Photo by Camylla Battani
Dogs, like people, can develop skin problems from contact with an irritating substance or a systemic health problem. You may notice spots, pimples, hair loss or lesions.
Sometimes these problems require veterinary attention, but in other cases, giving your pet’s skin a little extra care can resolve the issue. You can help keep your dog’s skin healthy by following a few tips to eliminate skin outbreaks and encourage normal skin cell replacement.
Keep Bathing to a Minimum
Veterinarians recommend bathing dogs no more than once a month. More frequent bathing removes the oils a dog produces to keep the skin and coat healthy, resulting in dryness, shedding of the fur and vulnerability to pathogens. You should also be careful about the shampoo you use on your dog. Avoid human shampoo, which can disrupt the pH balance of a dog’s skin. You may have to experiment with a few of the many dog shampoos on the market to find the right one for your dog’s coat and skin. If your dog’s skin is especially sensitive, look for products with no additives, artificial fragrances or artificial colors.
Stick to a Grooming Schedule
If your dog has short hair, you might be tempted to omit regular coat care because it doesn’t seem necessary. But regular removal of dead hair clears dirt, reduces shedding and allows the skin to get good air circulation. Longhaired dogs need brushing daily or every few days, and combing could be needed to prevent matting. These measures help air reach the skin, which inhibits the growth of bacteria. Some coat types need regular cutting, trimming and removal of dead hair. Stick to the recommended schedule for your dog breed to prevent matting and skin problems.
Apply Flea and Tick Prevention Regularly
Regular use of flea and tick products discourages parasites from making a home on your pet. A flea infestation can necessitate weeks of cleaning to remove the adults, eggs and nymphs that infest carpeting, furniture and bedding. Ticks carry diseases and can require extensive veterinary treatment. A wide range of products is available to protect your pet from these pests. Your vet can help you decide which product is best for your dog.
Choose a Nutritious Food
A nutritious diet helps keep skin healthy. Experts recommend a high-quality food that has 18% protein and 5% fat. Carbohydrates should also be available from vegetable ingredients. Check the label for the vitamins and minerals in the food. Canines that have specific food allergies may require one of the commercial brands that offer alternative ingredients. Check with your veterinarian for the best choices for your pet.
Clean Off Contaminants Picked Up Outdoors
What dog doesn’t enjoy a good romp through the woods or walk around the neighborhood? But during these excursions dogs can pick up allergens, contaminants and chemicals on grass that can irritate the skin. If you wipe off your dog with a towel or pet wipe, you remove these irritants from the skin. If you live in a cold climate where ice-melting compounds are used on roads and sidewalks, always wipe off your pup’s feet after a walk to remove salt residue, which can be caustic for skin and paw pads.
A Little Antiseptic Can Help Minor Skin Problems
A minor cut from running through the brambles can usually be remedied with a small amount of triple antibiotic ointment for humans. Similarly, a slight irritation from contact with plants or household cleaners can be treated with a calamine lotion. But if your dog has a stubborn skin problem that does not respond to cleaning and ointment, visit your vet to determine the cause and the appropriate treatment.
Consider a Supplement for Healthy Skin and Coat
Some dogs just don’t get sufficient nutrients from their preferred food to counteract dry, itchy skin. In these cases, adding a fish oil supplement high in omega-3 fatty acids will introduce healthy oils to your pet’s diet.
The large amount of hair covering your dog’s body can put the skin in contact with bacteria, fungi and parasites for long periods. Pay attention to the rules of canine skin and coat care to prevent many problems so your pet can stay clean, healthy and comfortable.