Why does my pet scratch? It must have allergies, right?
I get this question every day, and in my experience, there is no one answer to the question. What the itch is, how it presents, what exacerbates it all come into the discussion, and are all important to resolving the issue.
Allergies are, to a large part, seem to be responsible for many skin issues. When addressing allergies, we have to remember that what goes into the food bowl is not the only thing that can cause an allergic reaction. Scrounged food, treats and toppers may not be “food” in many peoples opinion, but they are far more than enough to cause an adverse reaction in a pet. If a child is allergic to peanuts, we wouldn’t sneak them a “fun size” Snickers bar, and likewise, giving a dog with a grain sensitivity a tiny crust off your toast is not appropriate.
Allergies are a topic in and of themselves, and I have dealt with those specifically before, and will again. Today, I’d like to look at some of the other issues that may cause scratching.
Environmental. Our homes are getting more airtight, and accumulate more reactants all the time. From cleaning solutions, aerosols, air fresheners, and detergents, the amount of chemicals present in our homes is quite remarkable. Many people go to great lengths to use nothing but natural products, but even those can cause reactions, especially since our pets live near the floor, where these products tend to accumulate.
Not just chemicals, but also something as simple as humidity can cause a reaction. As winter sets in, our houses become drier and drier, especially if we have HRV’s or air exchangers. Winter air has no water in it, and as it warms up, when it is 100% humidity outdoors at -20C, when that air comes inside, it is less than 10% humidity at 20C. This is why our houses dry out so much in winter, and why we call it “relative humidity”, it is relative to the temperature.
A dry house causes lots of issues, for us and our pets, dry skin being a big one. Some people keep their own skin from drying out by using a moisturizer, and you can do that with dogs, but it is hard and they can lick it off, making things worse. Making sure the skin has the building blocks it needs is an easy way to moisturize from the inside, using fish or seal based Omega 3 supplements really helps.
Probiotics are another overlooked remedy for itchy skin. Just taking probiotics helps keep the pet’s biome healthy, and populated with the right bacteria. There are many different probiotics out there, from treats, to powders, to fermented foods. Look for something that has a lot of different strains, and a fairly high dosage. While human probiotics are better than nothing, they tend to be more expensive and less effective than pet specific ones. Raw Goats Milk Kefir is a great natural source of probiotics, as are certain fermented veggies.
Probiotics can also be used to solve itching as a topical preparation. Many times, the issue is a bacterial, fungal or yeast growth on the skin. Often this is due to not getting enough probiotics, so the bad bugs take advantage of the vacancy and invade. By replacing them with good bugs, sometimes itching can be cured.
Its sometimes the little things we didn’t realize have big effects that can make a difference. Often, natural remedies like better nutrition and supplementation are the easiest and most effective cures.