Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The dog days of winter: How to help your pets deal with dry air

Liam and Sinead snuggled together for warmth
Oregon temperatures have dipped into the 20s this month, and that means pug Liam and Boston terrier Sinead have been spending a lot of time snuggled together, just like this. Liam enjoys a good snuggle anytime, no matter the season, but Sinead is looking for extra warmth. She doesn't have much fur, so she struggles to stay warm when the temperature dips.

I can help by kicking up the furnace by a degree or two. When the whole house is warmer, Sinead might be warmer, too. But that comes with a few risks. A traditional heat source like a furnace or a fire or a space heater can suck almost every drop of moisture out of the air, and that can be hard on a dog's eyes, skin and other important features.

Thankfully, there are all sorts of things you can do to help combat the difficult, dry air that might be in your home right now. Here are my top 3 suggestions.

1. Add in an eye ointment.

Both Liam and Sinead have big, bulbous eyes that are very sensitive to dryness and irritation. When their eyes get dry enough, they dig at them. And every little dig could lead to a very serious scratch.

Liam and Sinead all snuggled up together
Every night, before these two go to bed, I give them a little touch of eye ointment. I use an over-the-counter eye lubricant that contains no steroids, no color and no antibiotics: GenTeal Lubricant Eye Gel. It's a simple ointment anyone would use for dry eyes. That small treatment helps these dogs to have slick eye surfaces that don't itch, and that can stay safe and intact through the winter.

2. Consider conditioner.

Liam and Sinead get medicated baths from time to time, due to their various skin issues. Liam, in particular, is prone to skin troubles that only baths can heal. His medications help, but sometimes, his skin is a little prone to flake in the aftermath of a bath.

In the winter, I use a simple, oatmeal-based conditioner on his skin: Burts Bee Oatmeal Conditioner. It smells really great, and it helps to add a touch of moisture to his coat, so he doesn't flake away on me.

3. Look for other ways to keep warm. 

Boosting the furnace is one way to keep the dogs comfortable, but it's not the only option open to me. In fact, it might not even be Sinead's preferred option.

Sinead snuggled on the couch

Sweaters help dogs to trap in their own body heat, so they're not so cold when they're walking from place to place. And a blanket slapped over my lap makes a nice tent for hiding and snuggling. I keep an ample supply of sweaters on hand, and I also slide blankets all over the house. That helps me keep Sinead warm without making the air abundantly dry.

What about you? Is there anything special you do to keep your dogs comfy in cool, dry winter air? Leave me a note in the comments. Love to hear your ideas.

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  1. Those are great ideas! We have a woodstove so the dryness in our house is even worse. We do keep a humidifier in the bedroom though for all of us. We also add a little fish oil to the dogs' food which can help with dry skin along with some other things as well.

    1. I forgot about the fish oil! I do that too, and you're right, it really does seem to help. Thanks for the visit!

  2. These are great suggestions - thanks for sharing! I don't keep my furnace set very high, which helps reduce dryness at least somewhat. I've been known to run a humidifier to help reduce further dryness.

    1. That's a great idea. I might have to try it here. I'm sure my plants would love it, too.

  3. Those are very helpful. I have never really thought about dry air, I am always worried about cold (-20 F the last 2 days).

  4. Fish oil or even olive oil can be good. Max gets really dry skin and I haven't given him any for a while, so thanks for the reminder!