Five Tips for Avoiding Chapped and Bleeding Skin and Paws This Winter
on December 8, 2015
Posted in Cats
Many dogs and cats develop dry, chapped skin and paw pads that can lead to cracking, bleeding, pain, licking, and infection. This problem is seen more frequently in the winter due to drier air created in part by the use of furnaces, wood stoves, and fireplaces. Allergens in the air can be at higher concentrations because the house is closed up tightly. Pet’s feet are also exposed to salt and other de-icers at this time of year.
Below are some ways for you to help your pet avoid chapped, raw skin and paw pads this year.
- Protect your pet’s feet with boots. Road salt, antifreeze and de-icer can be drying, damaging, and caustic to a pet’s skin. Paw pads become irritated, dry, cracked, and damaged from exposure to these chemicals, and this can lead to toxicity if the pet licks his or her feet thereby ingesting the toxic substance. A pair of booties that you can put on your pet every time you take him outside can eliminate the ability for these substances to contact and damage his skin. If your pet does not wear boots be sure to rinse his paws with clean water every time he comes in from outside to reduce the chemicals on the feet and to eliminate any ice balls that may have accumulated.
- Apply soothing ointment to cracked paws. Cracked, dry and bleeding paws can also occur from the winter weather even if the pet wears boots. Applying an ointment can be very helpful for these injured paws. Itchy Owie Ointment works well for this condition. It is good for bruised, cracked or injured paws as well as other injuries.
- Increase air moisture. Pets that have allergies to dust mites and other household irritants may have more trouble with skin inflammation and rashes during the winter because the house is closed up and the air is drier and more stagnant. A humidifier can help to keep the air more hydrated inside and reduce the risk of dry skin and paws. Fans can also help with air movement
- Decrease frequency of bathing. It is important not to over bathe pets anytime but particularly during the winter months. Bathing can strip the pet’s naturally-protective skin oils particularly if you are using human shampoos. If you do feel your pet requires a bath, use a gentle pet-specific shampoo such as Naturally Pure Dog Wash–it is non drying (will not strip the natural oils from skin or hair) and pH balanced for your dog’s skin. In between baths, use a damp cloth to wipe your dog’s coat to decrease the allergens in the fur. Carefully and thoroughly drying your pet’s paws, belly, neck, ears, and anything else that gets wet when he runs through the snow or rain is another good habit to develop through the winter months. Skin that stays moist, especially in areas with folds such as the feet and ears, is more prone to developing infections.
- Make sure your pet is getting sufficient essential fatty acids in the proper ratio. Your pet’s skin health is dependent on his overall health and nutrient status. Omega fatty acids are essential nutrients for pets; they are not produced by the pet’s own body but must be provided in the diet. When they are supplemented in the proper ratios, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can help support good skin health as well as many other aspects of the body’s functions. These critical nutrients may be present in insufficient amounts, at the wrong ratios, or be missing entirely from commercial pet food diets. The best way to ensure that your pet is getting what he needs in terms of fatty acids is to provide him with a good, balanced supplement such as Ark Naturals Omega Mender Itch Ender (available at Petwellbeing.com). This supplement uses fish oil and borage oil to provide bioavilable fatty acids for your pet, unlike some other forms of omegas that dogs are unable to fully assimilate. Giving your pet this supplement daily during the winter (and throughout the year) can decrease skin conditions such as scaling, dryness, hair loss, and poor hair coat.
Following these tips for skin health can significantly improve your pet’s comfort this winter.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan