Skin issues, of many descriptions, (which often go hand in hand with ear issues and chewing paws), are a major problem for many dogs. In this article we look at why so many dogs suffer with this, and what you can do to help and support your dogs.
The skin and coat is a reflection of your dog’s internal health. Period.
In the US, dog skin problems are the #1 reason for seeking veterinary care. As the largest organ of the body, the skin is often overlooked and by conventional veterinarians, who often view the skin as a separate system from the rest of the body. We will see here that it is far from separate.
Allergies, itchy skin, ear problems are a sign that the dog’s immune system is out of balance. Allergy testing for dogs is now very common, as so many dogs suffer from this. Dogs suffer from allergies only if their immune system is massively overreacting to something that it should, if healthy, ignore.
Common allergies ‘diagnosed’ for dogs include allergies to fleas, food, spring grass, certain protein sources – but the truth is these supposed allergens are often secondary and do not show the root cause of the issue – that the dog’s immune system is not functioning correctly. Although dog skin conditions can present with different symptoms, the underlying cause is always the same. Ear infections, chewed feet, hot spots and other skin complaints are always the result of a deeper problem with your dog’s immune system or an issue with excreting toxins from their body.
If a healthy dog has a few fleas, the owner will often not even realise, as the dog will hardly react to these. In contrast, a dog that is ‘allergic’ to fleas, or any other allergen, will react extremely.
Signs of skin conditions can be very subtle initially, but if left untreated, they can quickly progress.
The early signs of skin problems include:
- A dull coat without a healthy shine.
- Flaky skin with a small amount of dandruff
- A musty odour
- Itchy or sore ears
If these early warning signs are not addressed, problems can quickly deteriorate, with severe symptoms including:
- Desperate chewing, licking, biting and scratching that occupies large amounts of the day and night
- Chewing / licking off the fur
- Moist, oozing red patches ( “hot spots”)
- Chewing to the point of bloody sores
- A foul odour, an oily coat, that is hard to ignore.
So what causes these allergies / immune dysfunction?
There are, of course, many triggers, which are often cumulative. Common triggers are:
- Chemical wormers / flea / tick treatments
- Environmental pollutants – particularly if surrounded or walking near agricultural land where chemicals are used
- Chemicals in the food – worse with processed foods including kibbles
- Chemicals in the water
- Shampoo / topical products
- Cleaning solutions/washing powers used in the home
- Deficient in certain vitamins and minerals – diet-related again.
- Stress in the dog’s environment
- Chemicals used in the household, garden / on pavements/parks etc.
The following quote from British vet Chris Day, who has worked with dogs for decades is alas a common scenario:
When clients were asked, ‘when did your dog start all this itchy skin disease?’ the response, in roughly 75% of the respondents was, ‘Within a month or two of the puppy shots.’”
So now we know how common the problem is for dogs, and how many potential causation factors there are (all of which are cumulative), what can you do to support your dog?
The most important thing to realise is that the skin is an overall indicator of health. So when treating a dog with skin or ear issues, looking at the dog holistically, is crucial to long term success. The skin is one of the major organs of detoxification – a way for the body to rid itself from unwanted / substances. Other organs of elimination include
- The digestive system
- The lungs
- The kidneys
- The liver
- The lymphatic system
- The womb (in female dogs through seasons)
If any one of these systems is under stress / not supported fully, then skin or ear problems may arise.
Top 10 Tips on How to address skin problems
- Reduce exposure to Harmful Toxins: Review your dog’s exposure to all the areas listed above – reducing exposure to harmful chemicals in their food and environment is always the first place to start.
- Work with a Holistic Therapist or Holistic Vet to ensure all possible causes are addressed. Our consultant Catherine Edwards provides Zoom consults on this see Dog Consults in https://catherineedwardsacademy.com/p/horse-consults
- Diet is key – switch to a raw, and where possible organic, diet – well balanced to ensure your dog is getting the correct vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients. Rocketo is obviously perfect, but so are many home-prepared / raw diets. Remember the quality of ingredients is key – if contaminated, heavily sprayed or processed ingredients are used then this will cause problems for your dog.
- Stopping unnecessary chemicals eg chemical flea/tick/worming treatments to name a few or over-vaccination – all of these put a strain on the dog’s immune system, particularly the gut microflora, with disastrous long term effects. There are many safe natural alternatives to protect your dog.
- Avoid the use of medications that suppress the symptoms and may cause long term damage. This will only hide the extent of the problems. Of course, it is sensible to support the symptoms whilst your dog is healing, but suppressing symptoms should only be done whilst addressing the root cause.
- Supplements – we have developed two supplements at Rocketo – Gutomizer and Halo – to specifically support dogs with existing skin or ear issues. You can read more about them here. The use of supplements is really important if your dog has an existing issue. I liken it to a sailor returning back to land after months at sea. If the Sailor has scurvy, 5 fruit and vegetables a day won’t solve it, the body needs flooding with vitamins and minerals to bring it back into balance. Once the body is back in balance, then the 5 fruit and vegetables a day should keep it there! This is just the same for our dogs – if the body is already out of balance and showing physical problems/symptoms – extra support is needed. Once the body is back in balance, then a healthy diet and avoiding, where possible, exposure to harmful chemicals and stress, should keep it healthy.
- Chiropractic / Light therapy treatment – it is well known that structural issues can accentuate skin issues. Taking your dog to a licensed chiropractor to ensure there are no structural impingements is important if your dog has any skin or ear issues.
- Reduce stress for you and your dog – dogs will pick up on our stress, and stress is known to suppress the immune system. You can read some quick tips for reducing stress here.