Dry skin can be an uncomfortable issue for pets in the winter, but natural oils can help
Flickr photo by SingChan
But we humans aren't the only ones that get dry, itchy skin — our pets are affected just the same, barring any health issues that would go hand-in-hand with this sort of thing. And while we can slather on moisturizer topically, that's just not an option for pets.
Dogs and cats can benefit from the use of a humidifier and a healthy diet that supports overall integrity and health of the skin, but another great way to address the vexing problem of dryness is to go the internal route: diet. A high quality pet food is essential (click here for resources). And a little extra help is as close as your pantry — no special or expensive products from the pet store are necessary.
If you have two common oils on hand — olive or coconut — you're set.
Olive oil is ideal because it contains healthy phytonutrients, vitamin E and antioxidants, and is stable and is easily digestible. Cold-pressed is best, and you can add olive oil right into your dog’s food. As a rule of thumb, use a teaspoon or so per day for a pooch that 30-40 pounds, or up to a tablespoon for a dog that's roughly 90 pounds. For cats, just a few drops is necessary.
Coconut oil — my personal favorite because of its versatility, many health benefits and yummy taste — might be an option for your pup as well. Coconut oil is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, and is an abundant source of lauric acid, and according to Dr. Deva Khaksa, VMD and author of Natural Dog; A Holistic Guide for Healthier Dogs, it's believed to be effective in treating viruses, bacteria and yeast.
One half to one teaspoon daily on your pet's chow is enough for a medium-sized dog, and slightly more for large breeds. Easily digestible, coconut oil is also thought to enhance metabolism.
Both oils should be kept in a cool, dark place for maximum efficacy.
Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.