Preventing Winter Issues in Your Pets
As we get into the heart of winter, sometimes it's good to remind ourselves of some of the problems our pets face during the cold winter months. Some dogs and cats need minimal care, while others don't fare well at all. A little prevention can make winter easier for both you and your pets!
For pets that spend more time inside during the winter, the indoor heat can take its toll on their skin and coat. It causes moisture loss and dry skin, resulting in uncomfortable itching. Their winter coat also becomes too much for them, and they'll start shedding to get comfortable again - the reason why many people feel their pet has been shedding all winter.
Coat strippers help remove the dead hair coat without damaging the remaining coat - they're excellent for those double-coated dogs with a winter coat that wants to mat. A dematting comb
will remove dead hair mats with little pulling of the skin. The result is a fluffed-up coat that keeps them warm outside and breathes on the inside, which lets your pet be more comfortable in all temperatures.
Once the dead hair is removed, bathing helps clean the skin and replace the lost oils and moisture. Many forget that some dogs are itchy just from the winter grime of everyday living, so bathing is important for healthy breathing skin. VET BASICS® Oatmeal Protein Shampoo
replaces winter moisture loss while cleaning the winter grime from the skin and coat. You know your dog's coat: if you feel you have an extra dry coat, use a cream rinse such as Fresh 'N Clean Cream Rinse
every 2 weeks to rejuvenate the coat. Cream rinses help the coat repel moisture and ice, so they're great for dogs that spend time outside. They're most helpful when used in the cold of winter and in the hot summer sun.
Rough ground and surfaces help wear down your pet's nails naturally, so it's easy to rely on nature to trim your pet's nails during the summer. However, nail trimming is often forgotten during the winter, which results in long nails that tend to break or crack, causing pain.
Foot restraint is a submissive problem for pets, and many are uncomfortable with it. Before you trim for the first time, rub and massage their feet when pets are relaxed to let them know that it's okay to let you restrain their feet. Start slow until you and your pet are comfortable. The Oster Gentle Paws
is perfect for the novice nail trimmer - it's essentially a powered emery board. It won't let the nail get too short, and dogs like the sanding effect, which won't twist the nail like clipping sometimes does. Before touching the nail, rub the leg and paw with the trimmer running so they get used to the quiet sound. Once they calm down, you can trim one nail at a time while speaking softly - they should respond in kind.
Ears build up more waxy material in the winter because the skin is trying to replace the lost oils. Clean the ear canal at least twice a month to avoid issues. Check the ear canal and put a small amount of Doc Roy's® EAR CLEANSER
, rub gently, then wipe with a soft tissue or cotton ball. If the ear is infected or irritated, clean the ear several times, then daily until resolved. Most ear infections can be cured with daily cleaning if they are caught early.
Skin & Coat Care
Some dogs also need inside-out support for skin and coat care. Fatty acid supplements
such as Doc Roy's® TRI OMEGA 3
are helpful for preventing cracking and replacing the oils of the skin from the inside out. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory effects that help with joint and pad trauma while Omega 6 will keep the tissue soft and the pad pliable. Both keep trauma, ulcer and deep pad cracks in check.
The footpad is actually a huge, thick callus that heals quickly with care. Salt and snow melts dry out the pad, causing cracking and licking. Be sure to wash winter ice melt off your dog's feet and apply a moisturizer. If repair is needed, use Doc Roy's® RESCUE DERM
or Mega-Tek Pet Rebuilder
. These products will moisturize and heal the chemical damage. House dogs usually need boots or socks to prevent excessive licking and chewing of the pad. Children’s socks work, but one warning. This year I put 4 socks on our dog, and when she ventured from carpet to hardwood floors, feet went everywhere! She did learn to handle it quickly, but it was the funniest thing she has done in her 9 years.
Feet problems are common in winter and surprisingly, most are arthritis-driven. Sore joints will cause limping and poor foot placement, which increases trauma to a pad. Oral glucosamine and chondroitin, such as Doc Roy’s® ACHES AWAY
, will increase the joint fluid, easing fatigue and trauma. The result of both is a pad and joint system that will give to the concussion trauma of running. Pain-free running will keep your dog placing their feet correctly, which decreases the wear on their joints.
As a veterinarian, it is ironic that I've had to deal with every one of these problems in my own pets, but that just means they could happen to anyone. Preventing winter issues on the outside and the inside out as well as appropriate shampoo has made winter easier for us. A few of these prevention practices can keep your pet healthy and feeling good all winter long.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.
Return to Articles