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German Shepherd & Dry Skin: (5 Causes + Solution Tips)

Dry skin is something many German shepherds suffer from at some point in their lives. This article explains the 5 main causes of dry skin in GSDs, what you can do to help, and when to see your veterinarian.


Symptoms Of Dry Skin In German Shepherds

Check out the following list of symptoms that could indicate your German Shepherd has dry skin. Note, it’s not just dandruff to look out for:

 Dull Fur
 Hair loss
 Redness on the skin
 Biting or chewing skin/fur

Your German Shepherd could have dry skin, without even having dandruff, so it’s important to be observant and know all of the symptoms.

With that being said, the first signs owners usually notice is either excessive scratching or white dandruff in the coat of your GSD. Some German Shepherds have darker coats than others and this will affect how easily you may spot it.

5 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Has Dry Skin

Let’s run through the following common reasons why your German Shepherd has dry skin.

Allergies and over-bathing are the two most common causes of dry skin in German Shepherds. Other reasons include parasites, infections, zinc deficiency, and underlying health issues.

1. Allergies (Food, Environmental, Seasonal)

Allergies are extremely common among dogs, just like they are with us. German Shepherds are known to be sensitive eaters, and this is mainly due to having various food allergies.

Foods like soy, corn, wheat, dairy, eggs, chicken, lamb, beef, and pork are all classed as common allergens. You might be surprised to have seen the rage of popular meats on this list, but it’s true. Despite being used in nearly all dog food, chicken and beef are allergens. Veterinary Study Supporting This.

Environmental allergies are also common and is described as being hypersensitive to substances like dust, plant pollen, and mold. These kinds of allergies normally directly affect areas of skin where the fur is thin, like the belly and paws. Redness, itching, and flaky skin can form as a result.

2. Over Bathing With Shampoo

Although we love to keep our German Shepherds smelling fresh and feeling soft, over-bathing can lead to big problems, and dry skin is one of them. GSD’s should only be bathed 3-4 times per year.

Frequently using shampoo will strip away your German Shepherd’s natural oils from the coat and skin. This happens because nearly all dog shampoos contain harsh chemicals, alcohol, and parabens.

These oils are essential for keeping his skin moisturized and his coat strong and shiny. Without them, dry skin is just one of many big problems waiting to happen.

Not only this, but your German Shepherd may have contact dermatitis, which is an allergy to certain fabrics, materials, and chemical products. Shampoo falls into this category.

3. Parasites

There is a range of parasites that could be causing dry skin on your German Shepherd. While this is more unlikely than the first two reasons, it’s still important to be aware of.

Parasites such as Canine scabies (mange), Cheyletiellosis, lice, or mites can all cause serious health problems greater than just dry skin.

Dry skin, dandruff, excessive scratching, and visible insects are all signs of parasites. The parasites themselves can be very hard to see, but their droppings and their eggs can be easier to spot.

If you are unsure, please visit your Veterinarian for a professional check-up as parasites can lead to serious health concerns.

4. Infections That Can Cause Dry Skin In German Shepherds

Dry skin can be caused by some of the following common infections:

Yeast infection: These infections usually affect the ears and paws, the perfect area for bacteria to build and grow. If you see constant irritation around these areas, it may be due to a yeast infection.

Ringworm: This is a fungus infection in the shape of a reddish ring (it’s not actually a worm). It’s found on the skin around the paws, head, legs, and ears.

Folliculitis: When certain bacterias from the skin of your GSD compromise a healthy hair follicle, it can become inflamed. This is then known as folliculitis. The infection can cause redness, bumpy skin, itchiness, and even swelling.

Although dry skin is bad, these infections pose a larger healthier risk if left untreated.

If you suspect your German Shepherd has an infection, you will need to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

5. Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency (zinc-responsive dermatosis) is a serious condition that affects a large number of dogs from all breeds. Although there are more susceptible breeds to ZRD than German Shepherds, it still affects a large number of the GSD population.

Zinc deficiency either happens due to malabsorption or maldigestion. Zinc is the second most important mineral in a dog’s body, so when there isn’t enough of it, many serious health issues arise.

When zinc is not properly absorbed, it affects proper cell division, which in turn, can lead to dry flaky skin.

Dry skin is one of many symptoms of Zinc Deficiency, others include digestive issues, disrupted immune system, organ failure, or seizures.

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Vet-Approved Ways to Solve Dry Skin In GSDs

The correct treatment of dry skin will undoubtedly depend on what’s causing it.

And, although this article has so far been extremely helpful 😉 nothing beats visiting your veterinarian for a full health check-up, so that should ideally be your first priority.

However, below are some of the ways you can tackle each cause outlined above.

Food Allergies

Elimination diets are the easiest and best way to weed out a certain ingredient that doesn’t work well for your GSD. Once you have identified the culprit ingredient, be sure to use a kibble that doesn’t contain it.

Environment Allergies

Whenever pollen and hayfever season kicks in, keep your GSD indoors more often and your windows shut. Try to keep your house as clean as possible and dust-free. Vacuum carpets often and keep your GSD’s bed area very clean.

Reduce How Often You Bathe Your German Shepherd

Limit bath times to once every three to four months, or 3-4 times per year. If your GSD can get away with less bathing than this, even better.

German shepherds are naturally hygienic and do not need frequent bathing. When you do come around to bathing, be sure to use a natural-ingredient shampoo that avoids the use of harsh chemicals. This one is our favorite (Amazon)


If you suspect your German Shepherd has parasites, the only thing you should do is call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.

It’s very important that your vet becomes aware of this issue, and they will best guide you in the right direction to get rid of them, whether through medication, topical ointment or shampoo.


Whichever infection your German Shepherd has, she will need specific medication to deal with that.

So, like with parasites, if you suspect your GSD has a yeast infection, ringworm, or folliculitis, then you should visit your veterinarian asap.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency affects so many dogs, and because of this, has a lot of research behind it. First, you will need to visit your veterinarian so they can diagnose the deficiency.

After that, there will be a range of options for you from dietary changes, specific dog treats, types of kibble, supplementation, or medication.

This is original content produced and published by The Puppy Mag

Preventing Your German Shepherd From Getting Dry Skin

Despite there being several causes that are out of your control, there are still a range of best practices that you can follow to minimize the chances of dry skin.

Ways to prevent dry skin on your German Shepherd:

Don’t over-bathe your German Shepherd
Use only a natural ingredient and mild dog shampoo (our pick)
Keep your GSD’s bed very clean and as dust-free as possible
Keep your home as dust-free as possible
Take him outside less if pollen is currently high
Use a premium brand of kibble that avoids common allergens (our pick)
Avoid table scraps or any human food
Regularly brush and inspect your German Shepherds coat
Keep him well exercised
Schedule routine check-ups two or three times per year

While you can’t always prevent these kinds of health issues, as long as you are doing your part and keeping your German Shepherd healthy, you stand a good chance at avoiding them.

Visiting Your Veterinarian

Dry skin is the no.1 reason why dogs go to the vet in the first place. So if your GSD has some dry skin issues, you aren’t alone!

Dry skin can start off controllable and curable, but if left, can develop into something worse.

The dry skin itself may be the symptom of a much larger health concern… This is why it’s crucial to visit your veterinarian when you can.

Remember that there is no wrong moment to visit your veterinarian other than too late. So if you are unsure, play it safe, and visit them as soon as you spot dry skin issues.



Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.