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Dog Winter Skin Problems (and How to Avoid Them)

Written by Anna Hollisey


Red tri Aussie Shepherd sitting in the snow

Human skin benefits from extra care during winter – what about our dogs? Read on to find out how to prevent sore paws and cracked noses in the cold season.

Winter Allergies

Just like humans, many dogs suffer from allergies – and their immune response often causes itchy skin. 

What are the triggers of allergies in winter? Dust mites and parasites are found indoors. Allergies to these can cause itchiness which is worsened in dry, cold conditions. 

Our Advice: If you suspect an allergy, consult your vet – they can book blood or intradermal skin testing to determine the cause. In the meantime, vacuum regularly, wash bedding more frequently, and ensure that your dog’s flea and tick treatments are up to date. 

Ear Mites, Parasites and Infections

Dry skin can be a symptom of something more serious, such as an autoimmune condition or Cushing’s Disease/learn/dog-health/cushings-disease-in-dogs-the-symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get an itchy dog/learn/dog-health/dog-itching-remedies checked by a vet, who can do tests for underlying causes.

If your dog has isolated, unexpected periods of dry skin, they could have an infestation or infection. Tiny parasites – like ear-mites and lice/learn/dog-health/ear-mites-in-dogs-symptoms-and-treatments – can cause intense itchiness for our poor pooches. Look out for ringworm – a skin infection which can also be passed to humans. 

Our Advice: Infections, parasites, and health conditions need veterinary diagnosis. The vet will help you by identifying the cause and formulating a treatment plan. 

Central Heating

Maybe your skin feels dry, or your lips become chapped during the winter. It’s just the same for some dogs. Did you ever wonder why that happens?

When the heating is on and windows are closed, the air becomes less humid, which means it contains less moisture. Our skin usually absorbs airborne water but when there’s low humidity, we lose moisture as it’s drawn back into the air. This means our skin becomes drier and sometimes itchy. Very dry skin can become cracked.

Our Advice: If your dog’s skin is drying out due to low humidity, you could consider using a humidifier in the home, and keep their hydration levels up by adding some wet food to their bowl. Also check out our moisturizing tips below!

Ice and Salted Sidewalks 

When the temperature drops below 45°F, you might need to limit or pause daily walks. But that’s a guideline, so take your dog’s breed and size into consideration. Smaller dogs can be extremely affected by the cold; meanwhile, a larger dog with a thick coat may be able to tolerate (and enjoy) a short walk during chilly conditions.

Snowy or ice-laced sidewalks pose problems for paws. Little balls of snow or ice can become compacted between toes, causing lasting discomfort. And don’t assume that a salted sidewalk is any better. The salts and other chemicals used in de-icers can cause minor burns to paws. If your dog tries to lick off that salt when they’re back home, they could experience serious stomach pain. 

Our Advice: If you live in a cold part of the country, try putting your dog in snow boots to protect their paws. And if you’ve been treating your own yard with a de-icer, look for a dog-friendly alternative – sand works, in a pinch!

Here’s some good news: there are lots of products which can help your dog’s skin. Ready for a canine spa day? You might find a new idea in this list.

  • If your dog likes a bath, try a shampoo which contains oatmeal. It’s often recommended for people with eczema and has a soothing, smoothing effect on skin. You can even make your own oatmeal bath by tying a handful of oats into a muslin cloth and putting it into the bath-water.
  • If your dog’s skin has become broken or infected, your vet may be able to recommend a medicated shampoo which will soothe and protect.
  • A supplement like The One/products/the-one will support healthy skin, especially if it’s rich in Omega-3. (We use krill oil for that purpose, as it’s known to reduce inflammation and promote silky skin.) 
  • For sore or itchy paws or cracked noses, you can buy dog-specific moisturizers. We like the ones with natural ingredients like aloe, shea butter, and beeswax. If your dog’s paws have broken skin, try an antiseptic balm or spray to speed up healing (human salves are usually too potent).

Further Reading

Winter is for getting outdoors/learn/dog-lifestyle/winter-walkies-tips-and-advice, right? So pull on your boots and read our top tips for happy, healthy winter walks. If your dog is prone to paw injury, or loves to run in snow, is it time to consider canine snow boots?/learn/dog-health/are-dog-boots-necessary  And since it’s winter, you might be looking for a gift for your dog this Christmas/learn/dog-lifestyle/from-personalized-bowls-to-cozy-jumpers-we-cant-wait