The holiday season is filled with bright lights, shiny decorations and glitter everywhere. But there’s something that may lose its gleam this time of year—your pet’s skin and coat.
Just like people, pets’ skin and hair tends to dry out once winter hits. That’s because the cold winter air paired with the hot, dry indoor air strips skin and hair of moisture (1). And if you’ve ever dealt with dry skin and hair yourself, you know it does more than take a toll on your appearance. It makes you itchy and uncomfortable too.
Obviously, you want your furry family members to look and feel their best during the holidays (and all yearlong)…so what can you do to get your pet’s skin and coat bright, shiny and ready for the holiday season?
Well, there are natural ways to restore moisture to your pet’s skin and coat, so they feel comfortable, happy and silky smooth this holiday…and beyond. Here are 6 tips to get you started:
Dive into their diet
If you want to tame skin and coat issues, start thinking about what’s on the menu for the canines and felines in your household. Commercial pet foods, for example, contain cheap ingredients and preservatives that can contribute to a dull coat (2). That doesn’t mean you have to ditch your pet’s kibble and canned food altogether. But at the very least, reduce the amount of commercial food your pets get and replace it with nutrient-rich whole foods that support their skin and coat health. Healthy fats are essential for a shining coat, so consider giving your pet fatty fish like salmon, tuna or sardines on occasion (3). Eggs are also a good choice to support your pet’s skin and coat health, because they contain healthy fats, protein and a wide range of vitamin and minerals (4). You can feed medium and large dogs up to one egg per day and small dogs half an egg per day (4). Other healthy choices are fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of antioxidants (like blueberries and leafy greens) and foods that contain the B-vitamin biotin (like organ meats). In fact, one Swiss study showed that dogs with dermatitis (a.k.a. eczema) had clearer, smoother skin and brighter coats after taking biotin supplements (5).
Part of the reason commercial pet foods contribute to skin and coat issues is because they are high in omega-6 fatty acids and not omega-3 fatty acids (6). But a balance of these two essential fatty acids helps maintain healthy skin (7). Some of the foods mentioned above, like salmon, tuna, sardines and eggs, contain omega-3s, but it’s not a bad idea to purchase a high-quality fish oil supplement for your pet too. Studies show fish oil supplements can alleviate skin issues and make coats smoother and shinier (8).
Pump up the probiotics
By now, you’ve probably heard that your gut bacteria plays a role in pretty much every aspect of your health. Well, the same holds true for your pets (9). Studies show that giving young dogs probiotics can help prevent the dry, itchy skin condition dermatitis (10). Scientists even believe that most cases of dermatitis and other skin conditions in dogs may be caused by intestinal permeability, also known as a leaky gut (11). You can provide your pets with a daily dose of probiotics by giving them a spoonful of plain, unsweetened yogurt, or you can purchase a probiotic supplement.
Whether you already have a grooming schedule worked out for your pets or not, consider a special approach to grooming during the winter. Brushing your pets more frequently can get rid of dead skin cells and spread the body’s natural oils across their skin and fur (12). But when it comes to bathing, you may want to cut back in the winter months. Like I mentioned earlier, dry skin is a common problem for pets in the winter, and baths can strip skin of their natural oils and make skin drier (12). That said, when you do bathe your pet in the winter, use a moisturizing shampoo or one that contains skin-soothing ingredients like oatmeal and aloe. In fact, oatmeal shampoo can help pets with skin problems, because it has anti-inflammatory properties that ease skin irritation (5)
When your skin and hair gets dry, you turn to moisturizers and moisture-rich shampoos to restore oils externally. Well, you can try the same thing for your pet…just take a slightly different approach. You obviously can’t slather regular moisturizer over your pet’s skin and fur, but you can give your pet a massage with healthy oils like coconut oil and olive oil (13; 5). Coconut oil is especially healthy for a pet with dry skin, because sometimes dry skin is caused by fungal infections, and coconut oil is an anti-fungal. If you do decide to use oils on your pet, it can get messy, so only use a small amount and make sure to cover up any furniture or items around the house that could get stained. Another option is to use a moisturizing pet shampoo next time you give your pet a bath.
Try skin and coat-supporting herbs
If your pet’s lackluster coat and dry skin are stubborn, herbs are great option to support skin and coat health. Studies show that the herb bladderwack thallus can relieve irritated and inflamed skin (14). Horsetail grass is another herb with a long history of promoting healthy skin and coats (15). You can try these, as well as the herb dandelion leaf and the blue-green algae spirulina, in Native Remedies’ Skin and Coat Tonic™ for Pet Skin Health & Shine.
If your pets are prone to seasonal dryness, these six tips should provide relief, so you and your pets can have a bright, shiny, happy holiday together. But if your pet suffers from coat and skin issues no matter what the season or no matter what remedies you try, visit your vet. In rare cases, skin problems are caused by hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases or other health issues. It’s also fairly common for animals to develop skin and coat problems due to allergies. If that’s the case, you’ll want to get to the root of the problem, so your pets always look and feel their best.
- Nordqvist, Christian. “How to treat dandruff.” Medical News Today. 1 Dec. 2017. Web 6 Dec. 2017. < https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152844.php;.
- Scanlan, Nancy. “6 steps to help keep your pet’s coat healthy.” Better Nutrition. Sept. 99; 61(9): 36. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 6, 2017.
- Kam, Katherine. “Dog Nutrition for a Healthy Coat.” WebMD. N.D. Web 6 Dec. 2017. < https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dog-nutrition-for-a-healthy-coat#1;.
- Straus, Mary. “5 Steps to Enhancing Your Dog’s Store-Bought Dog Food.” Whole Dog Journal. 3 Nov. 2017. Web 6 Dec. 2017. <https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/14_5/features/Improving-Your-Dogs-Diet_20260-1.html;.
- Dowd R. “THE buzz. NATURAL Rx KIT: PET SPECIAL: DRY SKIN RELIEVERS.” Vegetarian Times. January 2014;(409):20. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 8, 2017.
- Scott, Dana. “Omega-3 For Dogs: The Ultimate Guide.” Dogs Naturally Magazine. N.D. Web 6 Dec. 2017 <http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/omega-3-for-dogs-the-ultimate-guide/;.
- Vaughn, Dana M., et al. “Evaluation of Effects of Dietary n-6 to n-3 Fatty Acid Ratios on Leukotriene B Synthesis in Dog Skin and Neutrophils.” Veterinary Dermatology. Dec. 1994; 5(4):163-173. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3164.1994.tb00028.x. Web 6 Dec. 2017.
- Bauer, J.E. “Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids.” Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association. 1 Dec. 2007; 231(11):1657-61. DOI: 10.2460/javma.231.11.1657. Web 6 Dec. 2017.
- Scott, Dana. “Feed Your Dog’s Microbiome (Not Just Your Dog).” Dogs Naturally Magazine. N.D. Web 6 Dec. 2017. <http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/dysbiosis-in-dogs-causes/;.
- “Early exposure to probiotics in a canine model of atopic dermatitis has long-term clinical and immunological effects.” Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 2012 Apr 15;146(2):185-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2012.02.013. Web 6 Dec. 2017.
- Mark Craig. “Atopic dermatitis and the intestinal microbiota in humans and dogs.” Veterinary Medicine and Science. May 2016; 2(2): 95-105. DOI: 10.1002/vms3.24. Web 6 Dec. 2017.
- Yuill, Cheryl. “Coat and Skin Appearance in the Healthy Dog.” Veterinary Clinics of America (VCA). N.D. Web 6 Dec. 2017. <https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/coat-and-skin-appearance-in-the-healthy-dog;.
- “Treating Dogs’ Dry Skin with Olive Oil.” Vetinfo. <https://www.vetinfo.com/treating-dogs-dry-skin-with-olive-oil.html;. N.D. <https://www.vetinfo.com/treating-dogs-dry-skin-with-olive-oil.html;.
- Susan G. Wynn; Barbara Fougère. Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences: 2007. p. 491. ISBN 0-323-02998-1. Web 6 Dec. 2017.
- Diane Stein. The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats. B. Jain Publishers: 2004. p. 68. ISBN 978-81-7021-850-0. Web 6 Dec. 2017.