Petting a Cat

"Winter is a common time for pets to have dry skin and more dander," says Dr. Merry Crimi, hospital director of an AAHA-accredited hospital in Milwaukie, Oregon. "As soon as we turn the heat on in the fall, our skin and their's takes a little more care."

Help for cats with dry skin

Dr. Crimi offers these suggestions for taking care of your cat's hair in the winter:

  1. Comb your cat's hair often to remove dander and loose hair.
  2. Don't bathe your cat unless you need to clean the hair coat of grease, oil,or dirt. Remember cats give themselves baths everyday.
  3. Use a conditioning rinse after your cat's bath. Don't use oils and lotions that are designed for people. "You'll find they will just gum up the cat's hair and attract a lot of dirt," says Dr. Crimi.
  4. Feed quality, name brand foods to provide adequate nutrition for glossy, healthy hair.
  5. Consult with your veterinarian about increasing fatty acids and vitamins in your cat's diet.

Help for dogs with dry skin

Take these steps to take care of your dogs hair and skin:

  1. Bathe your dog as little as needed to keep its coat clean.
  2. Brush your dog often to remove dead hair and dander.
  3. If bathing is necessary, use a moisturizing shampoo made for dogs. Their pH is different from ours, so don't be tempted to use a human shampoo- it is much to harsh for their skin.
  4. Follow a bath when necessary with a moisturizing rinse made for dogs and their special needs.
  5. Don't forget that healthy hair and skin comes from within. Use a good quality, name brand food and consult with a veterinarian about the addition of fatty acid supplements which can make for healthier, glossier hair.
Warning signs that your pet has more than dry skin

Pets scratch for many reasons, including allergies, parasites, or infection. All of these conditions may appear to be "dry skin" to the pet owner, but they actually require treatment by a veterinarian. Attempting home remedies may only complicate the problem or delay treatment. According to Dr. Crimi, you can't "assume that chewing and licking to the point of hair loss is from nerves. It usually isn't."

Plus, Dr. Crimi warns that often skin problems and poor hair quality in pets are merely symptoms of something else such as kidney, liver, adrenal or thyroid gland problems.

If notice any of these conditions or if the initial skin problem persists for more than a week, consult with your veterinarian for treatment.

    * Skin irritation, including redness, bumps, and rashes.

    * Open sores of any kind.

    * Excessive hair loss, either in concentrated patches or all over.

    * Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily.

    * Constant foot licking or face rubbing (with or without runny eyes or itchy ears).

Copyright © 2008, American Animal Hospital Association

Reprinted with permission from the American Animal Hospital Association.