Another winter season brings with it a familiar set of challenges: dry skin, chapped lips, eczema, and psoriasis flare-ups. redness and irritation. And let's not forget the struggles of combating redness, irritation, split ends, and static hair. However, it’s important to keep in mind that very same winter woes also impact our pets.
During the winter, our furry friends require a little extra care and attention. This isn’t just about surviving the winter months, it’s about supporting them to thrive, with coats that shine as bright as the snow outside. For dog groomers and devoted owners who are seeking a deeper understanding of winter care, these winter dog care tips will serve as your guide to supporting your pooch through the harsh conditions of winter (and you might even pick up a couple of tips for your own winter self-care routine!).
How the Winter Season Impacts Dogs
The winter season brings colder temperatures, drier air and harsher elements. And while some dogs may love to frolic and play in the snow, the winter months can pose challenges to their coat and skin health.
As the days shorten and temperatures drop, many dogs naturally grow a thicker coat to provide insulation. This undercoat traps warm air close to the body to help dogs stay cozy in the cool temperatures. Breeds like Huskies and Malamutes have particularly impressive winter coats. But in that transition from their lighter summer coat to thicker winter one, most breeds experience shedding. Winter coats are also more prone to matting, especially for long-haired breeds. Snow, ice and debris can get tangled in fur, causing discomfort and skin irritation.
Additionally, the dry air can strip moisture from a dog’s coat, causing their fur to become dry, brittle, and lose its natural shine. And don't even get us started on the static! Static is one of the most common concerns among pet owners during the winter season, and it can become very uncomfortable and frustrating, especailly when you get a shock every time you pet your dog.
The winter conditions impact dogs skin and coat in multiple ways.
The combination of the cold air and reduced humidity levels can lead to dehydration of the skin, causing itching, flakiness, and discomfort for dogs. This can be heightened by indoor heating systems, which further contribute to dry conditions. On top of that, harsh outdoor elements like salt and snow can dry out the skin even more, causing it to crack or become rough. Paws and noses are highly sensitive to the elements, as they have no fur for protection. Cold pavement or icy surfaces can be harsh on a dog’s paw pads, leading to chapping or cracking.
Boost the Humidity
During the winter, we crank up the heat inside our homes to stay cozy, but this dries out the air even more. Using a humidifier can help add moisture back into the air, keeping your dog’s skin hydrated. Humidifiers are also known to help alleviate allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing caused by airborne allergens like dust mites. When choosing a humidifier, look for cool-mist models that are safer than those with warm mist as they pose no risk of burns. Ultrasonic humidifiers are quieter than other types, which is ideal if you have a noise-sensitive pup.
Use Nourishing and Hydrating Grooming Products
The foundation of winter dog care is a tailored grooming routine, starting with the shampoo and conditioner you use when bathing your dog. Even worse than the cold weather itself is putting harsh chemicals onto your dog’s skin and coat through the products you’re using. Look for natural products made with organic botanical ingredients like aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, hydrogenated olive oil and linden flower extract. Always check through ingredient labels thoroughly to ensure they are free from toxic chemicals, and can back up their claims with certifications, such as those from Ecogea Institute. Also, try to limit the baths you give your dog in the winter, aiming to bathe only every 4-6 weeks, unless your dog gets particulariily dirty.
You may need to tweak your grooming routine during the winter months to ensure that your dog’s skin and coat receive the nourishment and hydration that it needs. For example, adding a skin relief ointment to target areas problem areas that are experiencing irritation or redness. The Doglyness Skin Relief Ointment promotes skin regeneration, faster healing, and wound recovery with natural ingredients like olive oil, sunflower seed oil, candelilla wax, and shea butter. You may also want to add a leave-in cream or conditioning spray to your regime, as your regular conditioner may not be enough to prevent severe breakage or static caused by winter conditions. These products will help to revive dry and damaged coats, nourishing hair from within and protecting them from further damage
A tailored brushing routine is essential during the winter months.
Implement a Tailored Winter Brushing Ritual
Beyond just a standard grooming task, regular brushing during the winter is a ritual that supports skin health. It removes dead fur, stimulates oil production and enhances blood circulation to ensure your dog’s skin stay supple. If you have a long-haired breed, a little extra brushing may be necessary as dogs are more prone to matting and tangles in the winter due to the development of a thicker coat. Use a good quality pin brush with anti-static pins, choosing thicker pins for a long, thick coat, and thinner pins for a gentler touch with delicate skin and coats. Beyond the functional aspects of brushing, it’s also a great opportunity to deepen the bond with your dog.
Counter that Static!
Static is one of the most common problems in the winter. Static is causes by friction, such as rubbing against dry surfaces like carpets, furniture, or even dry skin, causing the individual hairs in the coat to rub against each other, generating electrical charges. Since fur is a poor conductor of electricity, these charges build up, creating static electricity. The combination of dry air, caused by in-home heating and synthetic materials make static a bigger concern in the winter, but it can be reduced by using a leave-in cream for added moisture, or an anti-static spray. Healthy, well-hydrated hair is less prone to frizz and static, as the cuticles lie flat and are less reactive to moisture in the air. You can also cover dog beds with natural covers, like cotton or silk, which doesn't build as much static as synthetic covers and will keep the coat in a much better condition. The same goes for other areas that your dog may sleep, such as the sofa or bed.
Paws can take quite a beating in the winter. When out for walks, they are constantly in contact with the cold ground and dry air. Dogs don’t have sweat glands in their paws, making them susceptible to dryness and cracking, which can be very painful and lead to infections. Salts and other chemicals used to melt ice on sidewalks and roads can irritate and burn their paws as well.
While most dogs may not enjoy wearing booties at first, they quickly get accustomed to them with consistent use. Alternatively, there are other steps you can take to protect the paws. Try to limit walks on harsh surfaces when possible, sticking to grassy areas or cleared paths when possible. After walks, always wipe your dogs paws clean with a damp cloth. You can even soak paws in lukewarm water to soften out any clumps. Make sure to keep nails trimmed, as long nails can make it especially hard to walk on snow and ice and increase risk of tears in the pads. And definitely invest in a quality natural skin ointment to use regularly throughout the winter months.
Paws are very exposed to the elements, and require extra TLC in the winter.
Extra Winter Dog Care Tips for Warmth
It goes without saying that it’s important to keep your dog warm in the winter. You may need to limit outdoor time, adjusting your walks based on the weather and taking shorter potty breaks. However, exercise is still crucial, and many dogs tend to pack on extra weight in the winter due to lack of physical activity. So, make sure that you amp up the indoor playtime to compensate for it, and provide them with lots of toys. When you do go for walks, make sure your dog is thoroughly dry, since wet hair is more susceptible to breakage and discomfort. Additionally, consider you dog’s breed and individual needs. Short-haired or senior dogs may need a sweater or jacket for added warmth on chilly walks.
Care for Your Dog This Winter With Doglyness
As the winter brings challenges for both humans and our furry friends it’s important that we recgonize the specific needs of our dogs during the harsh conditions. Remember that winter can be a fun time for dog care too, and we can both safeguard our dogs from the seasonal challenges and also enhance the bond between us and our canine companions. With a little extra care and attention our dogs can thrive with shiny coats and healthy skin throughout the winter season. By following these winter dog care tips you can embrace those snowy adventures and extra snuggles, even in the coldest months.