PhotoProtecting our skin becomes a priority during the cold winter months, but it should also be a priority to take care of your dog’s skin. We humans can combat the cold by stocking up on thick jackets and extra moisturizer, but dogs look to us for help.

It may be tempting to let Fido skip baths during the winter since he’s inside more often (and theoretically, less dirty), but pet experts say not to skimp on the baths -- mid-winter grooming is important to pets’ health and therefore shouldn’t be avoided by pet owners.

"When heating systems are running day in and day out, a dog's skin becomes dry and itchy, just like ours does," says Traci Simo, of Canine Company. "If you see your pet scratching, licking or biting himself during the winter months, that's a sign that he's uncomfortable. If you don't intervene, that behavior can lead to more severe skin problems."

Keep skin moisturized

To help keep dry, itchy skin at bay, Simo recommends the following:

  • Shampoo. Pets with dry, itchy skin may need a shampoo and moisturizing treatment monthly. Simo recommends a massaging shampoo followed by a deep moisturizing treatment. "Use only products specifically formulated for pets. Dogs' skin has a different pH, so using human products can actually make skin problems worse."

  • Let the coat air-dry. Because dog’s skin burns more easily, it’s best not to use a hair dryer, she says. Towel thoroughly, and comb through the hair to help the process along.

  • Brush often. Simo recommends daily brushing to help stimulate the skin's natural oils. This will help your pup stay comfortable.

It’s important to note that if you’ve got a pooch with sensitive skin, PetMD advises not to overdo it on the winter baths. Bathing with shampoos or soaps should be limited during the winter months, as it can actually make dry skin worse. Simple water baths should do the trick under most circumstances. Should you need to bathe your pet with shampoo, PetMD recommends using a moisturizing shampoo for sensitive skin along with a moisturizing rinse.

Simo also adds that parasite problems are expected to begin early this year due to the unusual winter weather we experienced in the northeast. She recommends not waiting until spring officially arrives to begin applying flea and tick prevention products.

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