By Kenneth P. Trippett VMD, MS
West Hazleton Veterinary Hospital
Typical signs exhibited by both dogs and cats suffering with dry skin are as follows:
- Red spots
- Problem tends to get worse in late fall
- Problem gets worse with low humidity
As the weather gets cooler and the heaters come on, the humidity in your house drops. This leads to dry skin in many of my patients. Approximately one half of my patients who come in itching and scratching are suffering from dry skin. One must also rule out allergies and fleas. I recommend having your itchy pet checked by your veterinarian to rule out other causes of dry itchy skin.
You should treat your pets dry skin, regardless of the cause. There are two effective treatments. The first treatment is using a good moisturizing shampoo. You should shampoo the pet once per week. Lather the animal, leave the shampoo on for 10 minutes, then rinse off. You must be very careful when choosing a pet shampoo. Many medicated shampoos are made to smell good and cover up orders, rather then help your pet. Flea and Tick shampoos are relatively harsh and therefore a poor choice for pets with dry skin. You must pick a shampoo that is both ‘moisturizing’ and ‘hypoallergenic’.
Many pets are difficult to bath. I always warn cat owners that a pair of metal gloves is a necessity for bathing most cats. Many dogs are too big or too unruly to bath. Other dogs just take too long to dry. For these animals, I commonly recommend a good skin supplement. A good skin supplement should contain Vitamin A & E, zinc, and the omega fatty acids (OFAs). There are three forms for these skin supplements. The first is a liquid you can add to the animal’€™s food. This is usually the best choice for animals who get canned food on a daily basis. The second is gel or liquid capsules and the third is beef or liver flavored treats. The best way to help the animals skin long term is to switch to a better quality dog food. Supermarket shoppers should consider IAMS or Purina One for sensitive skin. Even better choices include Hills Science Diet and Proplan. Better quality foods not only help the skin, but can also solve many other common digestive and weight problems as well as add years to your pets life.
Lastly, many dogs and some cats will also respond well to antihistamines. Benedryl (diphenhydramine) is commonly available in both liquid and tablet form. To see if these could help your pet and for proper dosing instructions, you should contact your regular veterinarian.