Pawsible Tips & Solutions to Your Dog’s Winter Skin Problems


Itching and scratching, unlike the weather, don’t seem to have a season. While it’s raining, snowing and windy outside and the temperatures are ranging from the teens to the thirties, our pets can still be anguishing from winter skin problems just like they experience in the warm summer months.

Ursula Thomas, a veterinary dermatologist with Ceva Animal Health, of Lenexa, Kan., says “When cats and dogs suffer from allergic dermatitis triggered by indoor allergens, such as house dust and storage-mite allergens, their allergy symptoms may worsen during the winter months due to a more indoor lifestyle.

“Additionally, dry heat in homes can lead to an increase in the patient’s desire to itch. Thus, a pet owner should seek the help of his/her veterinarian prior to and during the winter season to discuss environmental control measures, as well as topical treatment options for the pet’s skin disease.

“Itch is a master of disguise. It can hide easily under the cover of ‘grooming,’ because most dogs and cats show us that they are being itchy and uncomfortable by licking their paws, belly or legs or by scratching their heads or ears. Thus, the demonstration of itch is often mistaken for a mere grooming behavior of our companions.

“Frequent bathing and/or the application of moisturizing sprays and mousses, such as Douxo ® Calm Spray and Mouse, may be advisable. The owner must recognize that frequent bathing of an allergic pet with the correct shampoo can help alleviate some of the pet’s symptoms. Conversely, bathing an animal with the incorrect shampoo can lead to more harm than good.”

Our pet’s skin is their first line of defense against environmental aggressors, according to Ceva Animal Health officials, and to manage dermatological conditions and to maintain a healthy skin barrier, they offer user-friendly solutions such as the Douxo ® and Conventional Dermatology Products lines that make treatment time, bonding time.

Here’s a rundown of some Douxo products:

Douxo® Calm helps stop cycle of skin allergies with a multi-targeted approach to help manage itching and inflammation associated with allergic conditions.

Douxo® Seborrhea may be used to help manage all seborrhea types and helps rebalance the production of skin cells and sebum.

Douxo® Chlorhexidine is used in the management of skin infections responsive to chlorhexidine and climbazole. It also contains an ingredient to help soothe skin irritations and support a healthy skin barrier.

Douxo® Maintenance and Douxo Micellar Solution are formulated to help keep the most sensitive skins and ears healthy.

Check out this Q&A with Thomas designed to offer you more information about challenges surrounding our pets’ dermatological problems:

Q: Please list the most common canine disorders veterinarians see today and if they can be addressed at home by the owner?

A: Dogs and cats can suffer from a large variety of skin problems, such as skin allergies (allergic dermatitis), parasitic skin diseases, bacterial and fungal skin infections, as well as skin cancer and various auto-immune skin disorders. In my career as a board-certified veterinary dermatologist, by far the most common diagnosed skin problem in dogs and cats has been allergic dermatitis. Sadly, the latter represents a non-curable skin disease. But veterinary dermatologists are committed to working in close connection with the pet parent and patient’s general practitioner to develop a treatment plan that best suits the pet’s and owner’s needs and expectations.

Q: Can owners save veterinary costs by utilizing home remedies before taking that pet with skin issues in for a check-up?

A: For the long-term success of any skin-related therapy it is extremely critical that pet parents stay in close contact with their general practitioner and dermatologist over the entire course of the animal’s life. This ensures ongoing veterinary support that will empower them to best respond to any changes in the pet’s health status, and, ideally enable them to prevent flares of the skin disease in the foreseeable future.

Q: Because dog and cat coats vary considerably in length, density and shape are there some breeds that are more challenging to diagnose and subsequently care for as a veterinary dermatologist?

A: Depending on the hair type and length of the hair coat, the skin may or may not be readily visible to the owner and veterinarian. Thus, skin lesions may go undetected for some time in dogs and cats with a dense coat or very long hair. Therefore, it is advisable to perform a thorough examination of the skin and hair coat on a regular basis and for owners to alert the veterinarian whenever changes are being noticed. In similar ways, when veterinarians prescribe any kind of topical treatment for an animal with a dense and/or long hair coat, it might be in the patient’s best interest to either cut the hair in the affected areas as short as possible for the duration of the treatment and/or to use a treatment, such as leave-on sprays, that allow easy application and observation of the affected skin areas.

Q: Are cortisone shots simply a ‘Band-Aid” to provide temporary relief for the animal with skin problems?

A: Keeping in mind that skin allergies cannot be cured, the veterinarian will work tirelessly to develop a treatment plan that allows the pet to be comfortable with the least amount of side effects from the chosen medications. Drugs representing the best match for a given patient are those chosen based on a thorough evaluation of the individual pet’s current health status and desired treatment goals. Factors that influence that choice include the severity of the patient’s disease, the lifestyle of the pet and owner, as well as the time and financial flexibility of the pet parent.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment approach for any animal skin disease. Having said that, sometimes a steroid injection can be the treatment of choice, especially when the pet is otherwise healthy and only short-term relief of the symptoms is the desired outcome. However, since most canine and feline allergy patients suffer from symptoms for several months out of the year, veterinary dermatologists typically aim for the development of a more long-term treatment plan for his or her patients. In most cases, those treatment plans include some form of topical therapy. Topical therapy may consist of frequent bathing with a particular shampoo or the application of certain sprays and/or mousses. Depending on the patient’s needs, the veterinarian may prescribe Douxo® Chlorhexidine or Douxo® Calm to support the patient’s journey to good health and well-being.

Q: Are pet skin problems the most difficult disorder for veterinarians to diagnose?

A: The skin is the largest organ in the body. Yet, it often displays its current health status through either very subtle alterations of its general appearance or through significant, often, nonspecific modifications of the hair coat or skin. Therefore, two dogs suffering from very different skin diseases can have skin lesions that look almost identical. The distinction between those two health conditions lies within the minuscule details of the individual skin lesions. A veterinary dermatologist has undergone extensive training to recognize those slight differences and will therefore be able to narrow the required diagnostic work-up, as well as the treatment plan to the specific disease and the individual pet’s needs.

In order to diagnose skin diseases in dogs and cats accurately, while at the same time protecting the animal from unnecessary tests and shielding the owner from unwarranted expenses, it is best to seek the help of an experienced veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist, as soon as the pet exhibits any indications of an ongoing skin or ear problem.

Q: Because the complexity of cases vary, when is it time for most general practitioners to refer a case to a veterinary dermatologist?

A: Most general practitioners are very comfortable managing the majority of skin-related health problems in dogs and cats. However, some pets with common skin problems, such as allergies, do not respond to conventionally used treatments and therefore require a unique treatment approach for the management of their skin diseases. Yet, others suffer from rather rare dermatological problems that most likely require a high degree of specialty knowledge. In either case, it is advisable that the general practitioner consults with and ideally refers that patient to a veterinary dermatologist for initial work-up and the establishment of a long-term treatment plan.

Q: Are some canine skin problems genetically related. If so, which ones, and are there some breeds predisposed to these?

A: For some skin problems a specific genetic link has been identified. An example would be ichthyosis of golden retrievers. In the case of ichthyosis, affected animals suffer from severe, generalized dandruff that can greatly impact the individual’s general appearance and can predispose the animal to secondary bacterial and fungal skin infections.

Additionally, since we can trace some diseases to a specific gene, we also know for a wide array of skin diseases that some dog breeds are more likely to develop certain skin diseases than others. For instance, Collies, Shetland sheepdogs and German Shepherds exhibit a breed predilection for an inflammatory skin disease called discoid lupus erythematosus. Likewise, the Siberian husky and the Alaskan malamute are prone to the development of zinc-responsive dermatosis.

Q: Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are among a couple of incurable skin disorders that can be managed by proper therapy. Are there others?

A: Despite our best efforts and great advances in veterinary research, some diseases have remained incurable. Examples include allergic dermatitis, pemphigus and lupus, as well as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. However, despite these ailments being incurable, veterinary medicine has found ways to enable the pet to live a more comfortable life.


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