Cold-Weather Groom­ing Guide Chilly tem­per­a­tures and thicker coats pose spe­cial chal­lenges.

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Ju­lia Sz­abo

The Catskills re­gion of up­state New York is renowned for be­ing a win­ter won­der­land dur­ing the cold months. But along with the sea­sonal pros—in­clud­ing snow sports and blaz­ing wood fires—come a few cons: bone-chill­ing damp­ness and dry, itchy skin in both peo­ple and pets.

Pets with long hair are es­pe­cially prone to health prob­lems caused by cold dry air and mat­ted fur, as Ulysses Rosen­zweig, DVM, of Ar­gos An­i­mal Hospi­tal in Boiceville, N.Y., in Catskill State Park, knows all too well. “It’s im­por­tant to keep pets well-groomed all year-round,” he em­pha­sizes. Other­wise, the vet cau­tions, coats will be­come mat­ted, re­sult­ing in skin in­fec­tions and other is­sues that re­quire ve­teri­nary in­ter­ven­tion. A good groom­ing reg­i­men can pre­vent the de­vel­op­ment of se­ri­ous health is­sues.

That said, cold weather in any re­gion of the world presents spe­cial chal­lenges to proper pet groom­ing. “Groom­ing in win­ter is even more im­por­tant than at any other time of year,” con­tends Jodi Jud­son of All Groomed Up, a pet groom­ing ser­vice based in Sauger­ties, N.Y. “The snow and over­all wet­ness wreak havoc on an­i­mals’ skin,” says Jud­son. “If the coat be­comes mat­ted, the skin stays moist un­der­neath, cre­at­ing a breed­ing ground for bac­te­rial in­fec­tion—but you’d never know it un­der all that hair.”

Un­til, that is, the sit­u­a­tion gets so painful for the pet that he doesn’t tol­er­ate be­ing touched. That’s when it’s time to see a vet­eri­nar­ian. Vets and groomers agree that pet own­ers should per­form ba­sic groom­ing du­ties at least two or three times weekly—ideally daily—to pre­vent the need for a dras­tic shave-down, an­tibi­otics, and med­i­cated sham­poos.


In­door pets of all stripes de­velop sea­sonal dry skin from win­ter’s hy­per-heated in­te­ri­ors; com­bined with the mats that plague long-haired an­i­mals, this is a for­mula for win­ter­time woes.

Keep fe­line skin mois­tur­ized from within (which helps pre­vent ex­cess shed­ding). Sup­ple­ment your cat’s diet with fish oil for­mu­lated for pets, and brush your cat’s coat daily. Af­ter brush­ing, rub a spoon­ful of co­conut oil be­tween your palms and mas­sage with your hands; this will en­cour­age a glossy coat and re­move any shed­ded hair your brush missed, so it can’t start form­ing new mats. If you have a long­coated cat or a dog with a thick, dou­ble coat, an ex­pert groomer is just as much a VIP as your trusted vet: use good, old-fash­ioned word of mouth to find the best ones.

Win­ter­time ter­rain cramps long-haired pets’ style. Dry branches, bri­ars, and burrs all con­spire to cre­ate chaos, catch­ing on the coats of long­haired an­i­mals, es­pe­cially their tails. If not de-tan­gled, pets soon sprout tight mats, like small nests, some­times ac­cented with ice balls. Those mats are

not only un­com­fort­able for your pet, they also pre­vent you from notic­ing po­ten­tial trou­ble ar­eas on your pet’s skin, such as a rash or lump.

If a burr is the source of a knot, use your fin­ger­tips and the end of a me­tal comb to gen­tly re­move fur from the burr-knot un­til it’s loos­ened enough to be re­moved with­out caus­ing a yelp. Run your hands along your pet’s coat af­ter your cat or dog spends time out­doors, and use a wide-tooth me­tal comb to de­tan­gle any clumps. Pay ex­tra at­ten­tion to the area around the col­lar, where fric­tion pro­motes mat­ted fur and chafed skin.


Once the big knots are out, it’s time for a brush­ing. For pets with thick, dou­ble coats (in­clud­ing most cats), an un­der­coat rake is the best way to re­move dead hair, stim­u­late the skin, and en­cour­age healthy re­growth.

Next, use a slicker brush (a brush with ne, short wires) to dis­trib­ute your pet’s own oils across the coat. If your pet needs ex­tra con­di­tion­ing—on the el­bows or tail, for in­stance— ap­ply a dab of co­conut oil wher­ever the skin or hair feels dry, and brush it in.

Use neem oil to mois­tur­ize paw-pads; this will pre­vent crack­ing from dry, in­door heat or ex­po­sure to the icy ground out­side (don’t use tasty co­conut oil for this ap­pli­ca­tion, as your pet will just lick it right off ). And take this time to ex­am­ine your pet’s toe­nails: too-long nails make it di cult for pets to gain foot­ing on icy ground, which could cause ortho­pe­dic in­jury.

Ju­lia Sz­abo is a jour­nal­ist and healthy living ad­vo­cate who’s passionate about max­i­miz­ing the longevity of com­pan­ion an­i­mals. She is the au­thor of seven books, in­clud­ing her most re­cent, the med­i­cal mem­oir Medicine Dog.

healthy'tip! Vets and groomers agree that pet own­ers should per­form ba­sic groom­ing du­ties at least two or three times weekly.

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