Alleviate Dry, Itchy Skin with Shampoos, Humidifiers and More
It’s one of the most common problems in the winter for both pets and their parents: dry, itchy skin. Not only is it downright uncomfortable, but for pets, it can lead to excessive scratching, excessive licking and inflammation, too. So, how do you alleviate and soothe your pet’s dry winter skin?
- Use an oatmeal- or aloe-based shampoo the next time you give your pet a comfortably warm bath, Dr. Howe says. Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo is a good option, while Zesty Paws’ Itch-Soother Dog Shampoo contains both oatmeal and aloe vera. Don’t bathe your pet too often, though. Most dogs only need a bath every month or two, while only a few types of cats need regular baths (hairless cats, long-haired cats and cats who can’t groom themselves).
- Use a humidifier in your home. When it’s cold out, we naturally turn on the heater. But what you may not realize is, when you do, it takes moisture out of the air, leading to a drier environment that can irritate a pet’s skin. Humidifiers add water back into the air.
- Turn to supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like Vibeful’s Omega Skin & Coat Supplement. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet can help protect and encourage a healthy skin barrier. This will give your pet’s skin more resistance to cold weather. “Utilizing [supplements] targeted to skin health can help keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy during dry weather,” Dr. Howe says.
Moisturize Noses with Balms
Harsh winter weather can cause pets’ noses to become cracked, chapped and calloused. To protect and treat this area, use balms, like smith&burton’s Heal & Protect Soothe Balm for dogs and cats. Once applied, the balm relieves discomfort by moisturizing dry, damaged skin. Plus, it forms a protective layer from the harsh elements.
“Think of it like ChapStick for dry, cracked lips,” Dr. Howe says.
Some other balms we like include:
Protect Their Feet with Booties or Wax
Live in an area where it snows and the ground turns into an icy slip-and-slide? Protect your dog’s feet on your daily walks with booties.
More than a cute accessory, booties can help prevent frostbite. And while frostbite is not super common in pets, it can happen—so, better to be proactive. Plus, booties act as a barrier between your dog’s paws and freshly salted walkways, as salt can be corrosive to paws.
Our favorite protective dog boots are:
If your dog gives those booties a hard pass (or you need more time to train your dog to wear the boots), take the following three steps:
- Trim down paw hairs (especially on long-haired dogs) to prevent ice balls from forming between pads and toes.
- Rub a wax product directly onto their paws. Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Dog Wax is a popular option among pet parents. It forms a breathable yet dense barrier that not only protects against the salt and cold but also helps with ice accumulation.
- Wipe down your pup’s feet, legs and belly when you return from your walk, just in case those areas picked up antifreeze, deicers or other toxic chemicals.
Boost Your Pet’s Appetite with a Warm Meal
Pets need to eat more during colder months for two reasons:
- To maintain enough fatty tissue: “This acts as insulation for the internal organs, says Dr. Gillette.”
- To keep up with all the calories they’re burning from shivering so much: And with all that shivering, pets may need to consume two to three more times the number of calories. “Adding an extra meal or increasing the portion size of each meal can help pets take in the calories they need to maintain weight and body warmth for the winter months,” Dr. Gillette says.
To help keep your pets’ appetite (and body heat) up in colder months, Dr. Gillette advises feeding pets a warm meal. (Heating up food helps enhance the aroma, making it more enticing.) You can feed your pet a warm meal one of two ways:
- Warming up canned diets
- Adding warm water to dry food
If your pet isn’t eating enough during the winter, talk to your veterinarian about possible next steps.
Live in a warmer climate and spend more time outdoors with your dog during winter?
Consider boosting your dog’s diet with additional healthy calories to help them maintain a good weight or body condition score.
“Dogs [who] live in the South are actually more likely to be energetic and will have an increase in activity because of cooler temperatures,” Dr. Howe says.
Keep Pets Hydrated with Plenty of Water
Dehydration? In the winter? Yes! With winter’s dry weather and lower humidity, pets can easily become dehydrated. And not only is winter dehydration just as dangerous as summer dehydration, but it also looks very similar.
The common signs of dehydration are:
- Sleeping more
- Tenting of the skin
- Sticky gums
- Sunken eyes
To help keep your pet hydrated:
- Keep your pet’s water bowl filled with plenty of fresh water.
- Add water or broth to your pet’s dry food.
- Consider getting a water fountain, which can help entice your pet to drink more.
Limit Outdoor Time for Pets with Respiratory Issues
When the weather is below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), keep your pet indoors, especially if they have respiratory issues, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Pets with respiratory conditions may experience increased breathing difficulties if left outdoors for prolonged periods of time due to constriction of the airways in response to inspiration of frigid air,” Dr. Gillette explains.
Let them ride out the cold weather indoors with a plush heated bed, like the K&H Pet Products Thermo-Snuggly Sleeper Bolster Bed. This electric heated bed has soft foam walls that’ll cradle your pet—as well as a removable cover and pillow for easy cleaning.
Relieve Joint Pain with Supplements
During the winter months, one of the common issues cats and dogs face due to cold weather is joint pain, Dr. Howe says. “Atmospheric pressures may play a role in causing joints to expand and stretch already inflamed tissues in our arthritic pets.”
Supplements can help alleviate the pain.
Dr. Howe recommends pet supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and green-lipped mussel. They help reduce joint pain and inflammation, build cartilage, improve mobility and more. Vibeful’s Mobility and Joint Support Joint Supplement, for example, contains glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM.
“Joint supplements containing these ingredients can be helpful for geriatric pets or those with a previous orthopedic injury,” explains Dr. Gillette.
Check with your vet before giving pets supplements.
More Winter Tips for Pets: