Persistent itching, scratching, patchy hair loss and inflamed skin are all symptoms of allergies that may be complicated by bacterial infections. Conventional treatment with steroids, antibiotics, tranquilizers and antihistamines may suppress symptoms for a while, but the condition usually returns. In addition, drugs may cause new problems. Cushing's syndrome, Addison's disease, liver disease, kidney failure and autoimmune disorders have all been linked to the long-term use of drugs for skin conditions. If your pet has been taking prescription drugs, consult with a holistic veterinarian for advice on whether and how to discontinue the medication. Don't just stop abruptly; some drugs have to be tapered off gradually. Vaccinations often worsen skin and coat allergies. Consult a holistic veterinarian before vaccinating a pet with skin problems. In the case of required vaccinations such as rabies, homeopathy can reduce the side effects. Another contributing cause of skin allergies can be a hormone imbalance. See page 435 for the side effects of spaying and neutering, which may include skin disorders; please note that this side effect is easy to correct and should not be a deterrent to the surgery. The adrenal glands play an important part in skin health. In addition to providing herbs and supplements that support adrenal function, be sure your pet receives ample exposure to natural light. Fluorescent lighting is especially likely to disrupt the normal function of glands and organs that affect the skin and coat.
If your pet has inflamed, irritated skin, begin with a fast. Let the animal's digestive tract rest for a day or two on water only. For dogs and cats with serious hot spots and related allergic symptoms, follow the water fast with several days of liquid fare such as raw juices, raw milk diluted with water or small quantities of raw meat blended with water. Introduce solid foods gradually toward the end of the fasting week. Feed your pet once or twice a day, not all day long. Remove food after 15 to 20 minutes and omit between-meal snacks.
Most skin conditions respond well to a complete change in diet. Stop feeding dry or canned food and switch to anatural diet of fresh raw food.
The simple removal of chemical dyes, pr eservatives and additives from the diet has stopped allergic reactions in many dogs, cats, birds and rabbits; replacing canned and packaged "complete" foods with fresh raw or growing foods supplies essential nutrients that convenience foods lack.
Supplements are important because most pets with allergies have impaired digestion and need help assimilating nutrients from food. Digestive enzymes, cider vinegar, hydrochloric acid, bitter herbs and acidophilus are all likely to help, as described in earlier chapters. Give your pet a multiple vitamin from whole-food sources, such as Congaplex by Standard Process (give 1 tablet per 10 pounds of body weight). Supplement with additional vitamin C and E complex, an all-purpose glandular supplement (or follow your veterinarian's recommendations based on your pet's blood profile), a comprehensive mineral supplement containing trace minerals, small amounts of additional zinc (Standard Process zinc liver chelate, for example) and a variety of oils to provide essential fatty acids (EFAs). Avocado, fatty fish, fat from organically raised meat and poultry, EFA supplements and small quantities of borage seed, evening primrose, flaxseed, olive, cod liver and other oils on a rotating basis will improve your pet's coat, especially if they are given with digestive or enzyme supplements. If the animal isn't able to digest these fats, they only make the skin and coat feel greasy.
Antioxidants are an allergic pet's allies. Fresh carrots and green plants are important sources, as are vitamins A, C and E, the mineral selenium and lipoic acid. Avoid synthetic vitamins and use mineral supplements that are both comprehensive (essential and trace elements) and easy to assimilate (colloidal liquids, powders or chelated tablets crushed or ground before serving). Adjust human product dosages for your pet's weight.
Willard Water concentrate improves the assimilation of nutrients and by itself improves skin and fur. Add it to drinking water and apply it topically. If the coat lacks proper pigmentation, add extra kelp or other seaweeds as well as small amounts of unrefined sea salt and colloidal trace minerals to the diet. Glandular supplements also help correct pigmentation problems.
Liquid (colloidal) trace mineral products can be applied full strength to hot spots, irritated areas and healing wounds. Another source of trace minerals is unrefined sea salt. In addition to adding small amounts to your pet's food, add 1 tablespoon of unrefined salt to 2 quarts water or herb tea as a rinse and work it into the skin. For open sores and healing wounds, use a more concentrated solution, such as 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water or tea.
A female German Shepherd in Samantha's obedience class suffered from a sore that wouldn't heal despite repeated trips to the veterinarian. Her owner applied this salt solution and the sore improved the same day.
Bee propolis tincture or liquid extract is another helpful supplement. Add 1 drop per pound of body weight twice daily for 10 days, then half that amount once daily for two additional weeks. For convenience, remember that there are 60 drops in a teaspoon. Alternatively, bee propolis capsules or tablets can be added to food; adjust label directions for your pet's weight.
Apple cider vinegar is recommended for dogs and cats with skin problems although dogs tend to accept it more readily than cats. Cider vinegar is recommended for pets with any condition that resembles eczema, but it helps clear all skin conditions because it improves digestion.
Add up to 1 tablespoon aloe vera juice or gel to your pet's food for each 20 pounds of body weight; that is about 1 teaspoon per six or seven pounds. Start with smaller amounts and increase gradually. Aloe vera helps improve digestion and the animal's overall health. In addition, apply aloe vera juice or gel to hot spots and areas of irritation to soothe and heal them. This therapy helps speed the clearing of feline acne. Brew a very strong chamomile tea and apply it to irritated skin. Chamomile soothes and reduces inflammation. In addition, use this tea as a rinse after or instead of shampooing.
Licorice root and yucca contain natural cortisone and help relieve inflammation; licorice is a specific for the adrenal glands, which are often stressed or depleted in pets with chronic coat problems. Use licorice in small amounts (1/4 to 1/2 the usual recommended quantities) for long-term use or follow a schedule
Wheat grass, other grasses, bitter herbs such as dandelion, flowers such as calendula and chamomile, fresh green herbs such as chickweed or plantain and the most skin-friendly herb of all, comfrey, help clear skin allergies.
Comfrey can be added fresh, dried or in tea or tincture to food or applied to skin irritations. Goldenseal powder can be mixed with water or aloe vera juice or gel and applied to hot spots.
For an all-purpose skin and coat supplement, combine equal parts of dried burdock root, cleavers, dandelion, garlic, kelp, horsetail and nettles. Grind these ingredients well in a spice or coffee grinder. Add 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight to food per day.
There are literally hundreds of homeopathic remedies for skin and coat problems. Accurate diagnosis is essential in the treatment of chronic conditions. Carefully document your pet's symptoms and behavior before consulting a veterinary homeopath by phone or in person.
A 15-percent solution of tea tree oil can be sprayed or dabbed onto hot spots, irritated areas, feline acne and flea bite areas. However, cats dislike its turpentine fragrance, so consider this an emergency treatment for felines.
Treat areas of hair loss with a blend of 12 parts St. John's wort oil (an olive oil infusion of St. John's wort blossoms, not an essential oil), 6 parts wheat germ oil, 3 parts essential oil of lavender or lavandin and 1 part each rose geranium and rosemary essential oils. The pressed oil of wild rose hips has a dramatic healing effect on skin and hair; use it as a carrier oil or apply it directly to open sores and inflamed skin. The essential-oil brushing treatment described on page 170 improves the condition of dull, dry coats.