Day

February 11, 2014

Skin Problems

When all systems in the body are humming along in balance, immune substances produced by the body protect the skin, eyes, ears, and digestive system. Your dog and cat feel good. In a healthy animal (dog, cat, or human) normal inhabitants of the skin coexist in harmony, each doing their jobs and living their lives in a symbiotic relationship.

If an animal’s immune system is under more stress than it can manage, this symbiotic relationship is upset. Skin problems – hot spots, rashes, yeast overgrowth, and bacterial infections – are often the first symptom seen. Medical interventions include antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids. All of these medications modify and suppress the immune system. Our goal should be to help the immune system work properly, not to suppress it.

Chemical intervention may be needed. However, with good nutrition, bathing when needed, and proper exercise, many animals regain their health and thrive without medication.

“Allergic” Skin Problems. The Staphylococcus bacteria that normally inhabit the skin usually cause skin infections. They are one sign that there’s not enough of the immunoglobin IgA protect the skin. The underlying cause of an IgA deficiency on the skin is often over utilization of IgA in the gut. Because things are not well balanced in animal’s gastrointestinal tract, the IgA is needed more there, and there’s not enough to protect the skin. After this has gone on for a while, production of IgA is disrupted.

Yeasts are also natural inhabitants of the skin, but when the proper balance is disturbed, they can multiply rapidly and cause skin and ear problems. You’ll know your dog has yeast by the characteristic corn chip (some think cheese popcorn) smell. Yeast causes intense itching and can grow in localized areas (causing a creamy white accumulation between toes), in the ears, or can affect the whole body. An overgrowth of yeast is a signal that your animal’s immune system is not functioning well.

These conditions cause a variety of symptoms. Fur may feel “sticky”, there may be lots of flakes on the skin, or red spots with little white heads, which often have black areas around them. You may see red, inflamed skin covering large areas of the body, and your animal may be “itchy” Your dog might lick her legs, chew her pads, and there may be inflamed spots between toes, in armpits and inner legs.

“Hot Spots.” are an inappropriate immune response, and in some ways a mystery to medicine. They seem to appear in an instant and can spread at an alarming rate. These oozing sores are extremely painful and can easily become infected.

Keep Skin Clean. If the immune system is highly reactive, environmental substances (ragweed, grass, pollen, mold) animals pick up just by walking outside can provide enough irritating substances to cause a reaction.

Allergic animals aren’t the only ones with skin problems

Elderly animals and those in poor health often exude an unpleasant fragrance. Their bodies are getting rid of toxins that should be removed to help support the detoxification process in the aging system.

If we humans have a rash, scab, infection, or injury to our skin, we don’t have much question about what to do – we keep it clean! The same is true for dogs and cats. Our animals will feel better, smell better, and heal faster if their skin is kept clean. However, in the case of cats, they may not be happier: bathing is not usually on their list of favorite activities.

Why don’t we wash our animals more often? Because we have been told not to, or because it’s one more thing to add to our busy lives.  We may have read that we’ll disturb the balance of our animal’s skin if we wash them too much, and their skin will get dried out. Healthy animals may not need frequent bathing: each animal is different. Bathe them when they need it.

Animals with skin problems do well with weekly baths. However, at the height of the “allergy” season, many dogs require baths daily or every other day.

Between baths, rinsing problem areas that are not infected can be extremely soothing. Localized inflamed areas may be washed without washing the whole animal, and this may help to stretch the interval between baths. For example, if your dog has irritated and inflamed feet, you can devise a simple system to immerse one foot at a time in a bowl of soapy water, and then rinse them the same way – in just a few minutes.

Tips on choosing shampoos: From the wide variety of commercial pet shampoos available, choose as you do for yourself, trying to avoid toxic ingredients.

Avoid shampoos that include oatmeal. Oatmeal has a great reputation as a soothing ingredient, but animals that have a problem with grain are likely to have problems with oatmeal shampoos. Grain-based shampoos may also provide a carbohydrate food source for unwanted yeast and bacteria on the skin.

“Health” shampoos including essential oils should be used only with extreme caution. Do not use them on cats. Consult with someone knowledgeable about oils if you’re interested in this approach. Always test shampoo first on a very small area!

Critical points for successful and pleasant bath time: Wash thoroughly! Use comfortably warm water, not too hot. On very hot days, many dogs enjoy cool water, which can also reduce inflammation and irritation. Wet your dog completely and use highly diluted shampoo to help spread it all over the dog, Dogs with water-repellent coats (Labradors, Portuguese Water Dogs) are hard to get wet at all: diluted shampoo makes the job easier.

Be gentle! Keep soap out of eyes and ears. Irritated skin is delicate and easily injured. Animals will be worried that you are going to cause them pain — do your best to avoid that. Hot spots in particular are exquisitely painful.

Rinse, and rinse, and rinse! Soap left on skin is very irritating.

Dry the skin completely! This might be difficult, depending on your animal’s coat, but it’s extremely important.  Bacteria love to grow in warm, damp setting.   Breeds with heavy coats may develop bacterial problems just from staying wet. “Hot spots” can develop in damp areas very quickly in a dog prone to them.

Some dog’s coats air-dry very nicely while others require work. Human hair dryers are not appropriate unless used with a “NO HEAT” setting! Allow some distance between the dryer and the animal. Trim back his/her coat around any affected areas to allow air to get to the skin and to help these areas dry faster. Stay away from “hot spots” with the dryer!

Some animals benefit from a close cut during the summer. This makes keeping an eye on skin much easier!

Prevention: do a body scan. Every day when you’re just sitting together, talking about life, look your animal friend over thoroughly. You can see, feel, and smell when it’s time for a bath. Take the time to do it when it’s needed: skin conditions can flare out of control rapidly.

Look closely for little black specks in your dog’s coat. This may be “flea dirt”, and though you may see no fleas, there might be some. It takes only one flea to trigger a very nasty skin problem in a sensitive dog. Get veterinary assistance when needed!

Feed Real Food. Good nutrition includes whole food antioxidants and ample fresh, non-oxidized essential fatty acids.  These components are critical for healing. Without the support of good nutrition, acute episodes may become chronic and possibly life-threatening conditions.

Fresh food provides the best nutrients and helps to proved healthy conditions in the digestive tract, so that the immune system is strong. Without good digestion, an animal cannot be healthy. Good food is the foundation for good health

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

Help Your Senior Dog Live Better

We’d all like to keep our animal buddies around forever.  A good diet and appropriate mental and physical exercise can help your dog elders live better and longer!

Our dogs have many of the same needs we do. To be at their best, dogs need real, fresh food, in the balance that’s best for their individual needs, just like we do. For dogs, real food in its natural balance means meat and vegetables.

Do dogs need “senior” food? All too frequently, we are advised to feed our dogs “Senior” food, often for dogs starting as young as 6 years old. There is no “life stage” formula food for humans: why would it be good for dogs? It’s not. It’s the result of some old “science” that’s still hanging around.

Veterinarians started recommending senior food years ago, when research seemed to show that dogs (and humans) with kidney problems would do better on a reduced protein diet. So, the reasoning went, we could avoid kidney failure by feeding a reduced protein diet as dogs aged.

This has not proved to be true for dogs or humans, and research done by big pet food companies agrees.(1-4) “Senior” foods are higher in grain than “adult” foods, which will cause increased insulin and inflammatory chemicals to be made. They are designed to be lower in fat and protein, with increased fiber. Older dogs need better protein and more protein. (5) In our opinion, “senior” and “light” diets are detrimental to the health of older dogs.

If Sparky could talk, he’d tell you it’s true. When we met Sparky, he was nine, a stout Brittany Spaniel who was not feeling very well. His family switched from “senior” dry food to a fresh frozen diet as an experiment, to see if a lower carbohydrate diet would help him lose weight. In four months, he lost about 10 pounds—as well as losing these health issues: flaky coat, itchy skin, frequent bladder infections, multiple aches and pains, and most of the tartar on his teeth. He has plenty of energy these days, and no longer qualifies as an old dog.

A species appropriate diet, based on meat and vegetables, provides the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to keep the immune system and the brain working well. Good fats keep inflammation in check and hormone systems functioning properly.

In a 14-year study that compared two groups of Labradors (one group free-fed and the other kept lean), lean dogs lived two years longer. The muscle wasting associated with old age was delayed by two years compared to the group allowed to become overweight. In addition, the lean dogs did not develop arthritis until many years after the overweight dogs, who began to show arthritic changes at 2 years of age. (6) Even if your dog has not been kept lean, you may see most of these benefits when you help your dog shed those extra pounds with a meat and vegetable-based diet.  It’s never too late!

Those with achy and overweight dogs will be amazed to see the difference in how their dogs feel and act when they are fed meat and vegetable based diets. Often dogs who are quite tottery are transformed by a change of diet. Dogs with common chronic medical conditions need the supervision of a veterinarian who is skilled with fresh food diets to supervise and fine-tune a fresh food diet.  Almost all chronic conditions (diabetes, arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, liver and kidney problems, dental disease) will improve on a home-prepared diet designed to support the specific issue.

Good food helps to keep dogs lean, but dogs also need exercise. If our older animals are not fit, the best diet in the world won’t keep them with us. At your veterinary wellness check, find out what level of activity your veterinarian thinks is suitable for your animals to start with, and work up from there. Many conditions we have discounted as “just old age” diminish or disappear with good exercise. Digestion improves, elimination becomes more regular, animals are less achy and their brains work better. Getting more oxygen circulating builds lungs and heart, improves overall muscle tone and general health immensely. Brisk walking is a great start, but dogs need to get moving enough to get out of breath as well. For smaller dogs, this is easy to accomplish. Very out of shape dogs get winded pretty quickly, but as their fitness increases those with big dogs need to find ways to get them really moving (which will require increased fitness for the human).

Dogs often fade away from simple boredom. With an improved diet, dogs are likely to feel more like being active, but they need mental stimulation as well.

• Include your dog in family activities, and play with him. 

• Small games like “catch the popcorn” and “find the treat” take very little human effort, and provide fun and mental stimulation.

• Modify activities your old guy is no longer able to do so he can do them. For example, throw the ball so it lands closer to you and make sure he sees it before letting him go for it. Help him in and out of the car.

• Many dogs have self-appointed tasks: encourage them to keep at their jobs! Being needed keeps a dog happy.

• Learning something new keeps dogs happy, too. It’s a mutually beneficial activity—both human and animal brains get a workout, and your connection to your dog gets even better.

Supplements or food?  Supplements abound for older dogs and cats. They may prove to be of great benefit, but more to the point is good food and good exercise. Studies have shown supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to be of use in joint issues – but the need for these supplements is minimized when an animal eats real food and gets enough exercise to make use of the food.

If you do use supplements, look for those made with whole foods. We consider a wide range of oils (fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon oil, krill oil, sardines) to be necessary in a good diet: and we consider them food, part of the diet, not an isolated ingredient.
Read See Spot Live Longer for more information on commercial diets and adding real food to your dog’s diet.  If your dog has a specific condition, we suggest that you consult with a veterinarian who is experienced with fresh food diets to fine-tune the diet to your dog’s needs.

Let’s keep them as long as we can! Get them moving, feed them well, engage their brains: you’ll see a dog who is more interested in life, a dog who feels much better. We’ve spent a long time perfecting our relationships with our old dogs, we want them around for as long as they can stay.

1 Newburg LH, Curtis AC. Production of renal injury in the white rat by the protein of the diet. Arch Int Med. 1928; 42:801-21.

2 Brenner BM, Meyer TW, Hostetter TH. New England J. of Medicine. 1982; 307:652.

3 Finco DR. Proc the Waltham/OSU Symposium on Nephrology and Urology, Columbus, OH. Oct. 1992, p. 39.

4 Kronfeld DS. Aust. Vet. J. 1994; 71:328.

5 Churchill J, Polzin D, Osborne C, Tet. al. Proceedings ACVM. 1997:675.

6 Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., et al. 2002. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220(May 1): 1315-1320.

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor  See Spot Live Longer

 

 

Fresh Food Diets

All of our animal companions — reptile, avian, rodent, equine, canine, or feline — benefit from eating diets natural to their species, whether raw or home cooked.

rawfoodDogs and Cats Thrive On Meat Based Diets

It’s simple! Balanced fresh food (meat, bone, and vegetables) diets are more nutritious than the modern (dry food) diet, because raw, fresh foods provide much more complete and balanced nutrition than that found in highly processed foods.

The natural diet of dogs and cats contains a variety of raw, real foods teeming with bacteria. These foods are high in protein and low in carbohydrate. Below are approximate levels for dogs; natural cat diets are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate. (1)

Natural Diet of Dogs:55%  Protein (Dry Matter),  14% Carbohydrate (DM)

Dry Dog Food: 25% +/- Protein (DM), 40 –70% carbohydrate (DM)

That’s a really big difference! In the natural diet, micronutrients include the natural, organic forms of vitamins and minerals, and thousands of different antioxidants. In dry food diets, many of the micronutrients are human-synthesized vitamins and minerals. Formulas contain only the 23 components deemed “essential.”

This is far fewer than are considered essential in human foods. There is a world of difference between synthesized vitamins and minerals and those found in highly processed, cooked commercial foods. Hundreds of studies show that people and laboratory animals that eat fresh vegetables and fruits are healthier and have a lower incidence of cancer, stroke and heart disease than those whose intake of micronutrients is primarily from human-made forms. There is no reason to think that our animals are different, yet most of them get almost all their vitamins and minerals in synthetic, human-made, forms.

Dogs and cats diagnosed with “unsolvable” problems (arthritis, diabetes, a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, allergies) often recover completely when eating a properly prepared fresh food diet. There are conditions for which a cooked diet might be better, and a veterinarian with extensive fresh food experience should closely supervise animals with health problems.

Whether we can totally solve health problems or not, by providing stressed bodies with the tools for healing, we can optimize the outcome.

Dogs and cats are designed to eat food in its natural state. Canine and feline digestive systems have not changed from the time when they were feral carnivores. There is little debate about this. Dr. Buddington of Mississippi State University, a noted expert on the physiology of mammals, summarizes: “Comparative studies have revealed a close relationship between intestinal characteristics, the evolutionary diet, and requirements of energy and nutrients”. (2)

Dogs and cats live in a bacterial world. Your dog goes out for a short walk in your garden. She absorbs just a few grams of soil, and then comes in and licks her pads. In those two grams of soil, there were probably billions of bacteria of hundreds of different species, some friendly and some not. Consumption of bacteria is natural for dogs and cats.

The Safety of Commercial Raw Diets. Commercial raw diets have been on the market for more than 20 years. Combined, the raw diet manufacturers have fed more than 100,000 dogs without a single documented death due to bacterial problems.

Some people worry about bacteria, and a small percentage of animals have trouble with some foods. Raw meat based pet food companies and veterinarians who use fresh food diets in their practices investigate reports they hear of problems with food. They are often able to sort out what the difficulty was, and food has rarely been the problem.

Safety of Commercial Dry Food Diets. The safety record of the dry pet food industry is not as good as that of the raw diet industry. We can all recall episodes of dozens of dogs dying from eating bad or moldy dry dog foods. In 2003, for example, 48 dogs were reported to have died soon after consuming a so-called “natural” dry dog food. These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Read See Spot Live Longer to learn about mycotoxins, toxic waste products from molds which are unavoidable in dry dog foods that use low-cost grains. Poor home storage contributes to these problems. Only a few of the animals that consume mycotoxin-contaminated foods will die quickly. Chronic, low level ingestion of these toxins causes cancer 3 to 5 years later. Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated dry pet foods may be a major contributing factor to the cancer epidemic in pets.

Choosing Commercial Fresh Food Diets. To feed your animals the absolute best diet, grow your own livestock and produce on your organic family farm. If you can do this, or patronize a family farm coop, you’ll be doing the best you possibly can.

Commercial products make it easy to feed a fresh food diet. Dozens of raw food brands are now available at many pet food and natural food stores. Some are available by mail. If you do some research, it is easy to tell the difference between excellent commercial raw diets and poor ones. Use products with all human-edible ingredients. The F.D.A. Center for Veterinary Medicine issued model guidelines for raw pet diet manufacturers in 2002. The guidelines recommended the use of human-edible ingredients. However, manufacturers are not yet required to follow this recommendation.

The best manufacturers combine knowledge of modern canine nutritional science with an understanding of the ancestral diet of dogs and cats to produce a “complete and balanced” raw diet. The labels on these packages have a statement that the food meets the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials, the people who regulate pet foods) nutrient profiles. “Component” raw products supply “meat and bone” or “meat, bone and vegetable” mixes, with instructions to buyers to add the missing ingredients. These products can be excellent, as long as you follow their supplementation recommendations.

Conscientious manufacturers test their foods regularly. They provide complete nutrient profiles and technical support to you and your veterinarian.

Making Your Own. If you want to make a fresh food diet for your animals, go slowly, do it right, and learn first. Improperly prepared diets can be a health hazard. There are many books about raw and fresh diets. You’ll learn that there is no one definitive “right” answer. Some books are rather casual about nutrition and some are difficult to understand. We urge you to read several books before deciding what the best choice is for your animals, always comparing recommendations to the natural diet of the species. “Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats”, by Beth Taylor and Karen Becker, outlines a program for cats and dogs that provides all the nutrients needed in a simple rotation program.

Is Fresh Food Best? We Think So! The health benefits of a fresh food diet for your four legged friends are similar to those for humans, and just as important. Even a small amount of fresh food can have a big impact. In almost all animals the switch to a fresh diet, in the balance natural to the species, improves health, and can prolong life and vitality.

There’s no substitute for fresh food! Your animals will thank you.

(1) Calculated using data from Landry and Van Kruiningen, “Food Habits of Feral Carnivores: A Review of Stomach Content Analysis” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, Nov 1979.

(2) Buddington, Randal.  “Structure and Functions of the Dog and Cat Intestine,” Proceedings of the 1996 Iams International Nutrition Symposium. 61- 71.

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

This article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included