Winter weather in the Midwest has always been unpredictable, but most of us are usually prepared for low temperatures, dry air, and extreme winds. Last week brought a vortex of arctic temperatures straight from the North Pole to Kansas City, creating dangerous conditions for both humans and animals. These temperatures didn’t last long, but precautions advised for maintaining your dog’s health in extreme cold should be followed until Spring arrives, particularly when it comes to dry skin. Human skin and dog skin act similarly in winter in terms of how the weather can affect the skin’s moisture. Too much exposure to dry, cold air may inhibit the skin’s ability to produce enough natural oils and bacteria to keep it moisturized, soft, and comfortable. This is true for both humans and dogs. We as humans tend to stock up on intense moisturizers, organic oils, and other remedies for combatting dry winter skin, but your dog may need some relief, too. Dry dog skin is more difficult to spot than dry human skin, especially if your dog has a thick coat. Make sure to sift through your dog’s coat in search of dandruff-like flakes, flaky bumps, and dry spots with hair loss. Your dog’s dry skin might look like this: You could also be tipped off by your dog excessively licking, scratching, or picking at dry, uncomfortable areas of their skin, which, over time, could make the issue worse. If the issue seems severe, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. For more mild cases, the most immediate solution is brushing or combing your dog’s coat to relieve itchy, dry areas while getting rid of visible dry flakes. While temporary, this could prevent your dog from feeling the urge to scratch or lick too much while restoring some comfort. Soft, regular brushing also helps stimulate dry hair follicles and sebum glands, pushing the skin to create more of its own moisture. Like human skin, dog skin sometimes needs extra topical moisture. Unlike human skin, your Bath & Body Works products might not be the best solution for your dog’s dry skin. If you’re drawn to more natural, holistic solutions for your dog’s health issues, consider applying small amounts of natural topicals to their skin, like organic coconut oil or similar products. If you think your dog might be prone to dry skin, there are some precautions you can take to potentially avoid it. Bathing and grooming dogs in the winter can result in or worsen existing dry skin due to common shampoos’ tendency to strip skin of the natural oils that keep it moisturized. If possible, avoid bathing or grooming your dog during the winter, particularly during especially frigid times of the season. If you must bathe your dog, use a moisturizing shampoo with ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, and oatmeal followed by conditioner. If you’re into homemade solutions, consider making your own 100% organic shampoo. Just make sure you’re getting your ingredient lists from trustworthy sources. Diet also plays a big role in the health of your dog’s skin. Ensure that your pup has plenty of water, because, as we all know, the most important source of moisture for the skin is water intake – and lots of it. You might also consider using a humidifier indoors to rid your dog’s living area of dry winter air, especially if you live in an older home. Like always, aim for a nutritionally balanced diet for your dog. If your dog’s dry skin becomes unbearable, consider talking with your veterinarian about dietary supplements that could be added to your dog’s daily routine, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements. Your dog should already be receiving the recommended daily dose of these supplements through their food, but if superficial fixes for their dry skin are failing, an increased dosage could help. Increased omega-3 and omega-6 intake can also be achieved by adding new treats that contain healthy fats without junky additives to your dog’s diet. Through consulting your veterinarian you might also find that your dog has allergies or other sensitivities that might be contributing to their dry or irritable skin. If this is the case, follow any prescribed regimens. When in doubt, your veterinarian is your most reliable source. If you suspect that your dog’s dry skin might be more than just that – an infection, allergic reaction, ringworm, or other issues – give your vet a call. But for winter-induced dry, itchy skin, a holistic approach often does the trick.

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Written by Annie B.