to dog shampoo and conditioner.

Diet and supplements

If your dog suffers with lots of dandruff or moults excessively, dog shampoo alone may not be enough. Diet can play a key role in the condition of your dog’s skin. Poor quality commercial food can be low in essential fatty acid, which is necessary for good skin and a healthy coat. Switching to a better quality food, or including an essential fatty acid supplement, can help. Make sure the supplement you use is designed for dogs, and you use the correct quantity – adding in a few tablespoons of cod liver oil to your dog’s food can result in vitamin A toxicity.



There are two types of shampoo for dogs with mild scaly skin:
  1. Rehydrating or moisturising shampoo
  2. Shampoo which slows down the loss of skin cells
Rehydrating shampoos
These can contain emollients or humectants. Emollients include ingredients such as oil, lanolin and paraffin, which form a film over the surface of the skin, helping to reduce water loss. Humectants draw water into the skin, using propylene glycol, lactic acid, glycerine, urea, and oatmeal. Any shampoo containing these ingredients is suitable for dogs with mild scaly skin.
Shampoos which slow down the loss of skin cells
Shampoos containing salicylic acid and sulphur will reduce the loss of skin cells. They also have a mild antibacterial effect, and can help reduce itching. This type of shampoo is suitable for dogs with more severe scaly skin, which isn’t responding to rehydrating shampoos.
If your dog has very sensitive skin, it’s worth testing the shampoo on a patch of skin first, to make sure he’s not allergic. Always ensure all residual shampoo is properly rinsed off, and you thoroughly pat your dog dry after bathing. If in doubt, your vet can advise on the best skin care for your dog.