Your Shih Tzu Dry Skin Problems

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 06-14-2023

Shih Tzu Dry skin can be miserable for the dog and frustrate for the owner.  If your Tzu has dry, itchy, flaky skin, just know that he is not alone and there is hope for finding the right solution and making both of you happy and relaxed again.  Dry skin is not limited to a certain age group or a particular gender.  Even very young puppies can develop dry skin.

Shih Tzu dry skin symptoms may start out with just a little itchy skin and some scratching but can get worse leading to hair loss, inflammation, infections, and a miserable dog (not to mentioned an upset owner)

What Causes Shih Tzu Dry Skin

If you are one of those people who have dry skin, you might wonder what’s all the fuss.  A simple case of dry skin couldn’t be that much of a concern, could it? In dogs, it may not simply be an instance of dry skin.

There is an assortment of conditions that all result in dry itch skin including parasites, allergies, skin dermatitis, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease to name a few.  Even autoimmune disorders and cancer can manifest as dry skin.

Tips for Dealing with Shih Tzu Dry Skin


Allergies are a big problem in Shih Tzu Dogs.  They are usually triggered by something in the environment such as an ingredient in the dog food, pollen, dust, grasses, and even flea saliva.   

Anything that the dog touches or is touched by can be a possible allergen.  Carpets, bedding or the chemicals used to clean the areas where they live are all potential causes of an allergy.

Allergies lead to scratching which causes the skin to become red and inflamed. An itchy dog will scratch to relieve the discomfort.  The dog’s nails can break the skin which can lead to infection. 

Infection results and antibiotics may be necessary along with the other treatments that will reduce the itchy feeling and the dry skin.

Dogs that are allergic to fleas will develop a flea bite dermatitis that causes intense itching and dry skin. 

Fleas and Other External Parasites

Fleas are not the only external parasite that can lead to itching and dry skin.    The parasites that cause different forms of mange, demodex mite, and the canine scabies mite can make the dog miserable. 

Sarcoptic mange also called scabies in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, and is highly contagious even to people.

Sarcoptic mange also called scabies in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei miteSarcoptic mange also called scabies in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Photo: Joel Mills Wikimedia Commons
Demodex canis miteDemodectic mange is caused by the Demodex canis mite. Photos: Joel Mills/Wikimedia Common

Demodectic mange is the most common form of mange in dogs and is caused by the Demodex canis, a parasite that lives in the hair follicles on dogs.  This type of mange is not contagious and does not affect people.

Walking dandruff or cheyletiellosis is caused by lice.  Any of these parasites can cause a dog’s skin to become dry and flaky. 

Bacterial and fungal infections are another cause of Shih Tzu dry skin but may also be secondary to a larger problem.   

Less Serious Causes of Shih Tzu Dry Skin

On the other hand, dry skin can be brought on by less serious causes such as dry climates, excessive bathing, cold temperatures and dry conditions, poor or inappropriate shampoos and conditioners, and poor diet.  Even poor grooming techniques can inadvertanly cause dry skin.

Dry Conditions

Dry Climates, Cold Temperatures and Forced Hot Air can make our skin dry and will do the same thing to our dogs.  Adding a bit of moisture to the environment can help.

Grooming Faux Pas

Grooming is vital to a clean, shiny coat, but too much or not enough can lead to dry skin. 

When planning your grooming routine,

Ideally, you should strive for the Goldilocks Principle. 

Not too much, Not too little, Just right.

Simple grooming techniques can help with Shih Tzu dry skin.

Brushing:  Too much brushing releases too much of the natural oils, distributing them over the hair and away from the skin.  Too little brushing allows mats to form which also leads to scratching and irritation on the underlying skin.  For the average pet Shih Tzu with a short clip, brushing and combing about 3 times a week should be sufficient.

Bathing:  We all love clean Shih Tzu dogs, and the most obvious way to assure that our dogs are clean is to bathe them.  Bathing should only be done with a proper pH balanced dog shampoo.  As much as we might love our personal shampoo and condition, these are not products that should be shared with our Shih Tzu. 

Shampoos and Conditioners:  Find a good quality shampoo and conditioner to use.  There are many shampoos on the market.  Even puppies need their own shampoo.  If you are worried about getting soap bubbles in their eyes, opt for a puppy tearless shampoo and not a human baby shampoo.

Poor Diet

 A low quality diet may not have the ingredients in the right quantities to provide the proper nutrition that dogs need every day.  Supplements can help, but it is always best to start with a high quality dog food.

Symptoms of Shih Tzu Dry Skin

Some or all of the symptoms may be present and if they do, suspect dry skin

  • Flaky skin
  • Dandruff
  • Scratching
  • Pimples (Canine acne)
  • Hair Loss
  • Inflammation or reddened skin
  • Odor
  • Scabs may be present as the dog’s nails break the skin

Treating Shih Tzu Dry Skin

It is often easy to dismiss the seriousness of dry skin by jumping to the first solution one finds while browsing the web.  For a simple case of dry skin that does not involve any secondary problems, that approach may be acceptable.  If the skin problems persist, the only way to know for sure what the underlying problem is to visit your vet. 

When there is a larger problem, a vet can treat both the problem and the dry skin. This is common sense, but you are likely to need the help of your vet. 

If it is parasites, eliminating them from the dog and the environment is the key. Not only will you need to get rid of all the fleas on the dog, but also treat the environment to remove the other life stages.  

Kleen Green Naturally is a safe product that removes dirt, germs, bacteria, odors and even pests such as bed bugs, lice, fleas, mites and others.

This product is safe to use around dogs.

If a fungal infection is suspected such as Ring Worm, that must be addressed before you will see any improvement with the dry skin. 

Likewise, other serious medical problems such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease must be treated at the same time as treating the skin conditions.

Antibiotics, antiinflamatory medications and drugs to reduce the itchiness are often prescribed in addition to treating the more severe underlying disease if present.

Simple Treatments for Simple Shih Tzu Dry Skin

  • Bathe less and use a high quality dog shampoo and conditioner.  
  • Switch to a high quality dog food
  • Add a humidifier if you live in a dry climate or if the winter chill and forced hot air is making the house dry.
  • Vitamin E capsules can help if there are small areas of inflammation.  Either poke a hole in a capsule or cut it open with a small pair of scissors.  Squeeze the Vitamin E onto the affected area and massage into the skin.  Vitamin E does not work well on Shih Tzu or other long coated dogs if the entire body is affected.
  • If your dog has severe itching that goes along with the dry skin, he may benefit from medicated baths.

Antihistamines may also be recommended. A good antihistamine that is safe to use in dogs is the generic form of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine).  You can use this product as long as that is the only ingredient 

Consider Coconut Oil  Feeding a little coconut oil every day will improve your dog’s coat and skin.  If the weather is cold, coconut oil exists in a solid form, and your dog may lick it off of a spoon.  If your environment is warm, the coconut oil will liquefy so if this is the case, you can dribble it onto the food.   

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are necessary for optimal health and healthy skin and coat health.  Many dog foods contain this but may not be adequate.  Fish oil is the best way to add this to the diet and most dogs tolerate if not love the taste. 

NuLife Natural Pet Health - Premium Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil For Dogs

This product also includes EPA and DHA, two omega 3 fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are both Omega-3 fatty acids.

This product will reduce dry, itchy skin and may ease other skin problems.  It is also useful for producing a shiny, healthy looking coat. 

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can help with any condition that causes inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin, and joints.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), important in brain and eye development in puppies and is recommended for pregnant or nursing pets.

There are also more reported benefits of omega 3 fatty acids including the reduction of inflammation caused by arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.  It also improves cognitive function, improves cardiovascular health and slows cancer growth.  

Combine Several Products into One

If you don't know what product works best for your Shih Tzu, consider one that includes more than one ingredient.  Granted, you won't know which ingredient actually made a difference, but it's worth a try and less expensive to start with one product and see  how your dog does.  I've had some great successful with PetHonesty, which combines several healthy ingredients into one small chew that you give daily.

It contains:

Colostrum (the same ingredient found in Mother's milk for the first 24-48 hours to boost immunity
Organic Turmeric (Anti Inflammatory and antioxidant to help with underlying problem)
Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil (Excellent source of fatty acids that helps treat and heal itchy skin)
Organic Licorice Root
Vitamin C
Probiotic Blend (Aids in creating a healthy gut)

This company also sells a hotspot spray that works well if your dog's allergies get really bad.  Hot Spot Spray for Dogs & Cats.   It is a Chlorhexidine antiseptic spray that can also be used on  wounds, skin infections, rashes, hot spots and itchiness.  This is a good product to keep in your first aid kit.   Check out the prices for both products on Amazon (below).

Prevent Shih Tzu Dry Skin

Once you get your Shih Tzu’s Dry Skin under control, it’s time to think about ways of preventing another episode of dry skin.  As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Always use a leave in conditioner when brushing or combing your Shih Tzu’s coat
  • Prevent parasties and treat immediately if even one is observed
  • Keep your dog on a high quality dog food (assure that any dog treats given are also of good quality)
  • Brush regularily but not excessively
  • Bathe using a good dog shampoo and conditioner
  • Add Coconut oil or Fish oil to your dog’s daily diet.
Shih Tzu Dry Skin Pin Image

Shih Tzu Dry Skin Conclusions

Shih Tzu Dry skin can be just a symptom of another underlying illness, or it could be caused by something in the environment. 

The only way to know for sure what is causing the dry skin is to have the dog examined by a veterinarian. 

If the dry skin is occurring because the dog lives in a dry environment, there are many over the counter remedies to allieviate the problem. 

If there is a secondary condition that accompanies the dry skin, the only way to get rid of the problem is to treat both the secondary problem and the dry skin.

You might like these

About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and smart knit crocheting.