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Dealing with the Winter Itch

by User Not Found | Dec 07, 2013

The winter season brings some of my favorite sounds….scratching, biting, licking, and chewing.  You’re probably driving your dog crazy, but not to worry, I have some helpful hints to restore the peace and quiet.  This time of year is tough on humans and dogs alike.  Even if you or your dog have mild issues that you don’t notice at other times of the year, they are amplified by the forced heated air we pump in to our homes and the low humidity levels in the air.  Unlike the summer itchies which are usually the result of fleas or allergies, winter itch is usually a result of dry skin.  It’s always a good idea to rule out any medical issues that may cause itching, but there are some things you can do to help get through the tough season. 

What is winter itch anyway?  Well, as I always say, there’s nothing good about winter.  The air is cold and windy, you go from warm to cold and back again throughout the day and keeping up with those kind of moisture changes makes you feel like a raisin.  It’s hard through these kind of extreme changes to keep the balance of chemicals, oils and bacteria the skin needs to stay soft, flexible and comfortable.  Instead we get dry, itchy and flaking skin.  Same goes for our pups, although they can’t lather themselves in lotion that smells of pine forests and fruit salads. 

Dandruff happens.  In the winter, it’s worse.  It’s basically dead skin cells that are visible on the skin surface or in the hair.  Problem is, this can become worse when the oil that is produced by the glands in the skin increases.  The dead cells can then clump and/or get stuck in the hair.  Bathing can help to an extent, but its best to use a moisturizing shampoo for sensitive skin along with a moisturizing rinse.  I just stumbled upon Burt’s Bees line of dog shampoos and I have to tell you they are wonderful!  I also highly recommend the EarthBath line as well, they both have excellent information right on the labels to help you choose the right product for your pup.  If you want to go old school remedy, you can always go with the oatmeal baths. 

Brushing is a fantastic way to help your dog’s skin stay balanced.  It stimulates blood flow and removes old skin and hair, allowing your dog’s coat to repair itself!

Your dog should already be on a balanced, nutritionally sound diet.  Canned food also contains loads of water, so it’s a good way to get your pup the extra hydration that they need.  You thought you were great before at dinnertime?  Just wait until you stir in a little canned food…come on, it’s the Holidays!  If your dog isn’t already on Omega 3’s, such as Fish Oil, they should be.  We’ve already discussed the great joint benefits from Omega 3s, but keeping your pup on this supplement can help the good oils stay at a healthy level even in winter months.  There are liquids, capsules and even topicals! 

As much as I wish I could control the outside temperatures, I can’t, and apparently neither can the weather people.  But you can control the environmental conditions inside by using humidifiers and fans.  Sometimes dogs can benefit from wearing a coat.  It can help with the extreme temperature changes if they are like mine who insist on going in and out and in and out and in and out whenever I’m home. 

It’s always a good idea to attack these problems with more than one approach.  If you’ve tried all of these things and your dog still isn’t responding, it may be a good idea to see your vet and rule out any medical issues that might be causing problems, such as hormonal imbalances, parasites and kidney or liver issues.  The more they scratch, the more likely they are to injure the skin that can result in an infection, so make sure you stay after them, even if it means pausing your favorite show to say “Hey! Knock it off.”

And one more thing….don’t forget Fleas.  I know, I know, it’s cold outside!  Annoying things like fleas are likely to survive a nuclear holocaust.  But that doesn’t mean these little buggers aren’t still hanging around.  Just yesterday it was 75 degrees outside.  Fleas can lay thousands of eggs during their fruitful months.  It is entirely possible that during the winter, some of those fleas have found a nice humid place in your house or on your pet to hang out and survive and be a pain.  Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there and just because your house isn’t infested doesn’t mean you are in the clear.  And if your dog has allergies, they can be exacerbated by fleas, even in the winter time.  Hence the reason it’s a good idea to use a flea/tick prevention, even now.

Hang in there.  Until they make a Dog n’ Body Works, we’ll need to help our furry friends stomp out winter itch.

Cheers!

Katie

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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