November 25, 2009

There are many possible causes of the chronic itchy skin, hot-spots, dandruff and oily coat that plague many dogs. In the summer months, fleas or environmental / contact allergies may be the culprit – many pets are sensitive to certain types of grass and weeds. Other possible irritants in the home include detergents used to wash blankets and bedding, household cleaners including carpet or upholstery shampoos and floor products in the areas where your pet lies down, as well as any sprays used in the yard.

One common cause that’s often overlooked, is diet. Food sensitivities are abundant in almost every breed, possibly due to genetics or that fact that many animals are fed the same food for months or even years on end, with no variety in ingredients or alternative sources of nutrition, such as fresh real food.

One of the most common causes of food sensitivity in pets, is grain. Lots of pets are sensitive to gluten, which can cause an inflammatory response that manifests itself as itchy skin or red and inflamed feet, GI Upset or persistent ear infections.

Feeding a no-grain dog food diet to itchy pets, is a great first step in helping them to overcome this problem that can be uncomfortable for the pet – and frustrating and upsetting for the whole family.

If it is not possible to feed a completely no-grain diet, then one with only organic, whole-grains would be the next best choice. Grain fractions (gluten, husks, hulls etc) can be more problematic than the whole grain, and organic food, by definition, cannot be genetically modified. One school of thought is that genetically modified grains are more likely to cause an adverse reaction in a sensitive pet. Studies show that when butterflies and other species come in contact with pollen from genetically modified crops, they suffer a number of health problems and genetic mutations eventually occur. It is possible that a similar thing happens when other species consume GM grains – especially species whose systems aren’t designed to cope with a grain overload in the first place.

Some pets are sensitive to ingredients other than grain, such as certain meats, vegetables or herbs. These sensitivities are generally less common, and in fact a pet who seems to be allergic to a certain meat, say chicken, because she gets itchy every time she eats her chicken flavored kibble, may actually be just fine when eating real, home-prepared raw or lightly cooked chicken. The problem is high heat processing that alters the amino acid structure, making the protein problematic in its processed form.

A natural, no-grain, minimally processed diet that’s also free of chemical preservatives and fillers, can go a long way to combating the problem of itchy skin, from the inside out. Customers are usually delighted with the results and under veterinary supervision , they may even be able to start reducing the long-term steroids and antibiotics they’ve had to administer to their pets. Many cats and dogs show a noticeable improvement in just a few days after starting a no-grain diet.

While a grain-free diet can be super-important part of the solution to chronic itchy skin in pets, a truly holistic approach looks at the big-picture. So in addition to the substances you use around your home and yard, think also about how high you run your central heat or A/C (both can be drying to the air) and of course – the shampoo and conditioner you use to bathe your pet. One of our favorite lines of pet shampoos is from Happy Tails Spa www.happytailsspa.com This California company’s products are free of parabens and other harmful chemicals such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate found in many shampoos, and we love ‘em! Itchin’ For Relief is an especially nice product to tackle irritations from the outside!