If your Australian shepherd has dry, flaky skin, or you’ve started to see dandruff in their coat, you’ll want to know why and how to solve it.
Dry skin is a big problem with our furry friends, and is one of the top reasons why Aussies and other breeds go to the vets.
Thankfully, once we understand the causes, there are many solutions to solve the dry skin issue. Let’s get into it!
Is Dry Skin Common in Australian Shepherds?
Simply put. yes, dry skin is a common issue in Australian Shepherds and many will experience at least one bout of dry skin throughout their life.
Aussies have a thick double coat that, while protecting them from various weather conditions, can also be a breeding ground for skin issues if not maintained properly.
Dry skin is one such issue that you might encounter. However, armed with the right knowledge, you can address this issue effectively.
Signs of Dry Skin
Understanding the signs of dry skin is the first step towards resolving it.
➡️ Some common symptoms include:
- Itchy or flaky skin
- Dull, brittle coat
- Redness or inflammation
- Unusual shedding
- Sores or hot spots
- Persistent scratching or licking
If your Aussie has any of the above, then they could be dealing with dry skin. It’s wise to regularly inspect your Aussie’s coat and skin, that way you’ll know when something deviates from the norm.
7 Common Causes of Dry Skin
Let’s run through the common causes of dry skin in Australian shepherd. Carefully read the following and one of them might immediately stand out to you. If not, it’s worth taking everything into consideration and think about the recent events leading up to your Aussie’s dry skin issue. If owners can’t pin point a cause, and the dry skin persists, then it might be time to get veterinarian help.
Understanding the causes of dry skin in Australian Shepherds in detail can help you address the issue more effectively. Let’s dive deeper into each of the main causes:
1. Allergies ⬇️
Allergies can be a common cause of dry skin in Australian Shepherds. These can range from food allergies to environmental allergies such as pollen or dust mites. When your Aussie is exposed to an allergen, their immune system responds, leading to inflammation and itching. This inflammation can disrupt the normal function of the skin, causing it to become dry and irritated.
Identifying the allergen can be challenging, as it may require trial and error or diagnostic tests. It could involve changing your Aussie’s diet, limiting exposure to potential environmental allergens, or switching to hypoallergenic materials in their bedding and toys.
2. Fleas & Ticks ⬇️
Parasites like fleas and ticks can cause significant skin irritation in dogs, leading to dry and itchy skin. These external parasites feed on your Aussie’s blood, leading to an allergic reaction that can disrupt the skin’s normal function. This disruption often results in excessive scratching and dry skin.
Flea and tick prevention is the best way to avoid this issue. Regularly check your Aussie’s coat for these pests and ensure they are on a vet-approved parasite prevention plan. If your Aussie already has fleas or ticks, a suitable treatment plan should be implemented immediately to minimize discomfort and prevent further issues.
3. Weather ⬇️
Environmental conditions can play a major role in your Aussie’s skin health. During winter months, low humidity combined with indoor heating can dry out your Aussie’s skin, causing it to flake or itch. In contrast, excessive sun exposure in the summer can lead to sunburn and dry skin.
To combat these effects, consider using a humidifier during dry winter months to maintain humidity levels in your home. Similarly, limit your Aussie’s exposure to direct sun during peak summer hours and consider using a pet-friendly sunscreen. Regular grooming can also help to maintain your Aussie’s coat and skin health regardless of the weather conditions.
4. Overbathing ⬇️
While it’s essential to keep your Aussie clean, overbathing can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Dogs’ skin has a different pH balance than human skin, and using human products or bathing too often can disrupt this balance and damage their skin barrier.
The AKC recommends bathing most dogs no more than once a month, but for Aussies, it’s more like once every 3-4 months. Always use a dog-approved shampoo that is gentle and designed to maintain their skin’s pH balance. Remember to rinse thoroughly to ensure no shampoo residue is left behind, as this can cause irritation and dryness.
5. Skin Infections & Conditions ⬇️
Skin infections and certain skin conditions can lead to dry skin in Aussies. Fungal or bacterial infections, seborrhea, dermatitis, or other skin disorders can disrupt the normal functioning of the skin, leading to dryness, flaking, and itching. These conditions often come with other symptoms such as redness, sores, or unusual odors.
Consulting a vet is crucial if you suspect a skin infection or condition. Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe antibiotics, antifungal medication, medicated shampoos, or other treatments. Never attempt to self-diagnose or treat these conditions at home as it can worsen the issue.
6. Diet ⬇️
Just like in humans, a dog’s diet plays a critical role in their skin health. A diet lacking in essential nutrients like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins can lead to poor skin and coat health. Omega fatty acids, in particular, are vital for maintaining the skin’s natural oil barrier, which keeps the skin hydrated and protected.
If diet is a potential cause of dry skin, consider reviewing your Aussie’s diet. Are they getting a balanced diet with enough proteins, fatty acids, and essential vitamins? Your vet or a pet nutritionist can guide you in choosing the best food for your Aussie’s specific needs.
7. Dehydration ⬇️
Dehydration can cause dry skin in dogs, just as it can in humans. Dogs primarily regulate their body temperature through panting, which can lead to a significant loss of moisture. If this lost fluid isn’t replaced adequately, it can lead to dehydration, causing dry skin and other health issues.
Ensuring your Aussie has constant access to clean, fresh water is the best way to prevent dehydration. Encourage regular water intake, especially during hot weather or after exercise. Monitor your Aussie for signs of dehydration such as lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums, and decreased urination. If you suspect your dog is severely dehydrated, seek veterinary care immediately.
Should You See a Vet for Dry Skin?
While dry skin can often be managed at home, it’s important to consult a vet if the condition persists or if it’s accompanied by other worrying symptoms.
Chronic dry skin, excessive scratching, hair loss, sores, changes in behavior or appetite, or signs of infection like redness, swelling, or odor all warrant a vet visit.
Treating Dry Skin in Aussies
Let’s run through the basic treatments for dry skin for each cause we’ve highlighted above.
If allergies are the culprit, identify and eliminate the allergen. This could mean switching to a hypoallergenic diet or using hypoallergenic bedding and toys. Your vet may also recommend allergy medication or shots. Due to the difficult nature of treating allergies, it’s best to get help from your vet if you suspect this is the issue.
2. Fleas & Ticks
For fleas and ticks, ensure your dog is on a regular parasite prevention plan. Use vet-approved tick and flea treatments to keep these pests at bay. Give your Aussie a thorough inspection, spreading their coat and looking at their skin to determine whether fleas or ticks are present.
To counteract the effects of weather, consider using a humidifier in dry conditions and limit your Aussie’s exposure to harsh sun. Using a dog-friendly moisturizing lotion can also help. Keeping your Aussie sufficiently hydrated will impact this greatly.
Only bathe your Aussie once every 3-4 months or when absolutely necessary. This will avoid stripping their coat from too many natural oils and preserve it’s moisture. Additionally, owners should only opt for a natural ingredient shampoo, again to avoid stripping those natural oils.
5. Skin Infections & Conditions
Infections and other skin conditions require veterinary intervention. Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe medication, special shampoos, or other treatments.
Consider whether your Aussie has a food allergy, and if so, phase this ingredient out of their diet. Believe it or not, chicken, beef, pork, and lamb are all common allergens, despite how frequently they are used.
Ensure your Aussie is getting on well with a premium diet. It should be high in protein, medium to high fat, with low carbs. Owners should also make sure the formula is high in Omega 3s and DHAs, and if it isn’t consider supplementing this into their diet.
Ensure your Aussie is drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Investing in a dog water fountain can encourage them to drink more.
Remember, while dry skin can be uncomfortable for your Aussie, with the right knowledge and resources, it’s a manageable issue. Always consult your vet for any concerns regarding your pet’s health.
Maintaining Healthy Skin in Australian Shepherds
While treating existing dry skin is crucial, it’s also important to maintain your Aussie’s skin health to prevent future issues. Here’s how you can do it:
1. Regular Grooming ✅
Brushing your Aussie regularly can distribute natural oils evenly through their coat, promoting a healthy skin and reducing dryness. Make sure to use a brush suitable for their double coat. The AKC offers excellent advice on grooming for different dog breeds, including Australian Shepherds.
2. Balanced Diet ✅
Feed your Aussie a balanced diet that’s rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins. If you’re unsure what type of food is best for your dog, consider consulting with your vet or a pet nutritionist.
3. Regular Exercise and Hydration ✅
Regular exercise and hydration are key to your Aussie’s overall health, including skin health. Make sure they get plenty of exercises and have access to clean water at all times.
4. Regular Vet Check-ups ✅
Routine vet check-ups can help spot potential skin issues before they become a problem. Your vet can give you advice tailored to your Aussie’s individual needs.
Dry skin in Australian Shepherds is a common issue, but with the right care, it’s entirely manageable. Remember to look out for the signs, understand the potential causes, and know when it’s time to visit a vet. By following these guidelines and maintaining regular grooming and a healthy lifestyle for your Aussie, you can ensure they have a comfortable, itch-free life.
Remember, while this guide is a great starting point, it’s not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always consult your vet if you have concerns about your Aussie’s health.