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Keeping your dog's skin supple and moist isn't just a matter of applying lotion or cream as you would to your skin. It's a total body effort that starts from the inside out.
Start with Diet
You are what you eat, and so are our dogs. Feed a good quality balanced food, whether it's kibble, canned, raw or homemade. Read the label on the food you buy to be sure the protein source is first, followed by other whole ingredients. Food should be free of wheat, corn, soy or by-products. Look for a food that includes fatty acids, such as omega 3 and 6. Food is the first step to the health of your dog's skin.
If your dog's food isn't providing enough fatty acid, consider adding a good quality oil to supplement it such as salmon, krill or coconut oil. Sunflower, flaxseed or safflower oil can be used as well. Avoid over-supplementing with oils, though. Too much can upset your dog's stomach.
Discuss the addition of supplements with your vet before adding them to your dog's diet. Your vet will instruct you on the appropriate amount to feed for your dog's weight and needs.
Add More Water
Water does many things for your dog, besides keeping his system healthy. It adds moisture to his skin. Pinch the skin at the back of your dog's neck. If the skin quickly falls back into place, he's hydrated enough. If it takes longer to return to normal, your dog needs more water. Ideally, a dog should drink 1 ounce of water per pound of his weight each day. If he doesn't, his skin may be dry.
Keep your dog's skin healthy on the outside by bathing him with canine shampoos designed to add moisture, such as those with aloe or tea tree oil. Use an oatmeal rinse if your dog has dry skin. Mix 1/2 cup of oatmeal to 2 quarts of water and boil it for 10 minutes. Let it cool and strain it. Finish your dog's bath by rinsing with the mixture and then rinsing again with warm water.
Brush your dog regularly, at least weekly, to distribute the oils in your dog's coat, remove dead hair and stimulate his skin. Mist the coat with a spray bottle filled with water before you brush if his coat is dry. Add a drop of essential oil such as chamomile to soothe and moisturize while you brush, or use a leave-in canine conditioner.