Spring seems to be the time of year for issues with the skin and coat. This season brings on problems with shedding, itchy skin, fluctuating temperatures and for some, the onset of flea and ticks. At the first development of skin irritation, redness, sores or hotspots, an examination at your veterinarian’s office is always in order. It is important to have any skin problems evaluated to rule out bacteria, mites or yeast. All of these can be determined by skin scrapings and cultures.
Once the problem has been identified, it still leaves the dilemma of how to help heal irritated skin and encourage the return of hair growth. This can be accomplished by following a series of good routines for skin and coat care.
The first step would be cleansing the skin. This helps remove bacteria on the skin, as well as any yeast and dander that might be present. Bacteria and yeast can ‘ping pong’ back and forth, creating more problems. The best way to combat this is with a good oatmeal based shampoo. This helps clean the skin and coat, dry moist skin abrasions and their redness which can incubate and grow yeast and bacteria, relieve itching, and allow a good pH mantle for a dog’s skin. A good practice would be to bath the dog weekly when any coat and skin problems first appear. An excellent shampoo is Purepet Oatmeal Shampoo (editor’s note: Use Pure Pet Pure Care Herbal Skin Therapy Shampoo), which leaves a lovely fresh scent. Follow the bath by rinsing with a mixed solution of ¼ white vinegar and ¾ water. (Do not use apple cider vinegar, as that contains sugars which can make a yeast problem worse). The white vinegar helps destroy yeast, assists in removing skin odor, and helps to make sure all the shampoo is thoroughly rinsed from the dogs coat and skin. If the dog’s skin is dry, you can follow this with the Clover Cream rinse. I have a 13 year old Rottweiler who suffers from very dry, flaky skin. The Clover Cream rinse has been wonderful for him.
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The next step would be treating any affected or irritated areas. Once the skin and coat are clean, there are several topical solutions that can be useful. For itchy areas such as rashes, hot spots, or small bumps, a mixture of ¾ Witch Hazel and ¼ aloe vera are helpful. The Witch Hazel helps stop the itching and is an antiseptic. It will stop these discomforts temporarily. The aloe vera gel helps to cool the area and promote healing. You can get this in a premix, called Thayers Witch Hazel with Aloe. It comes in an easy to dispense bottle for application to the skin. This can also be used to clean ears and it is great for itchy, red feet. Apply as often as needed.
If the skin problem is more problematic, such as lick granulomas or more intense skin lesions, products with essential oils and herbs can be helpful. Candula is very helpful in healing stubborn skin problems. Small amounts of tea tree oil are also good (but not for cats!) in promoting new tissue (skin) growth. Halo’s Derma Dream contains both of these ingredients, as well as aloe. I have a rescue Rottweiler girl who had a severe lick granuloma, and application of this product created good healing within two weeks. I have also used this on hot spots with good success as well.
Lavender oil is also helpful for calming, helps to heal wounds and has some benefit in repelling insects. Use a few drops in a quart of water and use as a rinse or spray.
For less intensive abrasions, but ongoing itching and redness, the Pure Care Herbal Skin Therapy is easy to apply (pump spray bottle) and contains the herbs candela, comfrey, goldenseal and clove.
Do continue the weekly bathing and the white vinegar rinse until the itching and skin conditions improve. If the feet are affected, you can put this solution in a liter bottle (with the top cut off) and rinse your dog’s feet when they come in the house.
Occasionally ear problems can go along with skin problems. Again, have any discharge from the ear analyzed by your veterinarian. Brown discharge can often be yeast problems, but it may also be ear mites or even food allergies. It is not a good idea to continually put liquids in a dog’s ear (it can cause deafness). You can use an ear cleaner, but use enough to dampen a soft cloth and gently clean the ear canal. Wipe out any excess moisture. When I bath my dogs, I always check and clean their ears. I use either the Thayers Witch Hazel and Aloe or the Herbal Ear Wash. The Ear Wash contains several herbs to help control redness. It is gentle in the ear and helps fight yeast.
If I know my dog and I know I’ll be around places where fleas may be present, I have used Eucalyptus oil (editor’s note: discontinued) (I put a few drops on my hands) and rub it through my dog’s coat. This is useful when traveling at ‘rest stops’ when walking my dog, at the dog shows or other areas where many dogs might be present. If it is a more intense flea area (such as camping, hiking or other such activities), then I would suggest the Halo Herbal Dip, which is a mixture of several essential oils to help in repelling insects. Mix a few drops in a spray bottle with water, and use as needed.
And, as always, a good diet helps to maintain healthy skin and coat. If you suspect a yeast problem is present, then I suggest the low glycemic recipes, found here:
These recipes are also good for dogs with allergies.
Omega 3 fatty acids, found in animal based oils such as fish or salmon oil capsules help to decrease inflammation and promote good skin and coat. Vitamin C and vitamin E are also helpful for the immune system and to help stop itching. Vitamin C, used in increased doses daily (called ‘bowel tolerance’) works as a natural antihistamine. Slowly increase the amount daily, until diarrhea occurs and back off to the last smaller dose. Use at this level for one month and then back down to normal use.
Lastly, the Tasha's Skin and Coat tincture contains nettles along with some other herbs. When used twice daily in the gum line with the dropper top provided, it helps to control itching and scratching during the healing process.
So keep your dog clean on the outside, make sure the diet and supplements are good to support the dog’s insides and use appropriate remedies to help promote healing and stop itching.
Here’s a picture of Danny. I will be a year old on March 17th, 2007 and he wishes everyone a Happy Saint Patrick’s day! See you all next month
Copyright 2007 Lew Olson. All rights reserved.