Skin Condition in dogs and cats treatment options, recommended remedies and helpful information has been provided by certified Master Herbalist Philip Reich and certified Canine Nutritionist Maria Reich. Philip and Maria specialize in medical herbalism and nutrition for animals with skin conditions. They approach this situation in a holistic manner with the main priority being the health and safety of your animal.
I. Skin Condition Causes and Symptoms
In many dogs and cats skin conditions can be fairly easily remedied when addressed early, but in some it can become quite the nightmare, especially after prolonged veterinary care that includes steroids and antibiotics. Skin conditions can become difficult because your animal may be suffering from more than one cause and the situation will get worse the longer it goes on without being properly treated. Skin conditions causes and symptoms include:
1). Food Allergies
These symptoms are generally caused by a protein found in one of the ingredients in the food you are feeding. Very often this can be a result of hypochloridia, or low stomach acid, which results in the initial digestion of proteins that begins in the stomach not being done completely. Food allergies can also be related to Leaky Gut Syndrome which occurs when larger proteins cross the intestinal barrier and enter the blood stream causing an immune system reaction. This condition can be related to low stomach acid and/or damage to the lining of the small intestine caused by poor diet or medications.
Symptoms of a food allergy are an immune system response and include itchy skin issues and infections, hives, paw biting, obsessive licking, frequent ear infections, hot spots and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting. These symptoms differ from a food intolerance which displays as mostly digestive distress like gas, bloating, nausea, wet burps, vomiting or diarrhea. It should be noted that many of the symptoms of a food intolerance can be related to low stomach acid or pancreatic insufficiency and could be remedied by a protocol similar to that of one for food allergies.
2). Seasonal/Environmental Allergies
If your dog or cat gets itchy during spring, summer or fall, they're probably reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. If their symptoms continue year-round, it's more likely the sensitivity is to something more constant in the environment, or an allergy to something in the diet which can complicate how this is addressed. Symptoms of seasonal allergies in animals more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation, a condition called allergic dermatitis, rather than effecting the respiratory tract as in humans. Although, a running nose, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing can occur in our four-legged friends as well.
As the cycle of itching and scratching continues, the skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch and may result in areas of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing. This is when hot spots and itchy, inflamed ears may occur. Some of these symptoms can mimic food allergies confusing the protocol we may suggest. However, a way to make a distinction between food and seasonal/environmental allergies is that symptoms of food allergies often intensify shortly after meals and range in severity depending on what food you are feeding and as with seasonal allergies do not correlate with seasonal changes.
Some of the most difficult cases that do not respond as usual we consider to be an autoimmune response. These cases of chronic itching when animals basically tear themselves apart often occurs shortly after a vaccination or application of a topical pesticide product. These strong chemicals cause an immediate and powerful reaction by the immune system. Sometimes it is difficult to control after that and these animals suffer a lifetime with chronic dermatitis.
In these cases it is important to start a natural protocol as soon as possible to be able to resolve the issue. More often this issue occurs in dogs because they are subject to the most vaccinations, and if left to standard veterinary care being treated with corticosteroids and/or antibiotics for too long the issue becomes deeply ingrained and is hard to reverse.
II. Standard Veterinary Treatment
Veterinary treatment for skin conditions primarily consists of treatment with a corticosteroid drug like prednisone. This is done to suppress the immune system resulting in less itching or other symptoms related to an immune reaction. This is sometimes accompanied by antibiotics as a precaution or in response to an infection on the skin or in the ears.
This course of treatment is very short sighted and will result in side effects related to steroid use such as adrenal gland injury, liver damage, heart issues and a suppressed immune system that can leave the animal susceptible to illness. Overuse of antibiotics will eventually weaken the immune system and leave it unable to function properly.
Studies have shown that individuals that more often use antibiotics are more prone to infection, not to mention the very scary antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria we are now starting to witness that are a result of the misuse of these drugs. The end result of this veterinary protocol is usually an immune suppressing drug like Atopica - not good!
III. Our Natural Skin Condition Protocol
Our "Core Recommendations" form the backbone of our Natural Skin Conditions Protocol. They consist of the supplement recommendations we feel are the most important to provide to your animal companion for this condition. They are displayed at the bottom of this page along with other Highly Recommended products from which you may make additional selections. Pet foods can be purchased at your finer, local pet stores. If you desire more individualized attention please feel free to use our Consultation Form to provide detailed information about your dog or cat so we can better help you.
*For those clients who have an animal with extreme sensitivities you may wish to start with our Digestive Enzyme and Probiotic formula that has simpler ingredients and move up to the Daily Multi Plus as your animal's situation improves.
Daily Multi Plus was formulated with natural and organic whole foods to form the foundation of an animals' nutritional needs. Combined with a high-quality diet it provides the enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, glandular support, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients needed to support the body's daily maintenance and repair needs for healthy aging. In this formula you will find the A, B, E and C vitamins recommended by the veterinarian community - only in an organic, whole food form!
Our Daily Multi Plus provides the widest range and highest quantities of digestive enzymes, probiotics and whole food prebiotics available in one supplement to support proper digestion and a healthy digestive tract. In conditions like allergies it is extremely important that the food provided to your companion is easily and quickly digested. The digestive process can require an enormous amount of energy from the body. The energy put into digestion is taken away from that which could be providing healing and repair that would help your companion get better. This is not where you want your animal's body to have to divert its resources at this critical time.
In addition, our Daily Multi provides a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients are critically important for all animals and even more so for animals suffering with imbalances. Inflammation is one of the consequences of allergies and it produces free radicals. These molecules create oxidative stress leading to inflammation and DNA damage resulting in chronic disease. The body always benefits from antioxidants, but in the case of allergies, the need is many times greater. The body can more easily utilize nutrients that it can recognize, and these are best obtained from organic, whole foods. Isolated synthetic vitamins and minerals have more of a drug effect on the body and place undue stress on the liver and kidneys, only for the majority to be excreted in the urine without being utilized.
We feel that one of the reasons why so many veterinarians rely on medications to treat conditions like allergies, or feel that there is nothing they can do for your dog, is because they lack understanding of the powerful healing effects of whole foods or access to the types of supplements we offer on our website.
Did you know…
Much, if not all, of the ascorbic acid we see today is a synthetic form, 80% of which is manufactured in China. In addition, ascorbic acid makes up only a small percentage of the entire natural vitamin C complex! Studies have shown 500mg of synthetic vitamin C has actually promoted free radical damage to DNA, whereas natural vitamin C present in foods acts as a protective antioxidant!
Core Recommendation #2 - Allergy Relief Formula
Our Allergy Relief formula has helped hundreds of dogs and cats around the country with their skin condition symptoms. It is an alcohol-free formula that contains a blend of USDA certified organic herbs in organic glycerin. This effective formula will help to moderate the response to the inflammatory chemicals, like histamine, circulating in your animal's bloodstream that contribute to their allergy symptoms. In addition, it also supplies numerous vitamins, minerals and bioflavonoids that support the health of the mucous membranes and skin.
Core Recommendation #3 - Systemic Enzyme Formula
*We recommend these enzymes for dogs only because they are in capsule form and must be taken whole making them inconvenient for cats.
Systemic Enzymes are taken on an empty stomach so they can enter the bloodstream to work their magic. Featuring 11 different enzymes like bromelain and papain, along with an antioxidant enzyme and a bioflavonoid, these enzymes are extremely efficient at reducing inflammation in the body.
In addition, the proteases found in this formula have been shown in studies to break apart the immune complexes that can be contributing to your dog's skin condition symptoms. As if that wasn't enough, this formula also contains enzymes that can help rid the body of yeasts like Candida albicans that can be contributing to your dog's itchy skin and ears. We highly recommend systemic enzymes for all dogs because of their numerous health benefits.
Core Recommendation #4 - Herbal Digestive Tonic
*We recommend this formula for those that feel their animal's condition is related to a food allergy. Those with seasonal or environmental allergies may still use this product if you choose to because it is very beneficial for digestion. We feel it is for dogs only because of the taste that many dogs like but may not be appreciated by more finicky felines.
Our Herbal Digestive Tonic is the answer to sluggish digestion that contributes to gas, wet burps and other symptoms of food sensitivities and incomplete digestion. It features USDA organic herbs, that are often referred to as "bitters", infused in organic apple cider vinegar. It accelerates digestion beginning in the stomach and causes the intestinal cells, liver and gallbladder to secrete more digestive juices for more efficient digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
We recommend this product because many skin conditions are a result of proteins that make their way into the bloodstream through ingestion, inhalation or vaccination. When protein digestion that begins in the stomach is incomplete, protein particles are not broken down properly resulting in larger than normal protein particles finding their way into the blood causing an immune system reaction. Incomplete digestion can cause damage to the digestive tract over time resulting in a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome that can contribute to food allergy symptoms and autoimmune conditions.
Whole Food Nutrition
With skin conditions, in which the body needs the highest value nutrition possible so it has the energy necessary to rebalance itself, we highly recommend a raw food diet. Raw food is how carnivores, like canines and felines, have evolved to eat and they do best on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. This is, unfortunately, the opposite of how most pets are fed since the majority of commercial diets are low protein with 50% or more carbohydrates.
In addition, kibble diets are harder for an animal to digest and even the simpler diets contain ingredients that you can't control, like the soy found in chelated minerals used in processed pet foods. Potential allergens hidden in ingredients in commercial pet foods can be a real problem for the allergic animal. Also, since poor digestion can be contributing to your animal's symptoms, without the right nutrition that is easily digested, absorbed and metabolized your animal will have a more difficult time getting better.
If a raw food diet is not your cup of tea, the next best thing would be a cooked, whole food diet. There are now many quality premixes to choose from to which you can add your own raw or cooked meat. For more information read our articles How to Feed Your Dog or How to Feed Your Cat that can be found in our Education section.
Often dogs and cats suffering with skin conditions have been put through the mill. By this I mean they have seen it all, numerous courses of antibiotics and those "Good for all that ails you" corticosteroid drugs. These drugs, along with poor digestion, contribute to destruction of the mucous membrane that lines the digestive tract resulting in a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome. When this occurs, larger than normal particles, whether food or organisms like bacteria and fungi, are allowed to slip through the GI tract and into the bloodstream resulting in inflammation throughout the body. It is important to fix this in a safe and natural manner and the way we do that is by supplementing with a product specifically formulated for this purpose called Repair and Strengthen.
This is a highly researched blend of four different microalgae developed by Dr. Michael Chiriac. In response to malnutrition in the former Soviet Union, thousands of man hours were spent to develop this amazing supplement. Grown in a controlled hydroponic environment away from pollutants, it contains thousands of natural, wholefood nutrients that are easily assimilated because they require little energy for digestion and so provide powerful cellular nutrition. We have had tremendous success using this product for a range of issues and it is highly recommended.
Skin condition symptoms are the result of inflammation and research shows that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil help reduce this inflammation in the body. Omega 3's are anti-inflammatory as opposed to inflammatory omega 6's and 9's found in grains and factory farmed meat (used in most pet food). Fish oil is a good source of EPA & DHA omega 3 fatty acids, but it is important to choose your supplement wisely. Fish oil can be contaminated because of our polluted oceans, so you should purchase a well known and highly respected brand, not just any brand for this particular item. Nordic Naturals produces the finest fish oil in its natural triglyceride form, which studies have shown is the preferred form of fish oil.
Often clients want to continuously bathe their dog or cat thinking this will offer relief from incessant itching and scratching. The problem is that bathing too frequently can disturb the natural balance of the skin, especially if the shampoo contains chemical desensitizing agents or corticosteroids. Once this is done skin problems can often become a chronic condition that get worse and worse. Compounding this issue is the misleading use of the word "natural" when companies market their products. Often these shampoos contain parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate that are considered to be natural ingredients but have damaging effects on the skin. Sometimes these ingredients are even left off the label. The best thing for your animal is to use a truly natural, chemical free shampoo with skin healing ingredients like MetaClean, or you may just be making matters worse.
For animals with skin issues our Healing Skin Rinse can really be of great benefit. It contains a blend of certified USDA organic herbs that provide anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and accelerated healing attributes. Just follow the easy preparation directions and then pour over and massage into the skin of your dog or cat after a bath or anytime for itch relieving and skin healing benefits.
Avoid all Chemicals
Whether from household chemicals, lawn chemicals, topical flea and tick products, chemicals in your water (we recommend a high quality carbon filter) or vaccinations, any and all chemicals are going to have a much larger impact on the allergic animal than may be apparent for other animals.
Vaccinations especially can be extremely dangerous for the allergic animal as they may have been the cause of your dog or cat's condition in the first place. Because allergies are an immune system response, it's important to keep your pet's immune function optimal. This means avoiding unnecessary vaccinations and drugs. Many caring and knowledgable holistic vets do not recommend you vaccinate your pet during a systemic inflammatory response. Vaccines stimulate the immune system which is the last thing your pet with an allergic or inflammatory condition needs. Talk to your holistic vet about titers to measure your pet's immunity to core diseases as an alternative to automatically vaccinating and consider obtaining an exemption for the rabies vaccination if possible in your area. Read our article: Are You Over Vaccinating Your Dog or Cat.
IV. Natural Remedies
This is Gal. I started with her on Pet Health and Nutrition Supplements back in 2012. She has had health issues since 8 months of age. Gal was given shots from the breeder and the breeder gave her two doses at once. This has affected Gal's immune system, hormones and digestion. We had seen 11 of both regular vets and holistic integrative vets in search of answers and help for her. Some things were helping a little that they were doing but nothing has helped as much as the supplements that I have gotten from Pet Health & Nutrition.
Maria and Phil know their stuff. I am so grateful for their products and their help. They were the last company and the last dr. and labs I was going to try. I was ready to give up. Gal would be put on antibiotics by the vets to get rid of secondary infections from the sores that appeared on her, she would smell of yeast so, so bad and be itchy worse so that I was having to bathe her & dry her with a hair dryer everyday to clean the infections and get rid of the smell. She was put through tests after tests and then the vets would want to do them all again. There were never any answers just more drugs that were not helping rid her of the underlying problem. I spent a lot on all the labs and Gal was miserable!. Glad I found Pet Health & Nutrition Center and Maria & Phil. I can not say enough good things about them. Gal says thanks too! J. Baumgartner