Although it sounds like a relatively minor matter, dry skin can make your dog pretty miserable. Dry skin is uncomfortable, itchy and flaky, and it can lead to a variety of secondary health problems.
Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can implement to help remoisturize your dog’s skin and improve the condition of his coat (not to mention improving his overall wellbeing). One of the most effective ways to help improve your dog skin condition is by switching his food.
Best Dog Food For Dry Skin: Quick Picks
- Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food [Top Overall Pick] A protein-packed, grain-free formula from a well-regarded brand featuring chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as first 3 ingredients. Includes omega-3s for improving skin & coat.
- Blue Buffalo True Solutions Perfect Skin & Coat [Salmon + Oatmeal] A wheat, corn, soy, and chicken byproduct-free formula loaded with omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to help promote healthy skin.
- Purina Pro Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach [Best Budget Pick] This salmon-based recipe is corn, wheat, soy, and chicken by-product free. Includes vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acid for skin health.
What Causes Dry Skin in Dogs?
At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, dry skin occurs when the skin lacks sufficient moisture.
A healthy dog’s skin is protected by a layer of oils that help keep it supple and prevent it from drying out. Dogs that do not receive enough of these oils in their diet, or who are allowed to remain dehydrated are likely to develop dry, itchy skin.
However, there are other causes of Sahara-like skin, including flea infestations, skin diseases and food allergies, so it is important to visit your veterinarian and determine the original cause of the dry skin.
You’ll need to address these issues before switching foods or taking other steps to improve your dog’s skin condition. Your vet can also treat any secondary problems, such as bacterial infections, lesions or bald spots, that often occur when dry skin is not treated adequately.
Best Dog Food for Dogs with Dry Skin
The following foods are some of the highest-rated options, designed to help eliminate your dog’s dry skin and get him looking his best again.
1. Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food
Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
High protein, meat-packed dog food
Protein-packed, grain-free formula featuring duck, chicken meal, and turkey meal as the first 3 ingredients. Fortified with omega-3s for better skin & coat.
About: Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is a premium dog food that relies on things like sweet potatoes to provide its carbohydrate content, rather than corn and other ingredients that frequently cause skin problems.
Merrick’s Duck recipe features a remarkable 42% protein (with dry matter analysis), and while recipes vary slightly, most of Merrick’s other grain-free recipes with other proteins also have impressively high protein compositions.
- 70% meat / 30% fresh produce composition provides the nutrients and calories your dog needs
- Fortified with ingredients rich in omega-3s to help promote skin and coat health
- Made without any ingredients sourced from China to help ensure food safety and ingredient purity
- Grain-free recipe may help your pet avoid food allergies
- Contains several pro-biotics to help ensure a healthy digestive system
Merrick grain-free dog food is made from the things your dog needs to have a healthy coat, and it doesn’t contain grains and other substances which may cause dry or itchy skin.
Producing a food with high-quality protein sources isn’t cheap, so you’ll have to pay a little bit more for Merrick than you will foods with more fillers. Some pet parents may be frustrated with how often chicken is included in the recipe, even when the main animal protein is something else.
Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes...,
Potatoes, Chicken Fat, Salmon Meal, Pea Protein, Potato Protein, Deboned Chicken, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Apples, Blueberries, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Mixed Tocopherols for Freshness, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Citric Acid for Freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.
2. Purina Pro Skin & Stomach
Purina Pro Skin & Stomach
Moderately-priced healthy skin formula
Made with easily-digested salmon and stomach-friendly carbohydrates like barley and rice. Plus, it’s corn, wheat, soy, and chicken by-product free! Also contains vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acid for skin health.
About: Purina Pro Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach is a salmon-based dog food designed to improve your canine’s skin and coat.
It is also designed to be gentle on your dog’s stomach, as it is made with easily digested proteins and carbohydrates.
While Purina is usually not a favorite brand among dog food advocates, this formula does seem to be fairly decent. It has a very short ingredient list and contains no corn, wheat, or soy.
- Salmon is #1 ingredient
- Is corn, wheat, soy, and poultry by-product free
- Includes no artificial colors or flavors
- Relies on easily digestible rice and oat meal for carbohydrates
- Includes prebiotic fiber to promote digestive health
- Contains Vitamin A and linoleic acid, and an omega-6 fatty acid for healthier skin and coat.
Considering this comes from Purina, it’s a pretty decent recipe, free of corn, soy, wheat, poultry by-product, artificial colors – basically, avoiding anything that could irritate your pooch.
It’s worth noting that while salmon is the #1 ingredient, the next animal protein is quite far down the ingredient list. Also, meat meals tend to have more protein than regular non-meal meats, which means this recipe isn’t as protein-packed as we’d prefer.
Salmon, Barley, Rice, Oat Meal, Canola Meal...,
Fish Meal (Source Of Glucosamine), Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-tocopherols, Salmon Meal (Source Of Glucosamine), Dried Yeast, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Chicory Root Inulin, Fish Oil, L-lysine Monohydrochloride, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dl-methionine, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7)], Calcium Carbonate, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Choline Chloride, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product..
3. AvoDerm For Skin & Coat
AvoDerm For Skin & Coat
Chicken & brown rice designed for a healthier coat
This premium dermatology-friendly food is wheat, corn, and soy-free with avocado included for improved skin & coat.
About: AvoDerm for Skin & Coat is a chicken and brown riced recipe designed to improve your pup’s skin and coat.
- Contains no wheat, corn, or soy, which often cause skin conditions
- Contains no by-products, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- First ingredient is chicken meal, followed by brown rice.
- Includes California-grown avocado, packed with vitamins A, C, E, as well as B6 for healthy skin and coat
- Made in the USA, plus all ingredients come from USA (except lamb, which comes from New Zealand, and duck meal, which comes from France)
Several owners have noted that their dogs stopped itching after switching to this formula, with a visible improvement in skin and coat too.
We would prefer if the 2nd ingredient listed was also an animal protein, rather than ground brown rice.
Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)...,
Rice Bran, Avocado, Dried Tomato Pomace, Flax Seed (Source of Omega 3), Natural Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Herring Meal, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Kelp Meal, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, a-Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Source of Vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Source of Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Selenium Yeast, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate), Avocado Oil, Rosemary Extract, Sage Extract, Pineapple Stem (Source of Bromelain), Papain, Dehydrated Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dehydrated Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dehydrated Bifidobacterium Thermophilum Fermentation Product, Dehydrated Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product.
4. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food – Potato & Duck Formula
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
Duck-based limited-ingredient dog food
This duck LID recipe is designed to be highly digestible, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives – ideal for dogs with food allergies and dry skin.
About: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dog Food – Potato & Duck Formula is an easily digested food that contains fewer ingredients than many comparable products.
The duck flavor will drive your dog’s taste buds wild, while the potato-derived carbohydrate content is easy for your dog to digest.
For those concerned about opting for a grain-free food, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient dog food formula has no added peas, pea protein, lentils, legumes, corn, wheat or soy. With peas and lentils as suspected culprits in the FDA’s DCM report (although we can’t stress enough – no one knows for sure what is causing the DCM cases), this recipe may be safer than most other grain-free options.
- 100% grain-free recipe is ideally suited for dogs with food allergies or dry skin
- Contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, as these items can often exacerbate skin problems
- Contains a limited number of ingredients to help reduce your dog’s exposure to potential food allergens
- Includes sources of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help support coat and skin health
Many customers have reported excellent, “almost immediate” results after switching to Natural Balance LID. Most have noted improved skin and fur condition, and many note that their dogs digest the food very well and suffer from fewer digestive issues from the limited ingredient recipe. Additionally, dogs appear to love the flavor, which makes the process of switching foods easier.
Natural Balance LID isn’t cheap. It also clocks in with a lower protein and fat count that many other pricey dog foods, but in exchange you get a food that’s expertly crafted to clear up your dog’s skin and reduce allergic reactions.
Duck, Duck Meal, Potatoes, Cassava Flour, Sweet Potatoes...,
Brewers Dried Yeast, Sunflower Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potato Protein, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Menhaden Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salt, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Dl-methionine, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Source of Vitamin C), Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, D-calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Citric Acid (Used As A Preservative), Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
5. Blue Buffalo True Solutions Skin & Coat
Blue Buffalo True Solutions Skin & Coat
Chicken-free dog food designed to promote skin health
Specifically designed by the Blue Buffalo team to promote healthy skin and coat with ample omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
About: Blue Buffalo True Solutions Skin & Coat is a salmon-based dog food that is specifically formulated to help improve the health of your dog’s skin and the condition of his coat.
Additionally, because the carbohydrate content primarily comes from healthy grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and barley, most dogs digest the food very well.
- Salmon and salmon meal are the first two ingredients, for lean proteins
- Chicken and poultry byproduct-free to eliminate common allergens
- Contains no corn, soy, wheat, artificial flavors, or preservatives – which frequently cause skin and coat problems for some dogs
- Includes both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals and antioxidant-rich ingredients to ensure balanced and complete nutrition
Owners largely approve of this specialized Blue Buffalo formula, with many owners noting a reduction or elimination of their dog’s itching and scratching after switching to this formula.
It is worth noting that the protein composition of this food isn’t terribly high, clocking in at 26% (with dry matter analysis).
Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley...,
Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Canola Oil, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Peas, Pea Protein, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, DL-Methionine, L-Threonine, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Tryptophan, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Taurine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Lysine, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient
Grain-free, limited-ingredient salmon-based recipe
This limited ingredient formula features salmon as the #1 ingredient and is free from additives and ingredients causing skin issues and allergies.
About: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato is a salmon-based recipe that is grain-free.
This formula is limited-ingredient and seeks to avoid ingredients that commonly may cause stomach issues (and in turn, skin issues) for dogs. It does not contain gluten grains, chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs!
This formula is limited-ingredient and seeks to avoid ingredients that commonly may cause stomach issues (and in turn, skin issues) for dogs. It does not contain gluten grains, chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs!
- Salmon is the #1 ingredient and single animal protein source
- Relies on potatoes, peas and pumpkin – gluten-free carbohydrates for gentle digestions
- Contains no chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs
- Contains no artificial flavors or preservatives
- Also available in a lamb or duck recipe
Free of additives and ingredients that commonly cause allergy or stomach issues for dogs.
While salmon is #1 ingredient (and exclusive animal protein), it would have been nice to see the salmon meal further up the ingredient list for a higher protein count.
Deboned Salmon, Tapioca Starch, Potatoes, Peas, Salmon Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids)...,
Potato Starch, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Protein, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Caramel, Vitamin E Supplement, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Parsley, Kelp, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Oil of Rosemary, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Taurine, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Calcium Iodate.
How Do You Heal Your Dog’s Dry Skin?
There are a few different ways to try to fix your dog’s skin problems or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Assuming that your dog is actually suffering from dry skin and not another illness, you can try to implement any of the following strategies:
- Switch your dog to a food designed to support skin and coat health. Most dog foods promise to promote healthy skin and a shiny coat, no matter the ingredients they include. However, several commercial foods are made with skin-improving supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and other oils.
- Supplement your dog’s diet with omega fatty acids to help improve his skin and coat condition. You can purchase supplemental oils or capsules, and then simply add these to your dog’s regular food per the manufacturer’s directions. Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement is one well-rated option – or see our complete collection of the best fish oil supplements that may help to re-moisturize your dog’s skin.
- Encourage your dog to drink more water, which will help promote better skin health. This is not always easy to do, but you can do things like add a few ice cubes to your dog’s water or give him frozen treats with a high water content. You can also add a little bit of water to his food (don’t turn your dog’s food into slop — something along the lines of a 1/4-cup of water per 1 cup of dry food is adequate).
- Mix in some wet food with your pup’s dry food. As the name suggest, wet food contains more water than dry food (thank you, Captain Obvious). While there is nothing wrong with wet food, it is not ideal for your dog’s long-term dental health. However, by mixing a bit of high-quality wet food with a bowl full of dry food, your dog will ingest a little more water, while still keeping his chompers clean by chewing hard kibble.
- Assess the humidity level in your home. The humidity level in the average home is probably sufficient for most dogs. However, things like drafts, fans, air-conditioning units, fire places and heaters can dry out the air in the immediate area. So, if your dog’s crate or bed is located in such a location, consider moving things around or picking up a pet-friendly humidifier.
- Use a shampoo designed to soothe your pup’s sensitive skin. There are a variety of shampoos available that are designed to help moisturize and protect your dog’s sensitive skin, while also ensuring that his coat stays clean.
Signs of a Good Food for Your Dog’s Dry Skin
As I mentioned earlier, just about every dog food will promise to improve the condition of your dog’s skin and coat, but only a handful seem to deliver on this promise or include ingredients likely to be helpful in this regard.
Distinguishing the good from the rest is rarely easy, and ultimately, you’ll simply have to make the best decision you can and try it out with your dog to see if it works.
However, there are a few characteristics to keep in mind when shopping for a dog food that will help improve your dog’s skin.
1. Avoid foods with unnamed meats, meat-meals and byproducts
Not only are unnamed meats frequently associated with low-quality foods, it is important for you to know what meats are included in any food so you can avoid those that cause problems for your pup.
2. Try to find foods with several sources of omega fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids – such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — are important for your dog’s health in a number of ways, including skin health and coat condition.
A variety of different sources can be used to provide omega-3s, including flaxseeds, salmon and some algae. Omega-6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are also associated with improved skin condition.
3. Avoid foods with well-known allergens and problematic ingredients
Dry skin is not always caused by a food allergy, but you definitely don’t want to complicate the treatment of your dog’s dry skin by exposing him to well-known allergens.
Accordingly, corn, soy, wheat, dairy and egg are best avoided whenever possible.
4. Try to purchase foods made in countries with high food-safety guidelines in place
Unknown and potentially dangerous adulterants may make their way into the supply chain of many foods produced in countries with lax safety standards. Try to stick to products manufactured in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe or the United States.
Remember that you may have to experiment with several different foods before you find the right one that remoisturizes your dog’s skin. Just keep trying – it is well worth the effort.
Have you ever had a dog that suffered from dry skin? What kinds of foods helped? Let us know in the comments below.