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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Winter Dog Grooming: The Long-Short of It

It goes without saying that winter is a rough season to endure for everyone, dogs included. This snowy, cold winter climate poses a number of challenges as we try to care for our furry friends' skin and coats through these long months.

One common problem for all dogs (and cats too) is dry itchy skin. Dogs and cats get dry skin during the months that we have to heat our homes, just like we do! Adding healthy oils, like fish oil, to your pet’s diet can give them the boost their skin and coat needs. Whether you bathe your pup at home or take him to a professional groomer, make sure chemical-free shampoos are used. Extra chemicals can further dry the skin and coat, making the situation worse. After bathing, use a chemical-free conditioner to rehydrate and soothe, or ask your groomer to add a conditioning treatment to your pet's grooming visit.

The most frequently asked question by concerned pet owners is, “What should we be doing with his hair in the winter? Leave it long so he stays warm?” It's a great question! And a delicate line to walk:

If you leave it too long

Long hair picks up snow each time a dog goes out. All the snow collecting on long hair not only causes the hair to become wet, which chills the dog, but the wetness and towel-drying will cause the hair to become tangled and matted. Those mats form not at the ends of hair, but tight to the skin. When those mats become wet with snow, they can take hours to fully dry. Imagine spending the whole winter in a slightly damp t-shirt and socks! Those damp mats can create the perfect conditions for bacterial and fungal skin infections. Mats also pull tight on the skin, and can restrict blood flow, causing hematomas. Once those stubborn mats have formed, groomers have one humane choice: shaving under those tight mats and leaving a short haircut (which isn’t ideal).

If you cut it too short

A short haircut leaves a dog's skin and delicate body parts (like tails, toes, nose and ears) regularly exposed to dangerous temperatures and leave your pet at risk for frostbite. According to the National Weather Service, at -18 degree wind-chill, it only takes 30 minutes to get frostbite. With the amount of time our best fur friends spend outside taking potty breaks and on walks, having enough (but not too much) hair is so important for providing protection.

The key to helping your dog survive the winter and early spring months is regular grooming. While most dog breeds require grooming every 6-8 weeks in the summer and fall, winter and spring conditions require more frequent visits to the groomer. Plan on bringing your dog to a groomer every 4-6 weeks for a bath and conditioning, thorough brush out, and a light trim. Regular visits will make it possible for your groomer to maintain your pup’s coat so he can comfortably get through these rough Wisconsin winters.

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