Skin complaints are extremely common in dogs and cats today, and it’s not just fleas that are causing the problem.
It is becoming increasingly common for domestic pets to have skin allergies or sensitivities. They may react to anything from fleas, grasses, weeds, shampoos, household chemicals, chlorinated water, preservatives or certain foods.
Skin problems can show up as excessive itching, dry and flaky skin, hot spots, eczema, dull or greasy coat, dandruff, excessive licking, chewing at paws, fur loss or smelly coat.
External parasites can also be a major cause such as mange (mites), lice, ticks, fleas or fungal conditions like ringworm.
Some animals can be covered in fleas and still have a perfect coat, while others may get one flea on them, and it will set off a scratching frenzy, where they will bite and chew at themselves until bleeding & bald patches are visible. This allergic condition is often treated with cortisone, which is only symptomatic treatment and does not cure the problem. There is always an underlying reason why the animal is reacting to something which would not normally cause this sort of irritation.
Natural treatment of most skin conditions is aimed at detoxification, followed by good nutrition and natural remedies to strengthen the animal’s immune system.
The majority of animals that we treat with skin complaints are fed some, if not totally on processed food. The most common being dried food. Dry pet food is very convenient, not messy or smelly and most pets love it, so it’s no wonder it is so widely used. But at what cost to your animal’s health?
Highly processed food is not natural for animals and they will never obtain optimum health when fed this type of diet.
Fasting is the most effective method of detoxification and when used in conjunction with herbs or homeopathic remedies, can bring about excellent results. Most healthy animals can safely fast for two days or longer under supervision; (animals suffering from diabetes, cancer or other serious health conditions should not be fasted). Fasting is not starving your pet, as many people believe. It may be saving its life! During the fast you can give fresh vegetable juices or broth – made from veggies and bones (Do not add any seasoning). During the fast, spend extra time with them, giving plenty of affection, go for a walk at their usual mealtime or play their favorite game to take their mind off food. Most pets cope quite well, it’s the owners that find it hard.
Herbs such as dandelion, red clover, milk thistle, burdock, nettle, chickweed, yellow dock, alfalfa and parsley are all beneficial for skin complaints and can help during detoxification. Herbal SK tonic.
Homeopathic remedies can also be used during detoxification and to aid in the healing process. Homeopathic SKALL
Flower essences can often help when the skin conditions stems from an emotional cause, which is often more common than you would imagine. Flower remedy – skin & coat formula
Good Nutrition plays a major part in treating skin conditions.
A natural diet, free from preservatives and processed foods is an essential requirement. Nutritional deficiencies are often associated with poor quality coat and skin, especially Zinc, EFA(essential fatty acids), Vitamins A, B complex, C & E. Greenpet OmegaPlus Oil contains a good blend of EFA.
It is not necessary to bath your pet too often, as this can contribute to skin dryness, especially if using medicated shampoos. A mild shampoo or soap is just as effective to clean their coat and will cause less irritation. Greenpet herbal shampoo is gentle enough to use on sensitive skin.
Herbal infusions of chickweed, nettle, calendula or elder flower can be used to soothe irritations, & help to relieve itching.
Apple cider vinegar diluted in water 1/4 cup to a bucket of warm water can be poured over coat as a final rinse.
Neem extract diluted in water or a carrier oil will help to relieve skin irritations and has insect repellant properties. A simple lemon rinse can be made up using lemon peels. Using about 10 lemon skins in 1 litre of water, bring to the boil. Simmer until mushy, strain and cool before pouring over pet’s coat. This is also recommended for mange.
Many flea & tick treatments are quite toxic to both pets and their owners. Anything that is not safe for human skin contact or inhalation, I believe, is not safe for your pet either. Fleas are also becoming resistant to many of the current chemicals used, requiring stronger chemicals to be developed.
For most skin allergies, a naturopathic consultation is required to work out the most effective treatment program for the individual animal. Or check out our Itchy Skin page on the range of products and services we have to help your animals overcome allergies and skin problems.
Julie Massoni (Animal Naturopath)