If you have a dog, it’s likely you’ve faced a skin problem or two. From hot spots to chronic, flaky skin, to allergies or worse, dog lovers are often frustrated when their furry friend is constantly scratching, licking, biting a spot (sometimes to the point of it looking seriously sad). While the frustration is real, there are several things you can do to help lessen the severity of your dog’s skin problems.
Fleas & Ticks
First things first: eliminate these two common causes of itching and scratching.
Ticks: Ticks can cause a lot of havoc. Sometimes they’re easy to find, other times they seem impossible. They can be large (full) or tiny (think pin head). It’s best to use your fingers to gently explore every inch of your dog, carefully feeling for any little bumps on the skin. It’s important to check everywhere, in and around their ears, all over their feet and legs, in the front leg armpits, and even in between their toes. If you find a tick, be sure to remove it safely.
Fleas: One super common reason for your dog’s itchy skin problems might be fleas. Even if you’ve never seen a flea before now, you never know. Contact with a new place or a new animal buddy – fleas are easily passed around and it’s important to rule that itchy-skin cause out of the mix. Check. Using a flea comb is the easiest way to “see” beneath even the densest of coats. Just pass the comb several times slowly and gently over fairly flat areas (across the back, along the belly) and see what you get in the comb.
It sounds crazy but yep, dogs can be allergic to many things, ranging from foods to grass or dust mites. You’ll nee to figure out what your dog is allergic to, either by process of elimination or by testing. If you suspect something, remove it and see if your dog’s skin problems get better. For example, if you’ve started feeding a new food or offering a new treat, revert back and see if the problem goes away. Are you using any new products in your home? Did you wash your dog’s bed in detergent you’ve never used before? Thinking about everything your dog is exposed to is tough, but it’s a good start if you think your dog’s skin problems might be resulting from an allergy.
Your veterinarian can test your dog to find out what they’re allergic to. The most common test is a blood test that your vet can send out to a lab for evaluation. This isn’t the cheapest test, but it is easier on your dog. Intradermal skin testing is the other alternative. Your pet is sedated, and an area is shaved down to the skin. A small amount of antigen is injected on the shaved area. After a specific amount of time, the area is examined for any reactions to the antigen. Once you know what your pet is allergic to, you’ll obviously need to eliminate those things.
Many canine skin problems can be traced to a weakened or compromised immune system. Whatever you can do to strengthen your dog’s immune system can also help keep your dog’s skin healthier.
Some believe that all pets today are being given too many vaccinations, which may be compromising their immune systems. This doesn’t mean that you should not vaccinate your pet!! However, you may want to talk to your vet about reducing the number of boosters your pet receives after they have gotten their puppy shots and one-year boosters. Some vaccinations can be given every two or three years, which puts less stress on your dog’s immune system.
Exposure to antibiotics, cortisone, flea treatments, worming treatments, chemical cleaners in the home, pesticides which scatter into your backyard every time it rains, and airborne pollutants, all cause an assault on your dog’s immune system. Limiting exposure may help your dog’s autoimmune system.
Boosting Your Dog’s Immune System
If your dog does have allergies, hot spots, dry skin or other skin problems it will help to boost their immune system. There are numerous supplements on the market today and many of them are quite good. It may take as long as three months for supplements to work, especially if your dog’s skin and coat are in bad shape.
Your dog’s overall diet always affects the immune system. You should feed your dog a high quality diet with listed protein sources like “chicken meal” or “lamb meal. There should be at least two named meat sources of protein in the first five ingredients. Sources like “poultry digest” or a plant source such as “corn gluten” are not a good source of protein. Avoid foods with chemical preservatives (BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin), animal and plant by-products that can damage your pet’s immune system. Look for foods with natural preservatives and no by-products.
If your pet is allergic to one of the more common meat or vegetable sources then you will need to look for an alternative protein sources. There are many foods available today that contain protein sources such as venison, duck, and others. The same is true for the carbohydrates and other ingredients in dog foods. These foods will be more expensive.
A raw food diet to boost your dogs immune system can be the answer. Wild animals are not plagued by the disorders that afflict our domesticated dogs! The stomach and metabolism of all carnivores are designed to digest raw food.
You can also prepare and feed a homemade diet to ensure that your pet is eating the healthiest food possible. The natural approach to maintain the immune system is always preferred as natural remedies can be included in the routine diet without fear of side effects.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements are usually recommended for dogs with skin problems. Fish and salmon oil are excellent sources of omega fatty acid. Fatty acids can come from animal or vegetable sources, however the animal sources are usually best. Vitamin A and E are also very good for your dog’s skin and coat.
A Holistic Approach
You should also try to approach treatments for your dog with the need to treat the entire system, not just the skin problems. Your dog’s immune system may be weakened in some way, so try to building it up. Giving them supplements, changing their diet, scheduling a different vaccination schedule, and taking a more holistic approach to their lifestyle. If you improve your dog’s entire immune system then you should see an improvement in their skin and coat.
Providing Some Immediate Relief
As always, you should work with your veterinarian to help identify the cause of your dog’s skin problems and ensure there’s not an infection or some other problem that isn’t going to solve itself without some intervention!
In the meantime, help your furry friend feel better: Finding the Perfect Relief for your Dog’s Itchy Skin