Thankfully, there are many natural pet remedies available to combat fleas, reduce hots spots and itching and help treat the underlying reason (often times immune-related) that may be causing skin problems.
Common Skin Problems in Dogs and Cats
Allergic dermatitis is probably the most common skin disease that affects dogs and cats. Allergic dermatitis occurs when a pet has a reaction to environmental proteins called allergens. In non-allergic pets, these allergens produce no symptoms. In allergic dogs and cats, the allergens cause itchiness and so the pet licks, scratches, chews and bites at itself to find relief. Conventional treatments include antihistamines, oral and topical steroids. A holistic approach would be to avoid the allergens, reduce the inflammation and support the skin with vitamins, essential fatty acids and immune support supplements. See all supplements for Pet Skin Allergies.
General Dermatitis can range from simple reddening of the skin to severe, chronic open sores with thickening of the skin, hair loss and odor. Since the skin is a reflection of the health of the internal organs and immune system, the lesions are really secondary to other chronic diseases. Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation of the skin and strengthening the immune system.
For dermatitis caused by flea bites, see the Flea Bite Dermatitis page.
Typically a veterinarian will try to hone in on the underlying problem for the skin condition. This can prove difficult and time consuming when your pet is in misery. Food or airborne allergies may be nearly impossible to isolate. Immune system problems are similarly complex and hard to diagnose.
Some veterinarians prescribe corticosteriods for the relief of allergies and other skin irritations. Such prescriptions mask the symptoms of the problem, rather than alleviate it and can also cause long-term damage to the liver, gastrointestinal tract, suppression of the immune system, diabetes, osteoporosis and other problems.
A holistic approach is the best way to ensure a successful outcome. Focus on providing a high quality diet that contains a good protein source (not by-products) and limited grains. A good diet will lessen the occurrence of allergic episodes which are often caused by grains, preservatives and coloring.
Next, consider the overall health of your pet. Does your cat or dog get sick easily, have chronic infections or allergies. If the underlying problem is a compromised immune system, consider a supplement that contains vitamins to support the immune system and promote healthy skin and coat. See all supplement for Skin and Coat Health.
If your dog or cat is in good health but experiences dry, flaky skin, and itchiness, then essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients will help to promote healthy skin because they work at the cellular level to provide the nutrients needed for skin development.
The following nutrients are necessary for the development of healthy skin and coats in animals:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA) - These are vital nutrients that help prevent the skin from drying and flaking. In addition, they are also natural anti-inflammatory agents, which gives them a double role in alleviating skin conditions.
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Linoleic Acid) are an essential component for chemical reactions in the body. However, in dogs, linoleic acid cannot be synthesized so it must be consumed from a dietary source. Linoleic Acid is important for normal skin and coat health, for cell membrane integrity and fat-soluble vitamin interactions.
- Vitamin C is essential to overall health. This antioxidant aids in resisting viral and bacterial infections, and reduces the effects of some allergy-producing substances. Its primary function is to maintain collagen, a protein necessary for the formation of skin, ligaments and bones. Vitamin C also enhances T-cell production which helps to fight off viral and bacterial infections and some allergies. Vitamin C is especially beneficial to animals with any type of chronic disease, infection allergy or dermatitis.
- Vitamin E prevents the fats and fat-soluble vitamin A stored in the body from breaking down and combining with other substances that may become harmful to the body.
- Vitamin A is vital for healthy skin and good eyesight. It plays an important part in the growth and repair of body tissues.
- Zinc is an essential trace mineral found in most tissues of the body and a deficiency in this mineral can increase a pet's susceptibility to infection.