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Ask AKC: Canine Dry Skin

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: My 18-month-old Boston Terrier has very dry skin. He scratches at himself and leaves dandruff all over the place. His coat is dull and lost its shine. Is there something I can put on his coat or feed him? --Dand"Ruff" Dilemma
Anytime skin symptoms arise, you need to look at possible internal or external causes. There could be several problems relating to dry skin including food allergies or intolerances, parasites -- especially fleas -- or worms, or some overall immune issue like Thyroid disease. Always consult with your vet if the problem worsens or persists.

But your description sounds like a simple case of cold weather dry skin or with the days getting longer he is beginning to shed and has an abundance of "dead coat" causing dandruff. The best way to help your dog's coat regain its lost luster is to give him a good brushing. Do it daily. Start with a rubber mitt with little nubs on it and rub the coat in a circular fashion to remove any loose hair and caked on dirt, sweat, slobber, or whatever had stuck to your dog on his daily walk or romp.

By using long sweeping strokes with the lie of the coat, you will not only pick up dirt and debris, which causes dullness, but also stimulate the oil glands in the epidermis (top layer) of the skin. Bushing releases these oils, which adds a shine to the coat. When brushing, use one hand for the brush and, ideally after each stroke, run a comb through the brush to remove the dead skin and flakes out of the brush. This way dirt won't get ground back into the coat.

Start with a coarser brush first, then add a softer "finishing" brush followed by a towel or rub rag. Reducing the bristle size each time removes smaller and smaller particles of dirt. By the time you get down to the rub rag (an old cotton diaper works wonders) you are literally just picking up surface dust and stimulating oil glands onto a nice grit-free coat. All this rubbing promotes better blood circulation which aids in the growing and shedding cycles.

After grooming, to keep dirt from adhering in the first place, try adding a little tea tree oil spray to act as a repellant. This spray will also condition the coat and add luster after the rag rubbing. Another option for this cold weather dry skin is to add a touch of fish oil with Omega 3 and 6 to his diet.

 

If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.