Pets: ‘My dog’s skin is flaky’ — what do I do? (opinion) |

Pets: ‘My dog’s skin is flaky’ — what do I do? (opinion)

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Harley is a super nice boy and very well behaved. He is about 2 years old and gets along with other cats, is good with kids and is a real lap kitty. He needs to find his forever home, so if you want to add Harley to your family please contact the Lake Tahoe Humane Society to arrange a meeting.
Courtesy photo |

Dear Henry,

I have noticed my dog’s skin is flaky and he is constantly scratching. Is this something you can give me some advice on or is it time to see the vet?



Dear Betty,

Without seeing how bad your dog is it makes it difficult to recommend treatment; also I am not a vet. I would always recommend taking your pup to the doc if you’re unsure about the severity of condition. That being said, with the cold weather comes dry weather, which also brings on a harsh environment for our pets’ skin. The lower humidity causes distress to our respiratory tract and to our largest organ, the skin. This impacts our pets, too. Below are a few tips to help with this condition:

• Use a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air will make it feel warmer (so it might help you save a few bucks on your heating costs) and will combat winter itch. Run a humidifier in each room that you and your pets spend a lot of time in. Don’t forget to clean the humidifier each time you replenish the water supply.

• If your pet isn’t already taking omega-3 fatty acids, start giving those right away. In addition to wonderful benefits they have for joint disease, they are key in maintaining healthy skin, especially in the winter.

• Brush your pet. Brushing gets rid of dead hair, distributes natural oils and stimulates blood circulation. Plus, it gives you special one-on-one time with your pet, strengthening your ever growing bond.

• Use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. I particularly like formulations that contain colloidal oatmeal — these draw out inflammation and help maintain hydration. Make it a relaxed spa time for your pet, allowing the shampoo to contact the skin for 10 minutes or more. It’s most effective this way.

• After bathing, apply a topical moisturizer, such as a leave-in conditioner or spray moisturizer. These keep the skin healthy without a greasy residue.

• If the itch is so severe that it’s keeping you and your pet up at night, or if your pet is damaging her skin by persistently scratching, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of using oral medications on a short-term basis. Antihistamines and steroids can provide relief, but can come with some undesirable side effects.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit, or

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