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Itching And Scratching And Shedding Oh My!

Dogs should be bathed at least once a month and no more than once a week. In some cases of seborrhea (oily skin), there are special shampoos to strip the oils from the skin and these should only be used under the guidance of your veterinarian.
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By Dr. Evan M. Blair, DVM

Perhaps the most common problem I see on a daily basis is skin issues. There is a fairly new “wonder drug” that I will use immediately in the more severe cases, instead of as a last resort, but more on that later.  I find that if you follow a few simple guidelines the majority of skin problems can be resolved without great cost and medical intervention.
 
The first tool at your disposal is simple bathing. I use a nice aloe and oatmeal shampoo followed by a separate step with a good quality conditioner. Do not use the “two in ones” as it defeats the purpose, shampoos clean and conditioner conditions. Dogs should be bathed at least once a month and no more than once a week. In some cases of seborrhea (oily skin), there are special shampoos to strip the oils from the skin and these should only be used under the guidance of your veterinarian.

After a month of bathing if you rub your hands all over the coat and your palms feel powdery or dry then you need to add an essential fatty acid supplement to the regimen.

You would be surprised how many cases I see that are simply dry skin leading to itching and scratching. Remember that the nasty Staph bacteria is a normal resident on the skin and when your baby breaks the epidermis by scratching, the bacteria get in and then you need to add antibiotics.

There are many Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) products out there today. I recommend using one that is not labeled “saturated” and has zinc in the ingredients somewhere. This is because zinc is the cofactor that actually helps carry the omegas (EFA’s) into the hair follicle to lubricate the shaft and prevent epilation (hair falling out). The best metaphor I can give you is that if you lived underground and drank tons of milk you would never get enough calcium because you need the sunlight to convert the vitamin D’s to be able to absorb the calcium. Zinc increases the absorption, transport, and distribution of the fatty acids to where they need to go.

It can take about three to four weeks to see the full effects of EFA supplementation so after about a month of this and proper bathing if there is still a problem it’s time for the wonder drug I mentioned before.

Apoquel is revolutionary in that it has resolved so many previously aggressive skin issues under the guise of it being allergic dermatitis. The drug is pricey and some patients may have to stay on it for long periods or even life.  I always start by prescribing the drug twice a day for the first two weeks and once a day thereafter. In some cases, I try to taper down the dose and eventually stop administration of it. If the problem reoccurs then we know a longer course of therapy is required.

What I’ve just detailed for you are my basic “skin protocols” and it, in fact, has helped me resolve or at least maintain almost 99% of my skin cases. Remember that proper bathing, EFA supplementation, and sometimes apoquel therapy are important tools in treating and preventing skin problems.

Dr. Blair has practiced veterinary medicine for over 24 years in South Florida, 15 of which he owned his own animal hospital. His favorite thing about being a veterinarian is observing the parent-fur baby bond. He also volunteers at United Dog Rescue as the chief veterinarian as he strives to fulfill his oath to help the helpless. Find his line of pet essentials health products at www.TheOrganicCompanion.com

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