As the temperature drops and home heating systems kick on, the resulting dry air can rob your dog’s skin of essential moisture and cause dry, flaky, sensitive skin. Dry skin can be just as irritating, itchy and uncomfortable for our dogs as it is for us. So if dry winter skin is making your dog miserable, here’s what you need to know.
Simply put, dandruff is dry skin cells that have flaked off of the skin’s surface and are visible either on the skin, in your dog’s coat or anywhere your dog tends to frequent. Known as seborrhea in veterinary-speak, dandruff occurs naturally as new skin cells replace old ones which are then shed into the environment. During winter months, dry skin might not seem like a big deal — although it can be unsightly and very uncomfortable. However, a buildup of dandruff can be a sign of a more serious health problem.
Increased dandruff has several causes
The culprits behind dandruff and flaky skin in dogs include:
- Grooming, either too much or too little
- Poor nutrition, especially a lack of essential fatty acids
- Skin infections
- Hypothyroidism (inadequate thyroid hormone production)
- Cushing’s disease (excessive cortisol production)
Even if you suspect that your dog’s dandruff is caused by the dry winter weather, it’s a good idea to talk with your veterinarian in order to rule out more serious issues. And if you notice your dog’s dry skin is accompanied by other troubling signs, a trip to the veterinary clinic is definitely necessary.
Tips for managing your dog’s dry skin
Once your veterinarian has confirmed that your dog’s dandruff and itching are caused by dry skin, here are five tips for managing his or her skin and coat during cold weather:
- Brush your dog at least once or twice daily to remove skin flakes and loose hair. Not only will brushing help your dog feel good and keep his or her coat shiny, but it also helps stimulate and distribute the skin’s natural oils that form a protective, moisturizing barrier.
- Bathe your dog less frequently during winter months since bathing can remove the skin’s natural oils and valuable moisture. If bathing is necessary, use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner made specifically for dogs. Lukewarm water instead of hot water cleans as effectively but doesn’t dry out the skin as much.
- Run humidifiers in your home to add some much-needed moisture into the air.
- Feed your dog a high-quality, nutritionally balanced food, preferably one with optimal levels of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as Diamond CARE Sensitive Skin Formula for Adult Dogs. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin and may benefit dogs with skin and coat problems. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian before switching your dog’s food.
- Provide plenty of fresh, clean water to help your dog maintain his or her hydration. Even mild dehydration can contribute to skin flakiness and dryness. To encourage greater water intake during winter months, consider adding warm water to your dog’s dry food or adding a splash of low-sodium broth to the water dish.
If your dog does have dry, flaky, itchy skin this winter, you should know that you’re not a bad pet parent and that you’re not alone! Seasonal dry skin can be a concern in dogs just as in people — and it’s not a life-threatening condition. Changes in grooming practices, adding moisture to indoor air and a high-quality dog food can help reduce and possibly eliminate the effects of winter’s dry air on your dog’s skin and coat.