Itchy skin on pets is hard to ignore. The constant licking, chewing and jangling of their collar is enough to drive anyone nuts! People usually associate seasonal allergies with spring, leaving pet parents stumped as to why their fur babies are itching up a storm in the middle of winter. Most attribute it to the dry air, but skin irritation could be more serious than that.
Let’s take a closer look at what is making your pet’s skin so itchy during the colder months.
Cold weather and dry air
Low humidity and extremely cold temperatures work in tandem to create dry, itchy skin for pets. Dogs are especially prone to developing itchy skin in winter because they go outside several times a day for walks and bathroom breaks. Their coats and paw pads make contact with sleet, ice and snow, all of which cause the skin to become even flakier.
A pet’s indoor environment isn’t much better. During the winter, pet parents crank up the heat to stay warm. Unlike warm weather, the heated air from your home’s furnace contains very little moisture. This lowers the humidity levels in your pet’s living space. Your furry friend has to live with dry conditions, both inside and out.
Luckily, there are a couple easy steps pet parents can take to reduce skin irritation. When your pet goes outside, dress them in a coat and booties to minimize contact with the dry, cold weather. Set up a humidifier where they like to spend most of their time and remember to change the filter every few weeks. Encouraging your pet to drink more water can also help rehydrate their skin.
Itchy substances in the home
Skin conditions such as contact dermatitis often go unnoticed until winter sets in. Contact dermatitis is when exposure to certain materials leads to an allergic skin reaction. Winter makes contact dermatitis more apparent because pets are spending more time indoors. Staying cooped up in the home increases direct contact with skin allergens like wool, fabric softeners, carpeting and cat litter.
The first thing pet parents should do when they notice itching is bring their fur babies to a veterinarian. Your pet needs a proper diagnosis to confirm they have contact dermatitis. There’s no cure for this skin condition, but you can make your pet more comfortable by identifying and removing allergic substances from the home.
While dermatitis requires contact with the skin, environmental allergies occur when the pet inhales airborne particles. Many people believe environmental allergies crop up only during the spring. They associate the sneezing and itchy skin with pollen, grass and trees. However, environmental allergies can stick around all year when your pet is allergic to substances in the home.
Pets spend more time indoors during the winter, which increases their exposure to household allergens. Cats and dogs with winter allergies develop itchy skin when they’re around dust, mold, perfumes and chemical cleaners. If your pet’s year-round itching gets worse in the cold months, they’re probably allergic to one of these indoor substances.
A veterinarian can help figure out what your pet is allergic to. They might run a few allergy tests to determine the culprit behind your pet’s itchy skin. After receiving the test results, the best thing you can do is eliminate the offending substance from your home. This might involve switching to a different air freshener or cleaning the house more often to remove dust and mold.
Parasitic and bacterial infections
Pets can carry parasites all year round, even if it’s been months since they visited nature trails or dog parks. Cats and dogs who don’t receive year-long flea and tick treatments are at risk of bringing these parasites into the home. Fleas can survive for 100 days or more, meaning the fleas on a pet are probably leftover from their outdoor fall adventures.
Bacterial infections could also be to blame for your pet’s itchy skin. Bacteria can enter the skin through open wounds, leading to abscesses or a discolored, foul-smelling discharge. Contact dermatitis, environmental allergies and parasites can all cause secondary bacterial infections due to constant itching in the same spot.
Your vet may prescribe antibiotic or antiparasitic medication to eliminate the problem. They might also recommend putting your furry friend on a year-long flea and tick treatment plan to avoid future infections. If the bacterial infection was secondary, they will diagnose and treat the underlying cause, too.
Winter can give pets dry, itchy skin just like their human companions. However, pet parents shouldn’t be quick to attribute a pet’s itchiness to just the cold weather. Many skin conditions don’t make themselves known until winter hits. Seeking a vet’s diagnosis will help you remedy your fur baby’s itchy skin in the best way possible.