LABfan Zac’s Question:

I have a 5 year old black lab and her skin is very dry and flaky. Is there anything I can do to help her out? It smells awful and makes the house stink no matter how often we clean!

It's a Lab Thing Dear Labby Black Labradors Skin and Coat

It’s a Lab Thing:

I can personally say that Brody went through something very similar as well as Saban when we first started Fostering him. They also were shedding more than usual as well. We took a number of steps to help resolve the problem, but what we found was that the type of food we were feeding Brody was playing a major role. The quality of his original food had been downgraded so we switched to a Acana Grain-Free Pacifica that is high in fish and Omega-3. Plus we added some skin and coat supplements just to give a little extra umpff. 😉 

It's a Lab Thing Dear Labby Black Labradors Skin and Coat 1

We found the addition of supplements really helped in repairing Saban’s coat, which was a dry, brittle and stinky when we first started fostering him. Now with the combination of quality food and supplements their coats are soft and shiny. The Shedding has been minimized as well. We have switched from the crushable tablets to Cloud Star’s Dynamo Skin & Coat treats. Makes it a lot more convenient.

It's a Lab Thing Cloud Star Dynamo Dog Treats -5-2

I have also heard of some other home remedies as well.

Additionally, be careful how many times you give them a bath. Harsh soaps and frequent baths are not good for a Lab’s skin and coat too.

LABfans, what have been your experiences with dry flaky Labrador skin and coat?

61 Responses

  1. TONI

    My dog constantly itches herself and also bites at her skin to the point it’s raw. She has been tested for allergies and we have tried different foods, etc etc. I think it is anxiety; she is a very anxious dog; she is 10 yrs. old. What can we do or give her to relieve her anxiousness?
    Thank you.


      Children’s Dimetapp ….. ask the vet for a syringe so she./ he gets the exact amount they need.

    • Pam

      When my boy had dry skin, it was so itchy he scratched his chest until he bled. It turned out to be his food. I was using Science Diet at the time. It was loaded with chemicals and CORN hulls. Corn is a dog’s worst enemy. There was nothing in that food that was edible. I switched to a better grade food and it never happened again.

      • Debbie

        Pam…..what food did you switch to? Our Lab Yogi was eating Science Diet too.

  2. Cathy Cockerill

    My chocolate had the same problem and I added salmon oil to her diet. She also gets a grain free diet for allergies. She sheds very little and her skin is great. She will still flake a little when she gets gets upset but her vet says it is because of her allergies. It goes right away when she calms down.

  3. LeAnne Clark

    Couldn’t have stated it any better myself. We are what we eat and so are our wonderful Labs, 🙂 Mine has allergies which added to her skin issues. One of the suggestions to dealing with her itchiness was to give her a regular bath. I discovered on my own that instead of a “full” bath just a good rinsing helped to take the allergens off of her and reduce the itching and flaking. Good luck, Zac.

  4. Meghan Walsh Conger

    I have a 6yr old lab and have used Head & Shoulders for years and given her an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement (from Vet called AllerG-3. She’s takes it once a day. but if its bad they can take it 2. I always get people asking me what I bath her in because she’s so shiny and their jaw drops when I say “Head & Shoulders” i buy the 2 in 1 at Costco. Good Luck, I hope this helped!

  5. Sarah Murphy

    Look at her diet. Our Beth (my profile pic) is a rescue and came to us very itchy and flaky. We tried all sorts of different complete foods and none helped. Then we started feeding her a raw diet and it cleared up within a couple of weeks

  6. Linda Coyne

    A better quality dog food for sure, and then we have always given our Labs Brewers Yeast and a multi-vitamin.

  7. Joelle

    So far I’ve been lucky, my chocolate lab has a great coat and skin, and partly I give credit to the President’s Choice Nutrition First dog food. There is no wheat, soy or corn/corn gluten and it has salmon oil as well as many other healthy items in it. We know a lady with a black lab and her dog is a guide dog. She adds fish oil to her dogs food and the dog’s coat and skin are awesome! I’ve recently read that fish oil is really great for dogs and helps more then just the skin, it also helps joints and may help the thyroid. A vet can tell you the correct dose for your dog’s weight 🙂

  8. Jennifer Brand

    From personal experience, be very cautious about which treatments you use. I learned to my black Lab’s cost that Tea Tree Oil is highly toxic to animals and causes liver failure. I’d been using a topical TTO cream to treat his dry and allergy prone skin (which could also stink in summer) and while it worked a treat, it led to a 7 day stay in the vet’s and a very sick dog.
    While researching alternative treatments to TTO, I discovered that Aloe Vera is also dangerous to dogs, as are many seemingly ‘safe’ over-the-counter topical treatments.

    A gentle baby shampoo works well, just make certain that it has been rinsed off thoroughly.

    I was also given Hibiscrub by the vet, which is what they use to scrub up with prior to surgery and is safe to be used diluted down.

    Good luck fixing it, I still have a sofa which has that lingering smell, despite having been professionally cleaned twice.

  9. Joelle Cullen Bedding Taylor

    Fish oil does so many great things for dogs including their coat/skin it also helps with the joints and possibly thyroid 🙂 We love the President’s Choice Nutrition First dog food for our chocolate lab. It’s as good as the most expensive dry dog food but half the cost with no wheat, soy or corn/corn gluten added!

  10. Rainer Gartz

    I had great success with a hair conditioner called “Head and Shoulders” . It contains Pyrithione Zinc a very effective remedy for flaky skin. One application and a 5year problem was solved overnight, magic!!! I use it in conjunction with a tee tree shampoo.

  11. Cheryl Majewski Wozny

    in addition to good quality food, fish oil & raw eggs, talk to your vet & have her thyroid tested. our black lab’s was out of whack, req’d an inexpensive daily pill. i did the fish oil supplements & got a prescription shampoo & conditioner from the vet (YEP!) & in about a month his coat was silky & shiny. couldn’t believe the difference (his was flaky, patchy & very dry). good luck!

  12. Tania

    My black lab had same issue. In addition she is allergic, also to soap. She got better after we move from tropics to a dryer place (Europe). But she was improving even before that. We stop the regular bath for cleaning purpose. Only for refreshing. To really clean her skin, the best is mud. The soil helps to get rid of the oily and dirty of the pollution. No soap needed. She does not have any bad smell, if that will be the question. Actually is the opposite. The glands reduced activities if natural is not neutralized by soaps. Her coat is gorgeous.
    We also add 1 spoon of olive oil on her food, for omega daily dose. I hope that helps.

  13. Mary Fullem Hembree

    I put a teaspoon of vegetable oil in our dog Morgen’s food twice a day and his coat is beautiful. Our vet recommended this.

  14. Lynn Stacy Smith

    I’m a huge fan of Canine Caviar for my lab. He’s eaten it his entire life and his coat is shiny, he smells good, and he’s had one bath in his entire 2 years! Our breeder taught us about Canine Caviar AND warned us against washing labs too much. She said they rarely need baths with soap, that it messes with their natural oils in their coat. But the Canine Caviar has everything he needs without any supplements. You should check out their website or FB page. They have TONS of stories where their foods fix dogs’ skin.

  15. Rose Kahn

    when they SMELL its the biggest clue they have a skin infection..yeast or bacterial…cephalexin anti biotics and medicated baths are needed first as well as better grain free food or raw and fish oil, coconut oil etc…TAKE TO THE VET ASAP!


    My Terrier, Dachsund, Retriever mix has a flea allergy which causes him to have dry, flaky skin. He also loses his fur and gnaws on himself. I had to give him the flea pill as well as children’s dimetapp from a syringe . This has helped him get back to “normal.”

  17. Diane

    My lab mix went through the itchy skin and ears and discharge from eyes. Her entire 1st year of life she had tummy issues too. She would just stop eating and then I’d have to give her new food and then she’d eat it for awhile then stop again. Finally found a vet who practices both eastern and western vet medicine. She said that hunting breed dogs don’t do well eating grains and many popular dog foods have grain. So my dog gets a gluten free/grain free food now from Honest Kitchen. She’s been eating it for the past 3 years and loves it. I brush her weekly and use doggy wipes after hiking once or twice a week so I don’t have to bath her often and she doesn’t smell bad. When the season’s change I notice a bit more shedding and itchiness but then I add local raw honey to her food once a day to help with allergies.

  18. Cheri Lockwood

    I use Omega EFA capsules and also shampoo with PhytoVet EFA. It worked wonders with my black lab. Smells good too.

  19. Lis

    if in UK, try one of the James Wellbeloved range of foods, careful regulation in UK. My Lab on Adult Turkey and Rice light, which she adores as she needed to lose 2kg and was sensitive to most other diet including Royal Canin. Now have happier dog, coat gleams, skin better, tummy upsets nil, cystitis down by 90%, more confident dog, oh and the weight was off in 4 weeks, with no change to her exercise, which was good. I use gentle dog shampoo only, and good grooming, using good quality brush ( dandy and body brush) and clean those regularly. Only oily stinky coat once every couple of months, and also careful on regular bedding wash on something that is not going to affect skin. Shake n Vac carpet cleaner is major cause of dog skin problems. Good Luck

  20. Lee Kuchenreuther

    go swimming! river or even bay water nearby?? otherwise its all about the diet..u get out what u put in!!! pay a little extra now for good food; pay less later!! Also NO wheat or corn or soy!!!! Most Labs have allergies from that.

  21. James Arentz

    Stop washing with shampoo!!! Don’t use any soaps at all, just wash once a week with water from the hose- towel dry and they’re skin will clear up just fine- you’ve probably washed all the natural oils out with all that bathing- believe me it’ll come back soon- just stop using soaps and shampoo

  22. Lee S Robertshaw

    I have a chocolate and a black lab, nothing has worked better than a simple water only shower once a week and simple inexpensive cod liver oil. DON’T be guilt tripped into buying the expensive stuff from the vets – it is no better than the stuff you get in the supermarket! My labs are shinier than a mirror now and everyone comments. Use a good complete dry food and, as always with Labs, don’t overfeed them or you and your lab will be punished in later years with a frightening list of ailments. Best wishes!

  23. BlackFoot Labradors

    What you are “seeing” DRY .. may in fact be over production of OIL leading the skin cells to reproduce rapidly, die, flake, and fall away… continuously adding OILS to his diet may in fact perpetuate this…. Labradors have a natural oil in their coat. Diet can indeed affect the oil over-production.underproduction but also … ALLERGIES (food or environmental). The smell to me may very well indicate a yeast infection on your dog’s skin. If you have not done so already – I HIGHLY recommend you seen a vet for a skin scrape and or a allergist for a serum test to see if your dog os suffering from allergies.

  24. Robin Hand

    If the problem is food related, a grain free food may NOT be the answer. My black Lab Brody had a significant worsening of his minor dandruff. The vet suggested Biotin supplements. When I looked it up, I read that biotin is in grains. Brody had been switched to a grain-free food prior to the worsening of the problem. I changed him back to a food with grains and the dandruff completely resolved…in about two weeks. He was changed to Precise Foundation. So, for some dogs grains are an important ingredient in the diet. I’ve had Labs for over 15 years and have been on the dog food roller coaster. My experience has been that a well formulated middle of the road food performs much better for my crew than any of the high priced, super premium foods. It’s all about what works for YOUR dog.

    The odor could mean a skin infection of some sort, i.e. bacterial or yeast. A veterinarian workup is indicated, but I’m guessing has already been done. A forum is a great place to hear about others experiences, please don’t put anything on your dog unless you ask a vet first.

  25. Katherine

    I have a 5 yo black male lab. He had this same problem, we treated it with a fungal shampoo veterinarian prescribed. Labs tend to get a yeasty sort of external infection that will go away once the shampoo is used. I

  26. Helen

    The best thing I found was brushing them daily. It brings out the natural oils in their skin/coat. Also we switched to a high quality dog food.

  27. Terri Stallone

    mine too doesn’t smell though and we switched to blue buffallo$$$$ and we do fish oil I am going to try this food thanx

  28. Chris Cocking

    Stop using shampoos, do that once only in a 4 – 6 week period. Each weeks simply hose the dog off with fresh water.

  29. renee

    We had that with our old blk lab but out newest member has the most shiny gorgeous coat! even our vet comments on it, but it is all in the diet, he gets hills science diet dry food, nothing else! and he is 5 mnths old and has had 1 bath so far and no baby shampoo isnt good, as its still not the right ph levels for dogs, you r better off with a doggy shampoo from the vet, dont use supermarket stuff, its not great quality!

  30. Wills Reid

    Get cod liver oil capsules it will help as it helped my dog when he had the dry skin 🙂

  31. Jill Anderson

    I feed raw so that is a BIG help to start. I also use coconut oil and rotate this between flaxseed and salmon oil. I rake them every day to get the undercoat and this helps a lot. I have found that feeding raw reduces any odour problems and definitely reduces stool production.

  32. Lynn Daoust

    Thanks so much for the information everyone has posted! My 2 yr. old boy has recently developed the same problem…he is eating Fromm’s 4 Star and I have started adding herring oil to his kibble. It never occurred to me not to use shampoo, but it makes sense that it would interfere with the natural oils in his coat. I am hoping to see less itchy and flaky soon!

  33. Sharon France

    Our 8 month old black Lab Molly has such a beautiful shiny coat people are always commenting on it. As soon as we got her I started adding a big spoon full of plain nonfat yogurt to her food once a day. I think that is really helping her coat because none of my previous Labs had coats this shiny. I did check with the Vet before I started giving her the yogurt and he approved it.

  34. Michelle Jones

    I give my Labs two fish oil tablets everyday and sardines mixed in food once a week. Although they used to have dry skin and dull coats, now their coats are healthy and shiny 🙂

  35. Patti

    My son has a 10 week black lab puppy. He is always biting himself due to itchy skin. Dave’s pet store suggested their dog food but this food seams to run right thru him as soon as he eats it. Is there another brand he can feed the dog, keeping him full and not running out as soon as he eats it. Is there a shampoo that helps with the dry skin?

  36. Judie

    I have had nearly all of these problems with my 3 yr old chocolate lab. I met a lab breeder in pet smart I was talking about all the problems I was having with my lab scratching, hair falling out, throwing up and ear problems and the vet keep prescribing new med. The breeder told me to change the food because it sounds like food allergies and chocolate labs are prone to food allergies he told me to buy one for sensitive skin and stomach. He had purina pro plan select for sensative skin and stomach in his cart so I bought a small dog have been eating it for over 2 years with no problems ..his coat is beautiful we get so many compliments..

  37. Mo

    So many great tips. I’m difinatly going to try some new things to help out my boy. His skin gets so itchy especially in the winter it seems like. I always used puppy shampoo with oatmeal in it and it always helped to soothe his skin but it would come back after a while