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Dogs with Itchy Skin : What causes it and how to deal with it, quickly and simply.


When people say “All roads lead to Rome”, they are maybe over crediting Roman building prowess. However, when we say all auto immune symptoms, including itchy skin start with intestinal permeability (leaky gut) this is much more accurate and in fact there are only a couple of obvious exceptions.

This is why we released the Intestinal Permeability (IP) articles first and before reading this one, I encourage you to read those and watch the laughable intro videos where I look like the illegitimate son of Bill Nighy and Crichton from Red Dwarf. Reg, I apologise for wearing the sunnies in the 2nd one, I had a peach of a black eye.

It’s virtually impossible to encounter ͞Itchy Skin͟ symptoms without your dog also having IP, so its super important to address this at the outset. Its quick and relatively easy if you stick to the formula. So if there’s any overlap with the previous articles it for exactly this reason, they are all interlinked. And this is why it’s also important to treat your dog’s health, as your own, holistically.

As a whole. Because it’s all interlinked.

Brace Brace rant incoming : This really , and I mean completely bamboozles me. I am utterly astonished when a human patient comes back from a Doctor’s visit having being told “their eczema is normal, it’s just something you have to live with and put this cream on it.”

No its not. Let me repeat that, gently and respectfully. No, it’s not.

I have lots of Doctor friends (and several Doctor patients) and they are all without exception really great, kind, intelligent people. They have been motivated to do good in the world and often do so at the expense of their own health and sanity. However, they are generally (not all, but most) part of an outdated approach to medicine and health that just treats symptoms. It no one’s fault in particular, it’s the way it’s all evolved. But we are where we are and it’s time to shake things up. Same story vets. Yes, Vets.

I know some excellent Holistic Vets but they are in the minority. We need more of you please. (Wendy McGrandles thank you for being at the forefront of this revolution and generally for being you).

SO, If you take one thing away from this article then this is your badger.

Symptoms can be common but they are NEVER normal.

Symptoms are clues that there is an underlying malfunction and we can use these clues to address the root cause so that is goes away FOREVER. Yep, FOREVER. And if it comes back it’s because the underlying malfunction is back, or a different one, and you simply address that. Kerpow, everything back on line. Happy feet, happy paws. Not really rocket science. It might take time and patience, yes. Some application, yes, but hardly necromancy or the arcane. Ask any decent builder worth his salt.

If one day you wake up to mould on the kitchen wall you are faced with three options, (Assuming you don’t just simply move = expensive and potentially overkill) :

  1. Paint over the mould, then act surprised when it reappears.
  2. Address the underlying cause and stop the mould reappearing
  3. Address the underlying cause, stop the mould reappearing and repaint the wall.

This isn’t a quiz but the correct approach, IMHO, is option 3.

Does option 1 sound a little like applying eczema cream?

SO this is how it relates to your dogs’ skin.

Itchy skin with dogs is normally a reaction to a collection of ͞stressors͟ as opposed to one particular sole factor. As such it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly but we know that IP is an integral part of this story.

By stressors we don’t simply mean ͞the dog͟s workload͟ or ͞number of facebook likes͟ but rather anything that can negatively affect the dog’s health and ultimately lead to biological dysfunction or disease.

Whilst this is not intended to be a totally comprehensive overview (we can cover this in greater detail in the upcoming much discussed but so far procrastinated Pawcast), the following are the major, easy and quick wins that all dogs should benefit from.

  1. Ensure your dog is enjoying a fully grain free diet. That means fully. Check the ingredients on everything from regular meals to snacks, to shampoos or grooming products. Grains are highly inflammatory for both dogs and humans and are typically one of the greater underlying causes in all types of skin disorders. Itchy skin is often just one of these disorders which is yet to ͞get an official name͟ . Importantly on this…avoid be fooled or pacified by ͞gluten free͟. Gluten free does not mean grain free. And importantly, some of the gluten free alternatives are more inflammatory than the actual gluten itself ! (Wheat germ aglutinin (WGA) being one of the prime culprits. In case you were wondering if ͞grains in products is a bit excessive͟…the skin is a huge external organ that is excellent at absorption! (All B&D meals are grain free for this reason so feel free to use them as a face pack – joke alert, just checking you are reading this carefully! )
  2. Go Dairy Free. There are few products as inflammatory as grains. Dairy is one of them. This pains me to type this as I USED TO LOVE CHEESE. AS DID MY DOG! Unfortunately for most of us (about 85% percent of my human patients have problems digesting milk or milk products!) we lose the ability to digest milk from about age 4 onwards. Dogs similarly have not evolved to digest milk beyond weening. (If you think about which other mammals on the face of planet earth consume milk outside of infancy? Anyone know the story about the hunter that stumbles on the wolves milking a cow in the woods??…no, neither do I..). They are just not equipped to deal with Dairy. Many owners feed dogs cheese as a treat. The smell is SO attractive to dogs. (think how it must smell to an animal with as much as 10 000 times the olfactory ability of humans…ah the bliss!) but the reality is this is harming the dog’s health. This includes Kefir (fermented milk) as a potential source of good probiotics. Whilst the dairy protein is largely reduced in fermentation this is still inflammatory and there are lot of other easier ways to arm your dog with friendly bacteria. So if you want to free your dog from itchy skin, free it from dairy products. (As with grains, we similarly excluded dairy from our meals)
  3. Go Lectin free. Lectins are the inflammatory proteins found in the skin of some fruits and vegetables. No this does not mean that vegetables are harmful, far from it. But some are very tricky to digest. And can create inflammation. I can provide at a later juncture a comprehensive list of the eats, don’t eats but for now to keep this quick and simple let me reassure you that all B&D meals are Grain and dairy free AND low lectin.  B&D are about to go entirely lectin free to become arguably the most hypoallergenic dog food available today. Yes, please watch the facebook page for updates.
  4. Improve digestion with a broad spectrum Digestive enzyme. I am yet to see a patient OR a dog’s health NOT improved with digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes act on the surface of the food chunks making them smaller. All dogs have their own digestive enzymes, but only in finite amounts and these dwindle as they get older. You can increase the health and the healthspan of the dog by helping its digestion. Smaller food chunks can be more readily digested and absorbed via the correct mechanism, lowering the ͞inflammatory response͟ and can lead to helping lower food intolerances. Itchy skin is more often than not linked to some food intolerance. Not solely, but it’s a significant part of the health jigsaw. (At B&D we are planning to source and launch Digestive enzymes VERY shortly!)
  5. Improve gut health and its ability to deal with “invaders͟” with a reputable pro and pre biotic. Gut health as we know is essential to our immune system. As much of 80% of our immune system is located there. These friendly bacteria that live in the gut also contribute to digestion. This is all the more important is your dog has recently been on a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics act largely indiscriminately attacking both friendly and enemy bacteria, so whilst they may deal with the infection in the short term, they can compromise even medium term immunity. Pre and Pro biotics can help ͞calm͟ the auto immune response associated with itchy skin.
  6. Glycine rich broths such as Bone broth contribute to healing intestinal permeability. We have mentioned this a lot recently, and for good reason. So far research shows us a 100% correlation between itchy skin and intestinal permeability. We don’t have 100% causation yet but the data is simply too overwhelming to overlook! The gut is the primary gateway for both food and bacteria. In a healthy gut the intestine can keep the bacteria and any larger food molecules out. In a compromised gut both bacteria and undigested food can slip directly into the bloodstream. Both of which the body then recognises as invaders and launches an inflammatory response leading to Itchy skin. (Importantly you need to ensure that is without onions or excessive garlic both of which can lead to problems for dogs)
  7. Try a topical salve. So far we have had an overwhelmingly positive response with the Stinky Stuff products. We have zero affiliation with this company and have not even approached them about stocking their products but I suspect that is a positive action for us to take, to make your lives easier. You can find them here. http://www.stinky-stuff.co.uk

I hope you found these easy wins helpful. Let’s just recap as there’s quite a bit of intel here.

  • If your dog has itchy skin then please consider this a clue that’s there’s an underlying malfunction.
  • Heal any intestinal permeability first as this, in the majority of cases, makes the issue magically disappear.
  • Check the products and any chemicals you are using on your dog.
  • Feed them nutritious hypoallergenic meal. And just because it says “Hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean it is. Check the ingredients. Last week a lovely friend sent over the label of a food she was feeding her dog who had repeated issues. It claimed to be hypoallergenic yet was stuffed full of corn starch. WTF. Yes WTF. Breathe, relax, in with the good, out with the baad…
  • Apply a topical salve such as Stinky Stuff
  • Please try them for at least 30 days before expecting to see solid results and feel free to share feedback and any success stories with us. We are committed to helping and healing the dog community!

For more information, please check out our website or check out our upcoming Pawcast where we will deal with itchy skin in more detail!

As ever, I look forward to answering your questions. We all deserve better health, if only we ask the right questions!

Ok, please have a super weekend. Got to run, going to pick up my NEW PUPPY!!!

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