There is a quote that says something along the lines of ‘for a sensitive person, a drizzle feels like a monsoon’ and anybody who has ever experienced any kind of skin sensitivity such as psoriasis, eczema, an allergic reaction or even a single case of sunburn can absolutely relate.
For our pets, sensitive skin can make life miserable. Both genetic or environmental factors can have a profound impact on the overall health of our dogs, and as is true of humans, skin reactions can be a fairly accurate indicator that something is amiss.
Some breeds are more genetically more susceptible to sensitive skin, but international research has proven that many pets with skin conditions (such as allergies) often have a moisture and oil imbalance in the skin that can led to dry and itchy skin.
What else can cause sensitive skin?
- Seasonal factors – for many even the slightest change of weather can cause skin irritation. Winter weather tends to lend itself to dry skin conditions (such as Maisie the bulldog who gets a dry, cracked nose in winter) whereas the warmer weather we see in spring and summer gives rise to many allergic reactions.
- Diet – in the same way that too much gluten can cause Aunty Mavis’ rosacea to flare up, your pet’s diet can impact the condition of their skin. Common dietary culprits in dogs include wheat, soy, corn, chicken and beef, and preservatives whereas our feline friends need to have a water rich diet that is low in carbohydrates.
- Grooming products – it might seem like we’re being overly precious when we say this, but you might need to switch up your grooming routine to make sure that your pet is being brushed just the right amount, and check that your products aren’t causing dry skin.
- Environment – while the obvious ones are grass, dust, pollen and dust mites, less obvious ones include overheated houses, the type of powder you’re using to wash their bedding or even stress.
- Fleas, mites or infection – flea bites are the most common reason for skin irritation in dogs, but mites or infected bites or scratches can cause skin irritation in any pet.
How can you tell if your pet has sensitive skin?
- Itching – the first sign of sensitive skin is nearly always itching. Look out for unceasing scratching, rubbing against furniture/doorframes or like Willow the Labrador, constantly licking between her toes.
- Dry patches – dry, flaky areas on your pet’s skin are generally an indication that all is not well.
- Hot spots – these are open sores on the skin which your pet will worry at, causing a cycle of itch and infection that needs to be addressed
- Hair loss – if your pet is losing an excessive amount of fur or is developing bald spots, it’s time to find out what is causing the problem.
What can you do to help a pet with sensitive skin?
Well first of all, don’t tell them. Nobody likes having their bad skin pointed out to them. It will just make them feel self-conscious and no self-respecting dog needs that kind of pressure in the off-lead area of the park. And if you’ve ever disrespected your cat you know EXACTLY how they are going to respond…. not well. Not well at all.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, the good news is that there are some simple ways to deal with sensitive skin.
- Switch up your grooming – make sure you are regularly brushing your fur babies to ventilate the skin, remove allergens/dirt, and detangle knots. Make sure you are using shampoos and conditioners which are designed for pets. Look for products that might alleviate any specific concerns. Willow the Labrador benefits from a shampoo containing both hemp and goats milk. Hemp and goats milk have anti-inflammatory properties that work harmoniously to clean and moisturise without irritation.
- Supplement their diet – despite all our best efforts to make sure we are feeding our pets the best we can, supplementing their diet with elements such as omega oils, or collagen can help with their digestive health, which directly impacts the condition of their skin and fur.
- Talk to an expert – if changing up grooming and diet hasn’t made a difference fairly quickly, make an appointment with your vet to check that there isn’t something more complicated going on.
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