Winter Itches!

It happens every winter. Once the windows are closed and the heat is turned on, it’s like someone flips a switch and everyone’s got dry, itchy skin. You, me, Fido and Kitty!

At first you might think that your pet just has a case of the fleas (and it might very well be so take a close look!). He scratches more than usual, bites or licks more than usual. There may even be what are called “hot spots” that develop, which are basically sores caused from constant licking. Well the culprit might be that wood stove, that gas heat or just that dry inside air.

Dogs and cats get dry skin, just like people do! So if you’ve ruled out flea issues, try these few tips and see if things improve.

Bathe less! Bathing your dog too often can wash away natural oils that help protect the skin against drying out. So if you don’t absolutely need to wash Fido, don’t. If you do, see if your groomer has an oatmeal shampoo or one specifically targeted for dry skin.

If you do bathe, make sure to use DOG shampoo as people shampoo can be very harsh. And many times, you might just use too much and not get it all after rinsing. Dilute any shampoo you have – It will still work as well but won’t leave as thick a coating to have to wash off. Rinse VERY well. Sometimes improper rinsing (or not rinsing enough) can leave a residue on the skin which will actually make it itch more! Remember to rinse armpits and groin areas especially well – these are areas where excess shampoo tends to stay and it’s harder to wash out under there!

BRUSH your dog. Get a softer brush for daily use for shorter haired cats and dogs. Those metal brushes can be very brutal on the skin of both dogs and cats. It can actually tear the skin so be very careful. And a brush is better than a comb as the oils in the coat can be distributed better. This will stimulate the skin and the oil from the coat will help soothe irritations.

For longer haired dogs and cats, use a trick a friend of mine taught me. Get some people (or pet) conditioner. Put it in a spray bottle, dilute with at least half water. When you comb out the coat, spritz the dog or cat (you may need to put the spray on your hands and rub the cat down instead of freaking it out with a spray bottle!). This will not only help with keeping tangles down, but it will also condition the hair and create less of a static type issue.

Ad oil to the food! Ok, this might sound like a bad idea, but adding a bit extra oil to their food does help. I’m not talking about adding a HUGE amount – just a bit!

Lastly, don’t forget nails. Specifically Fido’s nails. Just like yours and mine, a dog’s nails get very brittle in the winter and will split, crack and peel. Unfortunately, a dog’s nails will split up the middle, causing extreme pain. So keep them short. If you can hear a dog’s nails clicking along the floor, they’re too long. Not only will keeping them shorter help them from splitting, but it will also help Fido from getting arthritic conditions in his knees, hips, elbows and shoulders! Long nails make dogs unable to walk squarely on their pads and will throw off their gate, causing pain through these joints.

If all else fails, obviously go see your veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know all the things you have done in an attempt to alleviate your pet’s dry skin and itching. There are certain medical conditions that will cause this reaction and only your veterinarian can tell for sure if one exists.

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