Danger, dandruff ahead!

posted on February 02, 2017 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Does your pet’s skin mimic the weather outside this time of year with white flakes?  Winter causes many issues for pets and people alike.  One of the more common issues we see in pets during this time of year is dandruff, or dry, flaky, and sometimes itchy skin.

The dry air outside combined with the dry air of heat systems in most houses leads to dandruff, cracking, chapped, and flaking skin.  Harsh chemical ice melt and salt along with extreme temperatures can cause paw pads to develop sores and crack as well.  There are things we can do to help however.

First of all, it should be noted that not all dry, flaky skin issues are caused by “dry skin”.  Ringworm, mites, fleas, allergies, and other skin infections can all cause similar symptoms.  Low thyroid levels, Cushing’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases can also cause changes in haircoat and skin.  A visit to the veterinarian to rule out these things should be considered before implementing any of the below suggestions.  Please call us if you have concerns with your pet’s skin.

One of the first things that can help with dry skin is an omega fatty acid or fish oil supplement.  Omega fatty acids help decrease inflammation in the body, and can decrease the itch from allergies.  They also decrease dryness of skin and dander.  Lastly, they help boost immune function, including that of the skin.

There are some foods that have an increased amount of fatty acids, and they are usually fish based, or have claims of skin and hair benefits on the label.  These foods may also have increased amounts of vitamins A and E, and/or zinc, which are all important antioxidants and skin and immune system factors.

Having a humidifier in the house can sometimes benefit you and your pet as well, but be careful if the humidity is too high as this can cause other health issues.

Bathing may seem like a good thing, but bathing too frequently can actually worsen the issues.  Using an oatmeal shampoo and/or a leave in conditioner can help keep skin moisturized.  Avoid using human shampoos however as the pH is not appropriate for pet’s skin.  If a medicated shampoo has be dispensed for another issue, please discuss with your vet how frequently that should be done and if you can use an oatmeal shampoo or conditioner in conjunction with or instead of the prescribed shampoo.

Wipe feet after walks outside to help remove the salt and other debris.  Booties or a paw protectant cream such as udder balm/bag balm or musher’s secret can be used if cracks develop.

Hopefully together we can keep your pet’s skin healthy this winter season!

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