Skin irritations and skin problems in dogs are best dealt with holistically - using a combination of conventional and alternative natural remedies, we address the skin problems by alleviating the symptoms such as itchiness and inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and eliminating the underlying root cause.
Skin problems is one of the most common dog health problems. Many health issues have skin irritations and/or infections as one of their symptoms.
This page looks at the importance of dealing with our dog's skin irritations from the "inside out". You can find suggestions of what you can do to strengthen your dog's immune system so that she is less prone to develop skin problems.
There are many different things that can cause itchiness and skin irritations in dogs.
Poor dog skin conditions can cause a great deal of discomfort and stress to our dog. It is important therefore that we do everything we can to eliminate the factors that may cause our dog skin irritations.
Just like our skin, a dog's skin has great responsibilities: it protects the body from outside toxins, germs, hazards, etc., and it also helps eliminate wastes and toxins from inside the body.
Many holistic veterinarians stress the importance of caring for the skin from the "inside" as well as the "outside". If a dog is healthy, has a strong and balanced immune system, he is less prone to develop skin irritations.
According to homeopathic theory, diseases always manifest themselves from the outside first. Simply put, if there is something wrong with a dog (or other animals for that matter), usually we will first notice something wrong with his skin. For example, he will develop itchy skin, or suffer from hair loss, or his coat will become dull or dry. It follows therefore that if we want our dog to have a nice coat, we have to make sure that his "inside" is nice and healthy as well.
Another implication to this theory is that, when our dog develops skin problems, we should not use drugs to just suppress the local skin symptoms. For example, if your dog has itchy skin, do not just use medications such as antihistamines or steroids to stop the itch. For by so doing, we are overlooking the "big picture" - we are not dealing with the truly dangerous underlying chronic health problem that is festering inside. Even if the localized dog skin irritations can be stopped temporarily, most certainly the problem will re-surface in the future, usually in a more nasty way.
So what can we do to care for our dog's skin from the "inside"? How can we eliminate the causes of dog skin irritations? Here are some suggestions:
Diet is the single most important factor to ensure that your dog's skin is healthy. Holistic veterinarians suggest feeding our dogs natural, nutritious, preferably home-made diets. Most recommend a raw diet, but if that is not possible, a home-cooked diet is better than store-bought kibbles or canned food.
As much as possible, eliminate dog products that may contain harmful substances and chemicals. For example, some flea collars or dips have been proven to contain toxic chemicals that are not safe for dogs, people and the environment. Stop using them. Fleas and other parasites can be controlled in other safer and environmentally-friendly ways.
Similarly, avoid using pesticides, weed-killers, etc. in places where your dog frequently "hangs out". Even household products such as carpet cleaners, certain detergents, air fresheners, etc. can contain toxins that are harmful to dogs and cause skin irritations. Use products with natural ingredients if possible.
This is one aspect that many people tend to overlook.
Stressed dogs are prone to develop skin irritations and problems. The bad news is, dogs are very sensitive to the emotional feelings around them. They can sense our feelings and they empathize with us. If we feel stressed, they feel stressed. If we are sad, they look and feel sad! If there is tension and hostile feeling in the room, they can pick that up too! Also, loneliness, boredom, and lack of exercise will also cause stress to our dogs.
The bottom line? Lead a stress-free life ourselves and our dogs will be stress-free too!
Certain herbs are very effective in activating specific organ systems, or balancing the immune system. Feed herbs to our dogs regularly can make them stronger and more resistant to diseases. As a result, they will have a healthy, shiny and soft coat that makes you proud!
Enchinacea is effective in balancing the immune system. You can feed a tincture of the herb to your dog as a supplement. A low-dose, on/off cycle is recommended. (For example, 3 weeks on / 1 week off).
Culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme, cayenne, turmeric, and cumin are very good herbs that can keep your dog's organ systems healthy. Simply sprinkle the dried herbs on your dog's food and let them do the job!
Sea vegetables (such as kelp) and micro-algae (such as spirulina) are rich in trace minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to the skin. Here is a simple herbal mix you can make for your dog to improve his/her skin and coat:
Mix equal parts of powdered kelp and spirulina with the powder form of these dried herbs: nettle, alfalfa, calendula and dandelion root. Add this mixture to your dog's food (1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day) for about 2 weeks, then reduce the amount to a maintenance dose of 1/2 teaspoon per 25 pounds every other day.
Just like us, dogs have to be "detoxed" as well. A very good and safe herb that can be used for detoxification is burdock root. It helps remove toxins from the body, and it also counteracts dry skin. Dried burdock root can be sprinkled on your dog's food for this purpose. Also see this page for more ways to detoxify your dog.