Winter Ailments in our Furry Friends
By Jessica Lauren Melman, VMD
Believe it or not, skin problems in our furry friends are one of the most common reasons why people bring their pets to the vet. "Princess has an ear infection" or "Fluffy has been licking his paws more than usual this winter" are all too familiar to my ears. Winter's cold, dry weather, lowered humidity, forced heat, snow and increased indoor air circulation all bring on problems that we can easily manage in our pets. And if you live in the Northeast, you are likely very familiar with how rough the winter can be as most of us have had record amounts of snow this season! Below are several measures that you can take can take to prevent your pet from suffering from winter skin ailments.
Pets with dry skin may have dandruff, cracked/rough skin, a dull coat and itching that manifests itself with lots of scratching. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, bring him or her to your veterinarian to rule out a skin infection, which can also present with similar signs or symptoms. When bathing your pet, it is important to choose a moisturizing pet shampoo and conditioner, because regular shampoos and conditioners will only worsen dry skin and itching. Try to use shampoo designed for pets. Pets have a different skin pH than humans, and therefore, human shampoo can be irritating to your pet. DermaPet's DermAllay Shampoo and Leave-On Dry-On Conditioner are both moisturizing and contain oatmeal, which is a natural remedy to calm itchiness and inflammation of the skin. DermAllay Conditioner can be used as frequently as needed to help restore coat luster during the winter months. In addition, skin and coat supplements, such as DermaPet's Eicosacaps, will also help restore moisture to the coat, reduce flakiness and itchiness.
The rock salt and chemical ice used to help melt snow can be very caustic to our little friend's feet. To keep your pet's footpads from getting chapped and raw, you should wipe his or her feet with a washcloth or DermaPet's MalAcetic Wet Wipes after going outside. Another option is covering their feet with booties or shoes…That is if your pet will walk in them, and my dog will not! You should see the attire adorned by some of the NYC pooches. Just this morning, Quincy (my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) and I saw an adorable pup with yellow rubber boots and a blue fleece strutting on the sidewalks of Manhattan trying to avoid the snow.
It is also important to keep your pets warm. Don't leave them outside too long in the cold weather. And yes, go ahead and put that sweater on Princess, if she'll put up with it. It may help some, but you cannot solely depend on a sweater to keep your pet warm. I have seen some NYC dogs wearing nicer jackets than their owners. Embarrassingly, Quincy sometimes fits into that category.
Dogs with indoor allergies, such as those allergic to dust mites, insects and other allergens within your home, may become worse in the winter as they spend more time indoors. Pets may manifest these allergies by scratching or developing skin and ear infections that need to be treated by your veterinarian. Medicated shampoos, conditioners and flushes can alleviate some itching while also helping to treat infections. In addition, oral antibiotics or antifungal medications may be needed. Severe allergies may need to be treated with allergy shots or oral anti-inflammatory medications. Pet supplements rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DermaPet's Eicosaderm, can also help to maintain a pet's healthy skin when exposed to high allergen levels. Your veterinarian can prescribe the correct combination of medications, shampoos, supplements, etc. to keep Fluffy comfortable and treat his allergies and resultant skin problems.
Finally, humidifiers can be especially helpful in homes with forced-hot air heating systems, which tend to be especially drying to a pet's skin.
Spring is right around the corner. Cuddle with your pets to stay warm.