I can tell when the temperature is dropping and the heat’s cranked up simply by looking at my kids’ hands. Dry skin and cracked and often bleeding cuticles are the mark of winter on my boys. I soothe their chapped hands with aquaphor and remind them to take shorter showers and put on lotion frequently. Do they remember? Not usually, and then we’re back to treating the symptoms instead of heading the problem off by staying moisturized in the first place.
Our furry children’s skin often suffers in the winter as well, and this dry skin can manifest itself as dandruff-like flaking and brittle hair. There are several remedies and preventative measures you can take to protect your dog’s itchy, irritable dry skin. Check them out below…
Use a topical moisturizer or oil.
There are many over the counter moisturizers that can help your dog maintain a healthy coat, free of flakes. In the PetMD slideshow, 6 Tips for Treating Your Dog’s Dry Winter Skin, Nicole, A. Heinrich, DVM, recommends applying a moisturizer weekly to every other week, but also suggests consulting your vet--every dog’s coat is different. Coconut oil is also an option, and you don’t have to worry about your dog licking it, since it is safe for your dog to ingest, and can be healthy as well. Adding a little bit of coconut oil to your dog’s food can also improve his coat. According to Dr. Colleen Smith, DVM, “Coconut oil can increase energy levels, improve skin and coat, improve digestion, and reduce allergic reactions.”
Brush your dog.
Krisi Erwin, DVM recommends brushing your dog more often in the winter months. Brushing can act like a natural moisturizer, stimulating the skin’s oil-producing glands. Brushing can also be soothing to your dog, and encourage bonding time between you and your pet. Erwin cautions not to increase bathing, as baths can dry your dog’s skin even more.
Give essential fatty acids.
Adding zinc, vitamin A, eggs, and fish oils (particularly from sardines and herring) to your dog’s diet can cure him of his itching and improve the look of his coat. As always, it is important to check with your vet before modifying your dog’s menu.
Use an antihistamine.
Flare-ups between December and March can be a result of being inside more. Some dogs are allergic to things found in your own home. Dr. Heinrich lists dust mites, human or other pet dander, feathers, cotton, wool, and mold as just some of the many allergens that can affect your dog. An allergy test can reveal what might be bugging your dog and then you can choose to avoid that trigger, or if that is not an option, try an antihistamine or immunosuppressant medications.
Apply Vitamin E oil.
A dog’s nose can crack and become irritated in the winter, just like your lips. Try putting vitamin E oil on your dog’s cracked nose. Simply open up a capsule and rub the oil on the affected area. You may also use coconut oil to soothe a dog’s irritated snout.
Put down dark colored bird seed.
The chemicals used in ice-melters can tear up your dog’s pads, so be sure to wash his paws with warm water or consider dog boots if you must walk your dog on city streets that may be treated with these chemicals. For your own sidewalk and driveway, spread dark colored bird seed for traction that is safe for pets. The dark color of the bird seed absorbs heat and encourages melting. As a bonus, birds pecking at the seed will further the melting process by breaking up ice and snow. A win-win all around!!!
Your family -- human and furry -- don’t have to suffer this winter due to dry skin and cracked noses. Follow our tips and it’ll be smooth sailing from now until springtime!