Connie Barnhart asked: Every winter, my beautiful shiny chocolate lab turns into a itchy, flaky dull coated mess. I brush more and add fish oil to her diet but she is still so itchy. Anything else I can try?
Answered by Dr. Phillip McKinney
Just as with humans, there can be many causes for dry skin and itching. Food allergies, hormonal issues (hypothyroidism), and environmental allergies (grass, dust mites, pollen). However, this type of seasonal reaction sounds more likely to be associated running the furnace. When we run the furnace, it creates a dryer humidity in the environment. This dries out your dog’s skin (and also why we as humans have drier skin in the winter).
There are several topical products, such as skin conditioners, that help in these cases (similar to using oils & creams on our skin). There are also prescription oral supplements such as Welactin, an omega-3 supplement specially formulated for canines. Be careful of the dosage of over the counter human grade fish oil supplement. While they can be safe and used for canines, too much can be toxic. Why? Fish oils are a rich source of fat soluble vitamins. Unlike water soluble vitamins where excess is secreted in the urine, fat soluble vitamins in excess can be toxic. We do suggest that you check with your veterinarian just to rule out any other causes and to get accurate dosages for your pet.
Another thing to remember, in the harsh winter months don’t over bathe your pet. Even the most gentle of shampoos will still remove the oily layer which helps to keep the skin moist. Over brushing can also aggravate the skin causing flakes to get worse. To remove the pesky flakes when you see them, try just using a warm damp rag.