Itchy Dogs aka Spring Itch
About this time - every year - we get consultation requests for dogs with allergies. An allergy involves the immune system, and that system is a very big ship to turn. You can help. Without some intervention you can often see allergies getting worse every year. Why is that?
The immune system has decided that an otherwise harmless substance like pollen (after all, what is so bad about birch trees, grass, etc?) is the enemy, and will launch an attack each and every time those pollens are in the air. Even something as basic as an open window allowing fresh air indoors can set things off. The more often the dog is exposed, the more stubborn the itch becomes. This leads to more inflammation of the skin, soreness, and even hot spots. In turn the scratching and biting your dog is doing opens pores that are an invitation for bacteria to settle in and/or overgrowth of normal bacteria and yeast.
Ears become smelly, itchy and inflammed. Paws and private parts become an intense source of itching that leads to the dog licking, and scooting. Even urinary tract infections can develop from the licking of genital areas.
Allergies can get worse over time because the dog has been exposed more often, and the immune system reaction escalates. The key is to try and calm everything down, so here's a plan to consider:
1. Visit your veterinarian to ensure the dog is healthy and there are no parasites. There've been so many cases of dogs with fleas despite the owner being certain there were none. Mites (you can't see them) cause severe itchiness. Being hypothyroid can cause skin issues too.
2. Your dog may have what's commonly referred to as 'leaky gut'. When allergies abound and cause inflammation, the gut barrier becomes more permeable allowing intact protein molecules to seep through. This can be the beginning of food allergies. We know that 70-80% of the immune system involves cells in the gut. It's simply good sense to keep the gut healthy. Probiotics like acidophilus are key.
3. Consider checking to see if your dog has dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance) This test is available through the GI Lab at Texas A&M
4. Natural antihistamine support helps many dogs. I like quercetin (a bioflavonoid) because it has antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Products combined with bromelain which helps absorption of quercetin are even better.
5. Omega 3 fatty acids can be very beneficial. Their anti-inflammatory properties combine with supportive roles for the skin barrier. Under normal circumstances the skin barrier is healthy and keeps moisture in, and irritants out. Once the dog is scratching often, thus causing irritation to the skin barrier - all bets are off. Supplementing with a purity tested wild salmon oil that contains a nice amount of vitamin D can be helpful.
6. Although the following is obvious, it's sometimes hard to remember when you're overwhelmed by a dog that keeps you from sleeping while s/he licks and chews paws and legs all night. Grass, chickweed, sand mites, et al. are in direct contact with a dog's skin as they walk. Simply rinsing them with water daily can be very helpful. Be especially vigilant after the dog swims. Too many dogs end up with hot spots from bacteria in water they swam in. In these cases, shampooing works better than simply rinsing, but be sure it doesn't include herbal extracts. Your allergic dog can react to them.
7. Dust often, vacuum at least once weekly, use unscented laundry detergents, baking soda and vingear as cleansers around the home, and buy a really good air filter.
One of the most important ways to help dogs respond better to environmental challenges is to fortify the diet. How much of any ingredient including supplements is right for your dog's breed, age, caloric limit, and activity level?
People feeding commercial diets haven't always been given a chance to do this with the same attention and guidance offered to those who feed home-prepared diets. We think this needs to change. The hard fact is that the great majority of dogs (roughly 95%) eat commercial diets be they kibble, canned, dehydrated, or raw. We believe that ALL dogs deserve to have the very best.
Monica & Jody
"That we have altered the dog genetically is well understood; it is hardly known how they changed us." ~ Donald McCaig