There are so many people here in Moab that enjoy the summers and warmer weather, so it comes as no surprise that I hear many complaints as soon as the average temperature drops into the cold. The desert dwellers often ask what can be done to keep their pet’s skin happy and healthy through the cold winters here, and I have a few great suggestions that have come from research, holistic vets and even customer advice.
Bathing your dog in the winter is much more of a process than taking them out back and hosing them off with the garden hose. It is however vital that they stay clean in the winter, if not for anything other than you will all be in close quarters until the landscape starts to thaw out. Most dogs only need to be bathed once a month, but many can go longer without smelling too bad. In order to keep them smelling fresh without a bath we recommend a spray-on coat conditioner and a regular weekly brushing. The benefit here is that the coat conditioner helps keep their skin and coat hydrated and they smell lovely afterwards. Their skin gets dry when we spend so much time in heated homes. By brushing them weekly you can reduce the amount of pet hair in your home as well as distribute oils throughout their coat to keep them shiny. If you do want to keep your pet cleaner than a brushing, we recommend pet wipes or a wipe down with a warm wash cloth. Daily or weekly cleansing for their paws, face and underbelly will get rid of many common winter irritants like snow melt, grime and poop-sicles that gets stuck in snowy paws and fur. Also consider a dog towel at the front door. By wiping them down after a good romp in the backyard snow you can keep your house, pets and their bedding much cleaner.
While bathing and brushing you may notice that their skin is dry, and it gets much worse in the winter. Well there are many factors that contribute to a dull coat such as a grain heavy diet, lack of omega rich oils, and even certain illnesses. There is a big benefit in adding complex omega oils into your pet’s diet and often in doing so will make their coat shiny and strong from the inside out. Complex omegas are found in many oils, but dogs benefit most from oils that are animal based. Fish oils are a great way to add omegas into their diet without too much hassle. Small fish like Polluck oil has a much lower mercury risk over Salmon oil, yet it’s fairly high in omegas. The highest omega rich fish oil is Salmon oil and a little goes a long way. By adding these supplements to your dog’s diet you will find they love the taste and in a few weeks they should be glossy and softer to the touch.
There is also another winter benefit to fish oils, and that would be joint support. We all feel the cold as we get older, and so does your dog. By giving your dog fish oils you do double duty for skin and joint issues. Older dogs can often become picky eaters, and find the taste of these omega rich fish oils a welcome addition to any meal. Fish oils provide some of the same support that glucosamine does, and will help provide the joint lubrication needed to be an active hiker, or a comfortable couch potato. The only thing to beware of is that fish oils are pure fat, so just a small amount. If your dog has had pancreatic issues, or GI issues related to fat please consider another option, fish oil may be too much!
There are certain illnesses and medications that cause dry skin too, so always check with your vet if you have tried many approaches and your pup is still dry and flaky. Skin is a large organ and often when immune issues arise, the skin shows it. Many dogs that do suffer with illnesses that cause dry skin benefit from a mask, and it will not pose any risk other than being a bit messy. Older dogs, and very short hair dogs will benefit from this procedure the most, but all dogs will love this spa treatment. Here is a basic walk-through:
• During regular bath time wash and rinse as usual, towel dry your dog.
• Use organic coconut oil (it’s solid when it cools and liquid just below body temp) that is cool enough to scoop out. The lipids are very beneficial to the skin, and are anti-microbial.
• Apply liberally to your dog’s coat (if your dog is long hair you will use A LOT of coconut oil so consider treating problem areas and not the whole dog).
• If your dog licks at the product it is very beneficial for them, just make sure they don’t get too much!
• Let the mask sit for up to 5 minutes
• Rinse with a light dilution of shampoo, just enough to get the greasy feeling off the coat, but enough to leave the coat soft and the skin smooth.
• Lightly towel dry and enjoy a soft pet that smells like the tropics.
• This mask can be done as much as weekly, but even just a seasonal treatment will have long lasting effects.
Winter doesn’t have to sing the dry skin blues for everyone, because the treatment can be used on humans too! That’s right it’s a great way to hydrate your skin and hair in a natural way. So consider a spa day for you and your pet. They will love it, and you will too! Stay hydrated and warm this winter Moab, and remember the sun will be back soon enough.