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Cold Weather and Your Pet’s Skin

The weather is getting cooler and we all know that chilly temperatures can take a toll on skin health. It’s important to remember that dogs and cats are at risk for skin issues during the colder months too. The combination of cold air and low atmospheric humidity is drying, and indoor heating systems only make the problem worse.

If you’ve ever suffered from dry skin, you know how itchy and irritating it can be. For pets that can’t repeatedly apply moisturizer on themselves, the problem can be maddening. Irritation, flaking, and itching often leads to excessive scratching, which can cause injury and infection. During the winter months, take steps to prevent and treat your pet’s dry skin.

Here are a few tips for managing your pet’s dry skin and coat when the cold sets in:

1. Bathe your dog as infrequently as possible and don’t bathe your cat at all unless absolutely necessary. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, washing can worsen dry skin.

2. If you do have to bathe your pet, opt for a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Also, use lukewarm water.

3. Follow up any necessary bath with a species-appropriate moisturizing rinse. Remember, human products aren’t safe for use on animals, so don’t be tempted to use your favorite moisturizer on your cat or dog.

4. Brush your pet’s coat at least once or twice daily to remove skin flakes, loose hair, and dander. Dander buildup tends to be considerably more significant during the winter.

5. Skin and coat health begins with proper nourishment. Feed your cat or dog a high-quality, nutritionally balanced pet food.

6. Ask your veterinarian about providing your pet with an essential fatty acids supplement. These supplements benefit skin and coat health, along with cardiovascular and joint health.

7. Ask your veterinarian whether he or she recommends any other nutritional supplements, such as a multivitamin.

8. Run humidifiers around the house. These can add some much-needed moisture into the atmosphere. Just make sure they’re out of reach of your pet and can’t fall or pose any other dangers.

Just a note of caution: more serious conditions can resemble dry skin. Allergies, parasites, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, infections, organ dysfunction, and other problems can affect the health and appearance of the skin and coat. If you can’t successfully manage your cat or dog’s dry skin during the winter, see your veterinarian for advice. Also, if you notice other troubling symptoms accompanying dry skin, a veterinary visit is in order. Some signs that dry winter skin is not your pet’s only problem include a rash, red bumps, open sores, patches or widespread areas of hair loss, dull hair that can easily be pulled out, repeated foot licking or face rubbing, and other abnormalities.

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