Written by Disha Ramanan
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Note – This post does not aim to dispense any medical information and it is not meant to substitute a qualified expert’s opinion. These are tips which have been known to work for many pet parents and have been shared here in the spirit of sparking meaningful conversation in the community. Kindly consult a vet before starting your dog on anything new – be it a supplement, herb or medicine. We also suggest testing to see if your dog could be allergic to anything new you might like to try on her.
It’s that time of year again; the mercury isn’t boiling anymore. Days are rather warm and humid. Monsoon and the transitional season that follows proves tricky for dogs with sensitive skin. From redness and itchiness to hot spots and bald spots and everything in between, the sight of our fur darlings scratching themselves silly unfortunately becomes quite commonplace.
For some of us, using just the right shampoo or medicine can take all our precious dog’s skin woes away. But often, especially with allergic conditions, it’s not common to have solutions which are quite so spot-on. Misdiagnoses are common, often with heavy medication being prescribed where it may not be needed at all!
Enter natural remedies; these have long been propagated by holistic veterinary practitioners. Some of the most commonly found remedies can also be the most useful tools in our arsenal. In this article, we discuss what happens to dogs’ skin in this weather, what the most common skin ailments in dogs are and what are some natural remedies that can help manage or prevent skin issues in dogs.
Is the heat & humidity getting under your dog’s skin? Here’s why!
The skin provides a barrier that protects the dog from the elements. With high temperature and humidity, the pores on the skin open and this leads to an increase in the absorption of environmental irritants and allergens. This, in turn, makes the dog scratch which unfortunately renders the skin in an even worse condition and further vulnerable to offending particles. This self-fulfilling chain reaction can leave skin red, blistered, swollen or even bloody.
Aside from this, there is another process that can go on in tandem. Heat and humidity are ideal conditions for the proliferation of all kinds of microbes. With the skin vulnerable, these microbes get in and populate the surface and subsurface (including the follicle). And this again leaves the dog in even more of a difficult state. More itchiness follows, not to mention infection and further troubles. This bacterial and fungal bloom often warrants the use of harsh medicines to keep things under control.
Some Common Skin Ailments in Dogs
A frequent complaint this time of year is the infamous “hotspot”. This manifests as an intensely itchy, painful and red patch on the dog’s fur. It is usually a bacterial infection. Immediate care is necessary to prevent the infection from spreading or getting worse.
There are numerous allergens in the environment during the changing season, and particularly, dogs who spend more time outdoors are more vulnerable. Some common allergens can include pollen, dust, mite dander or even grass. This is intensely challenging to manage (and perhaps even diagnose). The usual recommendation is to get frequent allergy shots or be under allergy medication.
Other types of allergy in dogs include food allergies which can manifest on the skin and flea allergy dermatitis, where a single flea bite can leave a dog with systemic scratching. Fleas can be difficult to manage as it’s not just the dog that needs care, but also the dog’s housing that must be rid of fleas for the cycle to stop.
Demodex mites are commonly found on the surface of every dog, but they remain unproblematic until their population blooms. This can happen due to a weakened immune system (a common implication during the change of weather) leading to a proliferation of the mites. (It is important to note that this isn’t communicable at all.)
This leads to hair loss and balding spots along with intensely itchy, red skin. As the dog continues scratching at the vulnerable points, a secondary bacterial infection may also follow suit.
Demodex is notorious and needs to be confirmed by a vet. Treatment may involve strong medication with supportive care.
(However balding spots are not necessarily a telltale sign of Demodex. They can have any number of reasons, including those not related to the skin - perhaps signifying an internal or dietary problem – please do consult a vet to get to the bottom of any symptom!)
A Little Bit of Nature’s Help
The first step towards helping your dog is to identify what problem she has in the most accurate way possible. Getting a trusted vet or expert’s opinion is paramount before beginning any course of treatment.
In general, there are some natural remedies which we can turn to for supportive care. These can also serve as preventives and if skin issues are spotted early, these may help arrest issues from worsening or even reverse them entirely.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil or Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids. Not only are they anti-inflammatory, but they also help to strengthen the skin barrier which will help strengthen your dog’s defences against allergens and infections. They are an excellent supplement to give your dog. We suggest either an Omega 3 supplement like this one or this salmon oil.
Safe, natural and healthy, diatomaceous earth (DE) can be a boon for your dog. It’s excellent in getting rid of internal and external parasites. For ticks, mites and other external parasites, rubbing down the powder along the length of your dog’s body is effective. You should also dust his bedding and other well-frequented areas. It even works on the grass and other outdoor settings. This must be done every day for at least 7 days. While completely non-toxic, it may irritate certain dogs’ nose and lungs, i.e., it’s best to keep the stuff away from your dog’s eyes and nose.
Two things to note though – it’s important to buy food-grade DE, and DE can make your dog’s skin a bit dry. So please remember to use mild, hydrating shampoos while bathing your dog.
One of the best ways to take care of sensitive coats is using colloidal oatmeal. It soothes dry, irritated and itchy skin. While there are shampoos with oatmeal available, you can also use a DIY oatmeal paste or rinse.
To make these, grind a cup of oats (whole oats, with the bran) to a fine powder. To test if it’s fine enough, you would need to add a spoon of the oats to warm water. If it’s fine enough, it would dissolve on its own.
Now, add a few drops of water to the powdered oatmeal to a paste consistency and apply on the problematic areas on your dog’s skin. Wash off after 15 minutes.
If you have a tub where your dog might like to soak for 5-10 minutes, you can add 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal to it and let the dog sit in. Rinse with clean water.
Otherwise, you can also simply rinse your dog with the colloidal oatmeal water, let stay for 5-10 minutes and then use some warm water to give a final wash.
Towel dry and comb out her fur.
Calendula Extract, Aloe Vera & Coconut Oil
Calendula is a mild, herbal and non-toxic solution for skin woes. It can be used as an ointment for skin spots where your dog chews, scratches, licks or bites. Alternatively, a calendula rinse is also effective. Simply gather some calendula petals (otherwise known as marigold), add them to some water and boil. The resulting tea can be used as a rinse when cool. Even simply applying the tea to your dog’s skin twice a day can help heal the skin quicker.
Similarly, aloe vera is another skin soother. It rapidly helps inflammation and repair damaged skin, thereby strengthening the barrier. Aloe gel can be directly applied multiple times a day, which facilitates quick healing.
Finally, coconut oil is a superfood – topically, it can be applied to your dog’s problem areas twice a day. It is a powerful antimicrobial (it’s one of the few substances that affects bacteria, fungi as well as viruses). You can also add a spoonful to your dog’s meal or add it to his diet by making golden paste (which is even more potent).
Our Pick – Scooby-Dub-Dub!
We’d like to call out a special product here. It is an all-natural powder blend of 5 herbs and is used to kill parasites as well as keep the skin & fur healthy. It helps with dry skin, infections and much more (a reviewer of the product even mentioned that it helped her get rid of a big wart on her senior dog’s body!).
It is available here (along with instructions on how to use it).
Helping our four-legged best friends live their best lives throughout the year, and throughout all seasons is our duty as pet parents. Prevention is indeed better than cure, especially when it comes to cumbersome skin issues.
A few minor lifestyle changes can also go a long way. For example, after a visit to the park, your fur kid can have a wipe down with a damp cloth. The idea is to clean his fur, rather than wash it. This will wipe off most of the irritants from his skin. If you must use water to wash, make sure you dry him afterwards.
Another thing to do is to replace his dog food pellets with nutritious and balanced fresh food. Consulting a vet or a qualified nutritionist can take you and your buddy a long way on the road to health.