If I had a pound for every itchy dog or cat there is on the planet, I would be able to afford some swanky pads around the world and that electric mini I fancy (gals gotta go eco you know). All joking aside though (because this isn’t a joking matter), itchy pets are prevalent and it’s become an epidemic.
Looking from a holistic perspective there are many factors as to why a dog may be predisposed to being itchy. This could be genetics, the environment and how effective a dog’s immune and detoxification system is. We live in a highly toxic environment where our pets are often over vaccinated, fed highly processed diets and have those genetic predispositions I just mentioned. I also think many puppies are weaned off mother’s milk way too early to allow for a fully developed immune system.
There are few reasons why your pet could be itchy but either way, it’s a physiological, immunological response that needs to be put back into balance. Whilst detecting the reasons why, addressing the inflammation caused can sometimes be tricky. I’ve had hundreds of cats and dogs come to me with the complication of knowing what elicits the reaction but even still, can’t get a handle on the scratching. This is where I use a layered approach to looking at all elements of the physical body.
The cause of itching in dogs is largely due to allergies. Approximately 1 in 5 dogs have allergies that are often diagnosed as Atopic or Contact Dermatitis. This could be from a number of allergens such as grass, moulds, foods, household items and parasites.
Allergies in dogs often manifests in constant scratching, rashes, ear infections, weeping eyes and hotspots and can become a real problem for dogs and their owners. It’s actually one of the most common complaints I see in my clinic today.
So your cat or dog is probably scratching, licking their paws, backs of legs and belly. They may also be sneezing,have weeping eyes and ear problems. To start to fix a problem, we need to know what is causing it.
There are generally 3 main reasons why your dog may be itchy. Understanding the causes can help us in our steps to an itch free dog.
1. Environmental allergies. This is caused by inhaled allergens and this could be to certain pollens, dust, mould, household products and may be all year around or just seasonal. An environmental allergy accounts for the majority of dermatitis in dogs.
2. Food allergies are less common but intolerances and sensitivities are very common. The most common food suspects are corn, maize, chicken, beef, soy and gluten but the list can be endless.
3. Contact allergies.This is often a reaction to parasites such as fleas, or mange, grass or household products such as detergent you’ve used to wash bedding for example.Flea contact dermatitis is probably the most common of all of these.
It’s important you get a diagnosis by your vet or a clinic like My Pet Nutritionist. as we need to know what your dog is reacting to. In rare cases itching can be due to more serious disease so make sure you get this checked out by a professional.
If your vet isn’t testing for allergens, then a test at Easy DNA may detect the culprits.
If you suspect its only food, I have found Nutriscan to be beneficial for clients.
Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system that perceives harmless substances as threats. Once we identify those substances, removing them are important but we still need to consider other steps to get results. Imagine your immune system is a scale. It’s tipped far one way and we need to get it back into balance. Quite often, if the offending allergens, foods etc are removed, your pet can still experience itching. Each positive step you take is one step closer to that scale being completely in balance.
Poor quality food in itself generally depletes the body and immune system. You see, it’s all about the immune system working effectively for an itchy dog. Many commercial diets are lacking in antioxidants and enzymes that are abundant in fresh, raw foods and lightly cooked foods. These elements are essential to well-being but are killed by high heat processing in all of the cooked, packaged dry and tinned foods on the shelves today. Dry food for example contains very high starch content even if your dog food does not contain grain. The starch is required to stick the kibble together and starch equals a high sugar content. Sugar is bad for your cat and dog as the sugar can feed different bacteria, virus, yeast and cancer. Not to mention itching dogs. Sugar is the worst thing for an itchy dog!
Fresh foods are the only way to feed your pet in my expert opinion. I have seen huge transformations in many dogs who have come to my practice and in particular itchy cats and dogs. In fact, I recommend it to any pet parent for optimum health. I recommend, Luna and Me and Different dog in the U.K.
If you suspect your pet has a food allergy or sensitivities and you haven’t done a test yet or the test is inconclusive, then an elimination diet also known as a ‘feeding trial’ is a thorough way to detect the offending foods. I am afraid this is blog all on its own but to outline the process see below.
An elimination diet involves feeding an extremely simplified diet for 12 weeks observing any signs of intolerance such as itching, diarrhoea, weeping eyes and a yeasty smell. You are essentially starting from scratch and introducing the immune system to different protein sources and sticking to one per week and observing reactions. It’s always good to start with single proteins your cat or dog has not previously been introduced to such as rabbit or venison. Don’t feed treats other than the pure meat you are feeding for main meals that week.Treats if possible should be avoided. Clean filtered bottled or even better still, distilled water should be given, not regular tap water.
Sometimes we check for allergies and intolerances and there aren’t any. This could be simply because the coat and skin is dry and there’s a lack of omega oils in the diet (this should always be considered first), but sometimes and more often there’s an issue called Histamine Intolerance. I’ll write on this later but this can often be genetic and something that needs to be approached in a specific way.
General lifestyle choices and toxic overload, challenges the immune system and puts it under more pressure every day. To help the itch, we must remove toxicity in your cat and dog’s life. Your pet may even be allergic to any of the below:
grooming products, flea and worming products, vaccinations, household items, garden items and the impurity of water
All of the above can affect the immune system and cause itching or exacerbate it. There is a new movement of vets who are starting to titre test rather than vaccinate yearly. Talk to your vet about it and look into Vaccicheck.
Great products/ingredients to consider are cleanse formulas to support the body systems and reset, omega oils (based on algail oil, anchovies and sardines) to moisten the skin and reduce the inflammatory cascade, add in quercetin, bromelain and vitamin C for reduction in mast cell activation of histamine, probiotics and healing the gut wall to modulate immune response alongside an immune balancing herb or superfood such as reishi to help reduce the reactions.
Steroids and Apoquel only switch off the immune system that have long term detrimental effects on the body. Please consider going natural, it's the kindest thing for your pet and not a condition that is life threatening without drugs. Please bare in mind excessive itching and that awful creep under the skin is enough to send anyone demented.
For complex cases, please contact us to find out more or go to www.mypetnutritionist.com/consultations
Thanks for reading and I hope you can resolve the itch!