Skin Problems in Cats and Dogs

In another section we have dealt with flea and tick control and I am sure that we are all having to deal with the various problems that these irritable little parasites cause, and the often distressing skin problems that are all too often associated with them. A lot of cats and dogs are allergic to fleas and develop an intensely itchy rash when they are bitten by even a single flea and this can lead to chronic and serious skin problems. The signs of flea allergy in the dog is hair loss on the back, and thickened reddened skin in these areas; the animal will itch and chew themselves and lick their sores and make themselves raw. This is an all too familiar problem in the warm summer months.

Cats tend to develop small scabs all over, and the hair will fall out or be chewed and licked out, especially over the hind quarters. This is often known as miliary dermatitis. In addition to flea allergies, other skin problems include mange, both sarcoptic and demodectic and other kinds of allergies. When allergy tests are done, these often reveal that the poor animal is allergic to many things, such as house mites or grasses, or other miscellaneous pollens, that just cannot be avoided in the environment. The traditional treatments include antihistamines, corticosteroid and hyposensitization shots to varying degrees of success. However, the side-effects of corticosteroid can be serious when used long term, thus a lot of caring pet owners become concerned about the long term use of such drugs.

However, skin problems are the tip of the iceberg, and represent a body that is overstressed by the accumulation of years of toxins, vaccinations and poor diet. The problem is really an immune system that just cannot cope with the environment we are living in. I believe that vaccinations, especially the rabies vaccines, are contributing to a lot of the “allergic” skin problems seen today, leading to a problem known as vaccinosis, which is characterized by itchy, dark, thickened skin; especially over the abdomen and under the legs. It is seen in both dogs and cats, but is more obvious in the dog. While we have to continue to vaccinate our dogs and cats against rabies for public health reasons, there are things we can do to at least minimize the effects of the vaccine on the body.

One thing is to give a dose of the homeopathy remedy Lyssin 30 C, which is made from the saliva of a rabid dog, using the premise that like treats like, which is the basis of homeopathy. This should be given as soon as possible after the rabies shot to try and prevent the development of any reactions to the shot. Once the skin problems are evident, it is worth trying a dose of Thuja 6 C every day to also remove the effects of the vaccine from the body, as this is very often needed before other homeopathic treatment can be started. Other homeopathic remedies may be needed, as prescribed by a licensed veterinarian, and are very often helpful in cases of chronic allergies, and can replace the use of steroids in many cases.

A good general approach to skin problems is therefore to consider them the results of a body
loaded with toxins, and anything that can be done to reduce this load will help the animal. So a good natural diet is often the single most useful thing that can be done, as discussed in an earlier edition of this magazine. This will often make a big difference and is well worth trying before resorting to steroids, or other drugs. The use of a good filtered water source or high quality spring water can also help, as can purifying the air in the home your pet lives in. Replace the use of dips, sprays and all strong chemicals to control fleas and ticks with natural flea control. It is a fact that when your pet becomes healthier, and on a better diet and preventative health regime, they will be better able to repel the fleas and not become totally infested. If we can strengthen the immune system, then we can help the body to heal itself, not suppress it further with steroids and strong drugs.

The addition of supplements to the diet is also necessary to also enhance immune function. And, apart from a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, it is helpful to add extra garlic and brewers yeast, which helps skin condition. Extra vitamin A, C and E can also help as these are important anti-oxidants that will help keep the body healthy as a whole and improve skin and coat condition in your pet. Flax seed oil added to the food according to the weight of the animal will also help as well as other oils, but it is best to get a good book or seek professional advise about the quantities of supplements to add, as overdosage is possible, especially of vitamins A and D. Regular bathing and grooming increases the circulation to the skin, and the use of a massage glove on your pet is beneficial to both them and you as you will both find it incredibly soothing and relaxing!

The Tellington-Touch method of gentle touch to the body can also help to break the stressful itch-scratch cycle seen in these animals. We will be covering that in the next edition, as it is a wonderful healing tool that is becoming increasingly popular. Skin problems are deeper seated than many people realize and homeopathy and even acupuncture may often help over time to get to the source of the problem and make your pet strong and healthy again and increase both the quality and length of life. And, the earlier you begin, the better and faster results you can expect. It isn’t always easy, but you will be rewarded by a glowing healthy pet that is not depressed and miserable from continual drug use. What a joy that can be!!

Dr. Anna Maria Gardner is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and is certified in acupuncture and homeopathy. She lives in Washington with her daughter, two dogs, seven cats, sixteen chickens, two goats, a donkey, a horse, two ducks, a pair of geese and one bossy parrot.