Stop Your Dogís Scratching

Stop Your Dogís Scratching

By Dr. Bruce Silverman for Exceptional Canine

Stop Your Dogís Scratching

You can slather moisturizer on your skin to help combat the effects of winter, but what can you do about your dogís discomfort? No breed is immune from getting dry winter skin, but dogs already prone to allergic skin problems tend to have decreased skin barrier protection, making it even more likely that theyíll suffer from seasonal flank alopecia (seasonal fur loss).

A four-pronged approach -- nutrition, grooming, parasite prevention and environmental control -- will help your dog maintain a healthy coat and prevent scratching that can leave his or her skin raw.

Itís better to prevent winter skin than it is to treat it. A nutritious, balanced diet is the root of all wellness, including healthy skin. Feed your pet a good-quality puppy or dog food containing nutritious animal protein derived from chicken, lamb, fish and/or egg. Foods with a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids not only support a healthy coat but also help prevent or improve winter skin. Ask your veterinarian for help if youíre not sure how to interpret your dog foodís nutritional information.

Bathing your pet too often can actually create skin problems. If your pet does need a wintertime bath, remember that some shampoos are better than others. Look for a protective hydrating shampoo. If you have a puppy, read the label to make sure the shampoo is safe for dogs of all ages. If your dog has exceptionally dry or irritated skin, skip the over-the-counter products and ask your veterinarian for a prescription-strength shampoo.

Parasite Prevention
Youíre not the only one who wants to hole up in a warm home for the winter. Fleas might have migrated into your house during the autumn months and set up residence on your pet and in your flooring or upholstery. Talk to your vet about effective, safe, all-season parasite treatments for your dog. He or she also can suggest products for eliminating parasites in your house.

Environmental Control
You might think a toasty home is healthy for you and your dog, but in reality, hot, dry air sucks moisture out of skin. Your closed-up home also can be dusty, which is especially aggravating to dogs that have sensitive skin and allergies. Consider using a humidifier, and be sure to regularly change your heating systemís air filters. Air purifiers will help even more.

Outside, the shortened hours of natural light; cold, damp air; and rock salt on the ground combine to assault your dogís skin and fur. If you see your dog excessively scratching his flanks or licking his paws, you should recognize this discomfort and take steps to alleviate it.

My practice is located in Chicago, and many people think winter and Chicago go together like cookies and milk. Thatís true, but no matter where you live -- and especially if your dog is prone to allergy issues -- you need to be particularly vigilant about his or her skin health this time of year.


Exceptional Canine expert Dr. Bruce Silverman owns and operates Village West Veterinary in Chicago. His passionate approach to patient care combines cutting-edge knowledge with practical advice for the ultimate in pet comfort and health.