Friday, February 18, 2011

Skin Care for your Senior Dog

You might think that just because a dog has a thick furry coat, he doesn't need special care for his skin, but you would be mistaken. Just like a human, a dog’s skin is a protective layer that  performs many functions:

  • Retains moisture

  • Protect from foreign bodies

  • Creates Vitamin D

  • Protects against UV sun rays

  • Acts to regulate the body temperature

  • Contains sweat glands

  • Houses the nerves to detect pain, pressure and temperature

Similar to human skin, a dogs skin is comprised of three layers:
    1. Epidermis—The outer layer with the hair follicles where a dog’s fur grows out of.
    2. Dermis—The middle layer
    3. Hypodermis—The innermost layer
Each hair follicle contains a sebaceous gland which provides lubrication and waterproofs the hair and skin. In addition these are the glands that produce the scent that dogs use to mark their territory and the pheromones used to attract the members of the opposite sex.

Dogs’ hair comes in 3 different types all with different functions:

  1. Guard hairs—These are the top layer of long hair in a dog’s coat that provide waterproofing.

  1. Undercoat—Also known as the wool hairs, these hairs trap air to keep the dog warm.

  1. Vibrissae—These are the whiskers that surround the eyes, mouth and muzzle that are sensitive to touch. The vibrissae hairs should NEVER be cut without good reason.
Shedding or molting of hair is seasonal and common. A dog will shed hair to grow a coat suitable for the new season (i.e. thick coat in the winter). Sometimes a dog will lose a large amount of hair, usually around the flank area. This is a common occurrence and should not be considered worrisome. It should grow back at the time of the next molt.

As your dog ages, you'll notice that the skin thickens and becomes less pliable. It's a good idea to check for large lumps on or under the skin. This could be a sign of a tumor, cyst or cancer. As part of your senior dog's complete home health care program, you may want to schedule a special grooming session on a regular basis. Brushing your dog daily helps distribute skin oils and prevent dandruff for a healthy, pretty coat. It's also very relaxing to your dog, even therapeutic. Brushing time is also a perfect time to monitor your dog's health and body condition.

Tips for good canine skin care:

  • Feed your dog a balanced diet.
  • Brush your dog regularly.
  • Beware of bathing. Bathing can dry out your dog's skin.
  • Check your dog daily for external parasites such as fleas and ticks.
  • Use preventive pest control measures
  • Immediately treat any skin eruptions such as rashes, ulcers and infections
  • Consult your veterinarian if you notice any skin problems.

Additional Tips for Caring for a Senior Dog's Skin:

  • Do not bathe your dog too often because that will dry out the skin. Overbathing will deplete healthy oils from the coat and skin. This will often lead to scratching, irritation and eventually sores. So how often is too often? Frequency of necessary baths will be largely dependent on the breed and activities of the dog.
  • Dogs who spend that are continually outdoor are exposed to dirt, debris and insects will typically require more bathing, about every 4-6 weeks. Check with a professional groomer as some will recommend bathing double-coated breeds only about 3 times a year. Similarly, smooth-coated dogs can go a lot longer between baths than can curly-coated breeds such as poodles. Too frequent bathing, especially during winter months can cause the coat to soften and reduce its insulating qualities.
  • To keep your dog clean between baths, brush daily. This is good for a dog's coat and skin, Not only will your dog look and smell better, he will enjoy all the attention. 
  • Dry weather means dry skin! Remember as your senior dog will often spend more time indoors during the colder months, his dog's fur and skin can become dry. Don't forget if your dog is a breed that grows an undercoat, you need to comb it out when the weather gets warmer. Be certain that your pet's fur does not become matted or his skin will not be able to breathe. This causes itchy skin and your dog will begin to scratch, chew and even pull out fur.
Copyright 2011 OldDogPaws

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