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Dry Skin

Shih Tzu Dry Skin


Shih Tzu dry skin can develop at any time and affect a Tzu of any age...this is one of the most common skin problems of this breed.

It may be a slow process where you 1st notice a small area and then it progresses to a larger and more intense issue... Or it may come on suddenly, leaving you wondering what in the world happened!

It can make a dog very uncomfortable and aside from itching and discomfort, some canine dry skin problems can lead to hair loss... sores that become infected and more! Your Tzu puppy or dog may show signs of distress and leave you desperate to help him or her.

The good news is that most problems can be resolved relatively quickly....and the sooner that an owner notices and starts treatment, the sooner the dog's skin will go back to being healthy.
We will look at the causes and at treatments that are known to help. We will also discuss prevention. 
adult Shih Tzu with long coat

With their long, silky coat a Tzu needs to be groomed quite often. Even those owners who choose to keep their Tzu with a puppy cut trim will still need to brush the coat to keep it clean, tangle free and (many do this without realizing it), release oils from the skin that when brushed are dispersed over the coat, making it shiny.

There are 2 problems that can occur regarding this that can lead to Shih Tzu dry skin.
1 - While grooming is very important, if the dog is brushed too often, those oils that are naturally on the skin will be spread out onto the hairs too often....And this leaves the skin without the protection that it needs....And it dries out. Some owners don't even think about this possibility.... Some Tzu love being brushed.....Many owners will have their dog in their lap while watching a movie on TV, etc. and brush them. It does often feel relaxing for the dog and an owner may assume that the more the better.

Those with long show coats should be brushed and then combed at least every other day. Those with puppy cuts should be brushed about 1 time every 3 days. If you find that you are doing this out of habit and his or her skin is drying out, just do not pick up that brush and pat your dog instead!

2 - The 2nd issue that can happen is if grooming is done on a dry coat. Brushing or combing should never be done if the coat is completely dry. One should always first mist the coat with a leave in conditioner. If you get to a section that seems dry, pick up that spritzer and mist the section again.


This is another issue that involves the release of the skins natural oils. While we want to ensure that our dogs are clean it is also important that we do not bathe them too much. While you are scrubbing away with all of those suds, those oils are being taken away from the skin that lies beneath the hairs. When a dog is bathed too often, it does not allow the body enough time to produce oils to replace those that were washed away. Therefore, one should give a bath about 1 time every 3 weeks (unless the dog has gotten very dirty) and for show dogs, bathe him or her 1-2 days before show.

Another factor will be the chemicals in the shampoo that you choose to use. Some owners think that if a certain product offers great results on them, that it will do the same for their Shih Tzu. This is not true. Canines require a completely different Ph balance and human products will just not do.

One should always use a gentle quality canine shampoo, conditioners and leave-in conditions to prevent Shih Tzu dry skin.


Allergies can cause huge Shih Tzu dry skin problems. They can cause the skin to become red..this may be with or without bumps. The dog will try his or her best to scratch the intensely itchy area....And this often leads to broken skin. Once this happens, infection can set it and it just gets worse from there. (Also see: Allergic to a Shih Tzu

One of the most common canine allergies that causes dry skin is a contact allergic reaction. This means that something physical that the dog is touching is causing a negative reaction. This is often the carpeting...whether it is the material itself or cleaner that has been applied to it.

If this is the problem, the dry skin will often be most noticeable on the elbows and other areas that touch the trigger the most. The treatment for this is 2 fold. First, you will want to remove the trigger. This does not mean that you need to remove all carpets.... However, a blanket should be put down for your Shih Tzu to lie on. Try to place it in the same area that he or she normally relaxes...It will help him or her become accustomed to it.

Food allergies can also trigger dry skin conditions, although this is rare. Most food allergies cause intestinal distress and stomach issues. 

The 2nd part will be to treat the affected areas. Ahead we will discuss treatment.
Prevention & Treatment

For moderate to severe dry skin problems, it is highly suggested to bring your puppy or dog to the veterinarian. There, he or she can perform tests to determine the cause. The vet will also most likely prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication and medication to stop excessive itching.

In addition to that or for less severe cases, it is suggested to:
  • Only brush when necessary, as talked about above
  • Only give baths when necessary, as talked about above
  • Many dogs develop very dry skin in the winter. This is because the air is so arid. Use humidifiers in the house and mist your Shih Tzu with a leave-in spray to protect both coat and skin from the drying effects of cold, arid air.
  • Use a quality canine shampoo and conditioner formula that contains oatmeal and/or vitamin E.
  • For small affected areas, one may obtain vitamin E capsules that one can break open to reveal the liquid inside....This can then be applied to the area. 
  • Use a topical rescue lotion for moderate to severe dry skin. Apply this twice per day. If dry skin is on a Shih Tzu's paws, apply the lotion and then cover the paws with socks.
  • Whether or not it is a contact allergy that is causing the problem, place a soft baby blanket down for whenever your Shih Tzu is laying down....resting or sleeping. Make sure that it has been washed with a hypo-allergenic laundry detergent.
For recommended shampoo, condition, leave-in sprays and dry skin rescue lotions, look to the Shih Tzu Supplies page. 
Don't forget to become an AllShihTzu Member, so that you may receive reminders when we add any new informational pages. 
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