Natural Treatments for Skin Problems in Dogs
It can be an itchy world out there for dogs, thanks to the presence of fleas, ticks, allergens and a host of other irritants that can plague your pet's skin. Thankfully, there are many natural skin treatments that can promote your dog's skin health and eliminate troublesome itching and other skin-related issues.
Get Ready, Get Set—Groom!
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), dogs of all breeds and ages are susceptible to skin issues. For this reason, you'll want to keep those brushes, combs and grooming supplies handy, because regular grooming promotes your dog's skin and coat health and allows you to frequently inspect for potential problems. Brushing is an effective way to distribute the natural oils in your dog's skin and coat and reduce irritants. As you brush, watch for abnormalities, and while you're at it, keep an eye out for fleas, ticks and flea dirt as well.
Observe Your Dog
Carefully observe your dog outside of grooming time. While all dogs scratch occasionally, repetitive scratching, licking or rapid nibbling can be signs of skin trouble that should be examined by a veterinarian.
Focus on Food
If your veterinarian has determined that your dog's skin problem is caused by a food allergy, the treatment is obvious: remove the offending ingredient. But identifying the problematic food can be a challenge, so work with your veterinarian on an elimination diet that could help you to pinpoint the allergen.
While a high-quality, well-balanced diet is essential for the overall health of any dog, you may also want to consider natural dietary supplements that can be beneficial for skin issues. Probiotics may help to improve your dog's digestive health, subsequently improving his skin health; so talk to your veterinarian about incorporating probiotics into your pet's diet. (If you opt to achieve probiotic benefits via yogurt, be sure to choose plain yogurt that contains live active cultures.) Supplements containing essential fatty acids may prove helpful for improving dry skin. Products with omegas 3, 6 and 9 can also be beneficial to your pet's skin and coat.
Environmental allergies (such as pollen, dust, grass, smoke or household products) can also cause skin problems in dogs. It is difficult in most cases to guess what may be causing an allergy, so partnering with a pet allergist or dermatologist is the best course of action. If you believe that an allergen is the cause of your pet's skin trouble, scrupulously clean the areas in which your dog spends the majority of his time, and try to minimize his exposure to the allergen that you suspect is causing the trouble. For instance, if your dog's seasonal allergies are flaring up, try keeping him indoors during windy times, early morning hours and late evening hours when the pollen count is highest. In addition, wiping down his feet and coat can be very helpful.
While good hygiene is definitely important (and can help with early detection of fleas and ticks), you'll want to avoid over-bathing your dog, which can dry out his skin and remove important natural oils. For allergy-prone dogs, or dogs with dry skin, consider a hypoallergenic shampoo, or one that will moisturize—such as an oatmeal shampoo. Or ask for your veterinarian about trying a natural skin rinse using ingredients such as chamomile tea, peppermint, lavender, aloe vera, or apple cider vinegar.
Watch for "Hot Spots"
"Hot spots" (moist eczema) often begin as small irritations that become infected by bacteria and become inflamed. The issue is compounded by the fact that dogs often scratch these areas until they become raw and quite irritated. If this is the case, your dog will need to see a veterinarian for the best solution.