Category Archives: Health

All about monthly care, health problems and treatments

Figuring Out Skin “Itchies”

Does your dog scratch, lick obsessively or chew? There are a lot of reasons your dog or itchy_puppuppy may be itchy. It can be tough trying to narrow it down. If you run to the vet right away, it can also be pretty expensive, and you still may not get the answer. Why? Because vets do not learn nutrition in vet school, a fact they will readily admit. So if your pooch’s itchies come from a food allergy (an easy fix), you won’t get this treatment advice from a vet.

But there are several possible ailments that bring on itching and scratching of the skin. For this article, I assume you have already checked for fleas. This is what I recommend to figure it out by process of elimination. I suggest you start with the “path of least resistance” and work your way down this list.

1. Switch your dog to a grain-free or raw diet. By far the most common source of persistent itching of the skin is an allergy to grains. Your dog should be on a grain-free diet anyway, because it is a carnivore, not an herbivore, and the grains are associated with a large number of ailments in dogs, including cancers, diabetes, GI tract issues and seizures (but that is another post).

Start right out with a recipe that does NOT include chicken at all. The reason is that some dogs have a chicken allergy as well. Perhaps it is not even that they have a chicken allergy, but rather, a soy allergy. Soy is one of the few feeds whose properties will transfer directly to the animal or person that eats the meat that it was fed to. It’s a horrible feed, but most poultry is fed with it. So start right out with either a red meat or fish-based recipe.

2. Add coconut oil to the food every day. Start with about a teaspoon for a Lab-sized dog or larger. After a few days, increase the amount until you have reached about a tablespoon dollop. You can find organic coconut oil at Kroger, WalMart, Costoco and Sam’s Club.

Both the elimination of grains and the addition of the coconut oil should kill an overload of candida yeast in your dog’s system, which could cause systemic itching.

3. Avoid any kind of chemical based shampoos. A natural oatmeal-based shampoo will help soothe your dog while the healing is taking place.

4. If the above has not helped or if there is any loss of fur, do all of the above, BUT bring your dog to the vet for a skin scraping to check for mites and mange. There are several very effective natural remedies for this. We recommend EcoManage by Vet Organics. It will treat both sarcoptic mange and the dreaded demodectic mange, which is “technically” incurable.

5. If none of these things has helped, it is possible that your dog has an allergy to something itching-dogenvironmental. The way to to check for this cheaply (but only generally) is to give your dog Benedryl at a maximum dose of 1 milligram per pound of body weight.  If it brings relief, then it is probably an environmental allergy.

It is only at this point that I would see the vet and have them do blood work to screen for allergies. If you take the dog to the vet before this point, you could be unnecessarily subjecting your dog to chemicals and pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms that are permanently corrected by a change in diet, supplementation, elimination of yeast or natural elimination of mites and the mange they cause.

6. If your dog also has a mysterious limp that seems to disappear and reappear, along with chronic itchiness, he may be infected with one of the tick-borne diseases such as Lyme or erlychiosis. There is one test that checks for all of them, and it’s inexpensive.

If none of these things fixes your pooch’s itchies… well… I don’t have a clue!

Spaying & Neutering

Early spaying & neutering: DON’T DO IT!

Now that I have your attention, and you realize that I have probably contradicted your vet’s advice to have it done at 6 months, let me tell you why.

hermione_4

Hermione, daughter of Shelby & Rob Roy

The sex hormones of both males and females are responsible for bone growth plate development, as well as joint strength during their maturing years. When those hormones are absent, the risk for joint failure (especially elbows and ACL) is dramatically increased. The chances of seeing a degenerative bone condition arise is also increased. On top of that, the risk  of several types of cancers goes up pretty dramatically as well.

WHY DO VETS RECOMMEND IT THEN?

There are a couple of reasons. And I am not trying to disparage any vets here, I really like and respect the three vets I regularly use, though I disagree with them occasionally. But these things are admitted by some of the vets themselves.

First, there is pressure by the whole shelter/rescue lobby to have dogs de-sexed as early as possible to avoid “overpopulation”. In other words, you are not responsible enough to care for your puppy to keep him or her contained, therefore you need to have them de-sexed. It’s not about the health of the dog. It’s about politics.

The second reason is a little cynical. Some vets schedule puppies for surgery at 6 months right away when you bring your pup in for the first exam and shots. That’s because most folks don’t make regular plans to visit the vet once the 4 rounds of vaccinations are done. They want to make sure they get that surgery income early on in their relationship with you, lest they lose it to someone else later on.

Some, to be honest, really do believe there’s nothing medically amiss about it. All I can say is that they have not truly kept abreast of the research if they believe that. The evidence has actually been there for many years, but you have to dig out those studies, and the results are very unpopular with the shelter/rescue folks!

Here is an article by my favorite on-line vets at AngryVet. These guys are vets in New York, and are not afraid to question common veterinary practice when it doesn’t make sense. You will find their article very persuasive. Their facts are not footnoted, but I have found the studies to which they make reference.

This article is from the AKC Canine Health Foundation citing a study by a team of researchers at the University of California. They found a direct connection to ACL and CCL rupture (these are joints) and hip dysplasia to spay/neuter before one year old. They also found an increased risk of cancers: hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors.

OUR HISTORY OF THIS: We have produced nearly 500 puppies since we began in 2007. We have seen three puppies diagnosed with hip dysplasia inside of our 26-month guarantee. All three were neutered at 6 months of age. We have had three pups require ACL (knee joint) surgery before three years old.  All three were de-sexed at about 6 months of age. We had one pup develop a degenerative disease of the bone growth plates. He was only 13 months old and is not expected to live past age 3. He was neutered at 6 months of age.

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Beau, son of Sadie & Rob Roy after ACL surgery.

Can I say that early spay/neuter was “responsible” for all of these cases? No, of course not. There is no way to know for certain. But even if there was a genetic predisposition in the pups, it may never have shown up, if all of our care & feeding recommendations were observed and they were not de-sexed before full maturity. But the early de-sexing very likely threw those genetic predispositions (if there were any) into overdrive, making it a virtual certainty.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: Based on the research we have read, we recommend avoiding spay or neuter until maturity. That is different with different breeds. For Labs, I would wit a minimum of 20-24 months. For Mastiffs, I would wait 2.5 to 3 years.

We recognize that this can be a burden, especially for females as they go into heat, drip blood and attract all the lads in the neighborhood. But if you are truly concerned about the health and longevity of life of your dog, you will give this serious consideration. Joint blowouts are very painful and very expensive to repair. Some vets charge $3,000-$4,000 for the surgery. Cancers are life-threatening and life-shortening. So much of that risk can be mitigated by a little extra work on your part, and some time to let your pup fully mature.