Dog in tub getting a bath

Grooming Dogs With Sensitive Skin 

By Diane Morgan


Your dog’s skin is more than a covering for his insides. It acts as a barometer for his general state of health. If your dog’s coat is dull or brittle and his skin oily, red, or scaly, it’s possible that he is experiencing troubles that stem from a poor diet, pests, or even an internal disease. 

WHY DOGS DEVELOP SENSITIVE SKIN

Dogs may develop sensitive, irritated skin for a variety of reasons. The initial cause can be fleabites, hotspots, or other irritation. Always maintain good flea and tick control on your dog since these pests are not only dangerous but can cause severe skin irritation. Some dogs may even develop skin problems when they are transported to an area with unfamiliar vegetation and new environmental stresses. 

HOW TO CARE FOR SENSITIVE SKIN

To care for your dog’s sensitive skin, groom him regularly and place him on a healthy, grain-free diet. Both of these measures will vastly improve your best friend’s skin health.

Clip Hair From Affected Area

The first step is to clip away the hair from the affected area. This will allow an affected area to dry and heal. The best tool is a good pair of dog clippers, like Magic Coat® Grooming Shears. The gently rounded tips reduce the risk of pinching your dog’s skin so that you don’t nick him and add to the problem.

Bathe Gently

Bathe your dog with a bathing glove or brush that provides a deep, gentle clean and helps circulation, which aids healing. Use an oatmeal-based canine shampoo, like soothing Magic Coat® Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo. The oatmeal and cucumber scent is particularly refreshing, and the oatmeal removes dead skin and hair, leaving a shiny, soft, healthy coat. 

When shampooing, use lukewarm water (hot water is drying and irritating) and shampoo against the direction of the hair to stimulate skin and circulation and to help your dog shed excess hair. Believe it or not, dogs have more sensitive skin than humans do, so it’s important to use products especially designed for them. Some dogs are even allergic to the detergents or fabric softeners we use when washing their bedding. Carpet cleaners can also cause irritation. 

After shampooing, follow up with a moisturizing conditioner like Magic Coat® Hypo-Allergenic Conditioner. Rinse, rinse, rinse. Leaving cleansing products on the skin is a major cause of skin drying and irritation. Towel-dry your dog—don’t use a blow dryer or any “finishing products.” 

After the bath, gently clean any raw or infected areas with a drying powder containing an antihistamine to stop itching. If you prefer, you can use a natural substance like aloe vera gel or witch hazel to help the injured skin dry naturally. 


It’s commonly believed that frequent bathing strips a dog’s skin of its natural oils. Perhaps this would be true if you were washing your dog in detergent, but a gentle canine shampoo with conditioner is good for your dog’s skin. Many more problems are created by bathing too infrequently than the other way around. Use disposable dog wipes between baths. 

Groom Every Day

To prevent skin irritation from developing in the first place, groom your dog every day. This will not only stimulate the skin and prevent matting but will remove pollens, grasses, burrs, and other irritants. Brush thoroughly right down to the skin using a soft-bristled brush. 

Feed a Grain-Free Diet

A poor diet also contributes to skin problems. Many dogs have difficulty handling grains, so a dog with sensitive skin can often benefit when switched to a non-grain food source. Grain fractions like corn gluten are especially suspect. 

Four Paws®, Magic Coat®, and Wee-Wee® products are available at major pet stores everywhere in the U.S. Please check with your local retailer for product availability near you.