Adopting an animal is admirable, heroic even. Besides, the first time you look into those pleading eyes, you can’t help yourself. But when I adopted a senior dog just over a year ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. Thinking I was scotch-free of all the usual puppy training hassle, Lola seemed like the perfect addition. She’s a sweet nine-year-old, 95-pound Labrador-Great Dane mix, but taking care of her was a big change from answering the meows of my self-sufficient, anti-social cats.
Of course, because Lola’s an older dog, I take her health very seriously. So when I noticed she was constantly licking and scratching, I grew concerned. After some extensive research (like any good mom would do), I learned that dogs lick and scratch themselves for many reasons. Though it’s important to talk to your veterinarian to determine whether serious issues exist, there are things you can do to help your four-legged friend maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat.
1. Feed from the inside out
Just as you scan labels on your favorite cereal, it’s important to examine your dog’s food. Many commercial dog foods are packed with fillers, consisting of cheap, nutrient-lacking grains. Feeding your dog grain-free food is a good way to ease skin problems, especially if you or your vet have noticed any specific reactions. It may also be beneficial to avoid foods with corn, wheat and soy, which can often trigger food allergies and digestive issues. I noticed a major change in Lola when I switched her to the protein-rich Wellness Core Dry Dog Food. The grain-free food is void of meat by-products, fillers and preservatives.
2. Treat their good health (and good habits)
If you’ve noticed the incessant itching is brought on after rewarding your dog with a little cookie, check the bag’s ingredients list. Grain-free treats might be all the relief he needs, or try some that are specifically formulated to help maintain healthy skin and fur, such as Newman’s Own Skin & Coat Snack Sticks.
3. Supplement for additional support
Adding supplements, like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, help keep skin healthy. Grizzly Salmon Oil is a popular and highly recommended choice. Bonus: omegas are also known for their joint support properties – particularly great for older four-legged friends.
4. Pamper with bath essentials
Don’t forget the shampoo! Bathing your dog regularly not only keeps them smelling fresh but is a prime opportunity for moisturizing her skin and hair. A few excellent shampoo options for itchy, sensitive types include Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe and Cain and Able Lavender and Eucalyptus. Plain oatmeal baths and good ole vitamin E oil are also nourishing for skin, plus they’re perfect for pups irritated by fragrances.