Groom to Shine this winter
As the season changes, winter is now setting in, then your pet’s grooming needs also change. Find the right way for bathing, brushing, and taking care of your pet’s paws during winters.
Garima Singhal and Boo
A clean dog is a happy, healthy dog. Many dogs suffer from dry, chafed, rough, infected skin in the winter due to the lack of hygiene and skin maintenance, in combination with the cold air, wind, and the dry air from the heaters in our homes. The layers of coat don’t help because most times it ends up being matted and prevents even distribution of oils and natural moisturisation.
A lot of pet parents think that since the dog is indoors most of the times, they stay clean. They might not appear muddy enough to need a thorough cleaning session, but grooming in winter is as important as grooming your pet in summer. ‘It’s a common misconception that dogs don’t need to be groomed during the winter months’ says Ashita Mathew of Tail Lovers Company Pet Spa, Bangalore. The dog’s winter coat, which is long, will come in, but it should not be allowed to grow disproportionately long under the misconception that it will insulate and protect the dog.
Dogs with greasy coat need to be given a bath as dirt and dust sticks onto the oily coat. Regular brushing and a bath with lukewarm water using a pet shampoo and conditioner will help to keep the coat and skin clean, says Mathew. Long, wet, matted hair and untended to skin makes the dog feeling cold, and susceptible to infection. Chances of getting hot spots, and pain are also increased if you don’t dry and brush your pet properly.
The lotions and conditioners can help with the itchiness and dryness by counteracting the dryness in domestic style heating in many homes. Even the little pawpads, nose and lips might be irritated. A dog friendly brand of shea butter, almond butter, and peanut butter and aloe balm will help, although more of it might end up in the dog’s tummy than on the skin. But worry not; these are entirely safe products, safe to apply and to ingest.
Regular brushing to avoid matting
Whenever your dog is wet, whether from the rain, or if you live in the mountains, then the snow, ice, the sleet as well, just make sure you dry him thoroughly. Train your dog to be happy around hair dryers. Dogs are just as susceptible to chills as we are. Trimming the underpad fur in places it snows helps keep the coat clean and prevents it from being a medium for infections, says Mathew.
Matting can lead to infections beneath the hair on the skin, and even below the skin, so when you make the decision to forgo a dog’s grooming for winter, you are compromising on their health and overall wellbeing.
Regular brushing in the winter removes shedding hair especially for double and heavy coated breeds like Huskies, German Shepherds, Chow Chows, etc., says Mathew. It also avoiding matting and tangling of coat keeping your pet’s body temperature balanced. Matting can also prevent even distribution of oils that naturally occur in the skin and stimulate the skin and coat. Heating systems in our homes can often further dry out your pet’s coat and skin and hence, regular trimming and maintenance during winters is important.
Foot care, pedicures
Your pet interacts with the environment with his feet. Maintaining the hair and paw pads can improve his overall movement as well as the general well being. This goes not only for winter care, but also for summer care. Most dogs of all breeds and sizes grow hair between the pads of each foot and keeping this hair short, detangled, unmated and clean will allow the foot to pad ratio to work well and your pet will be able to walk with ease. Excess hair can cause them to slip on polished floor.
Unwanted hair growth can lead to matting, skin infections, sore spots, hot spots, and event restricted movement. Damp mud can ball up between the toe pads which can be uncomfortable during walks and can lead to infection as well.
Nail maintenance is just as important for your pet. Throughout the year, his nails naturally wear down from regular walks and playing on concrete, and rock digging and other activities. But during winters outdoor activity is limited thus, nails don’t get much wear off. The clickety-clack of nails on pavement is not only unpleasant to hear, it can be painful for your pet. It makes it difficult for them to keep their posture on slippery surface and might causes hip and elbow pain.
The pavement and the sidewalks where the pet walks are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and both those extremes can lead to burns. Avoid those surfaces, and if your dog tolerates it, get doggie type booties to cover those gentle paws.
In addition to all of these, keep a towel handy by the door, and make feet wiping a routine every time the dog comes back from a walk. This will minimise problems such as cracked pads, infection, fungus, etc.
Make grooming time fun for your pet in winters and see how they enjoy the pamper session.
(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term per parent of her dog Dobie)