If you can’t find out why your dog’s itchy, maybe you are looking in the wrong place?
Posted on June 29 2020
Simone had tried everything to help her itchy dog, using countless remedies, medications, and therapies. After many frustrating visits to the vet while never getting any real answers, endless googling trying ‘every home remedy for your itchy dog’, she was reaching the end of her tether.
Sound like you?
You probably know that an itchy dog can be due to fleas, parasites, allergies, or other bacterial/fungal issues. You’ve also probably tried the antibiotics, the steroids, the antibacterials, and every other conventional veterinary medicine.
But what if there was a piece of the puzzle that you’re missing?
If we try to look at this problem from a different angle, it might help put things into perspective. If you wanted to make your dog itchy, what would you have to do?
- Be a flea
- Be a mite
- Strip the dog of all the microbes
The first two are solved quite easily. You’d know if your dog has fleas or mites, so let’s talk about option number 3. Microbes are found on every living thing; on animals, food, soil, etc. They’re incredibly important for health, and help to maintain balance at a microscopic level. Unfortunately, we live in a ‘germ-free’ age, where everything is sanitised and manufactured to be sterile. While this often gets rid of all the nasty bacteria, it also kills all of the good microbes.
Fungi is a lot more resistant than bacteria, which means that often the bacteria will die off and only fungi will remain. Although this might not seem like a big deal, it can cause a plethora of issues for your dog. This means the complex and interrelated ecosystem begins to break down, and harmony no longer reigns supreme.
The complete eradication of all bacteria can cause what we call a biological vacuum. This occurs when a niche has been wiped out and has left an imbalance of certain microbes. Because there is now an empty ecosystem, particular bacteria and fungi can repopulate quickly and skew the natural balance.
When using antibiotics, resistant bacteria are able to take small pieces of the antibiotic DNA and replicate it themselves. This means that over time, bacteria can build up an immunity to antibiotics, and you can no longer use them to treat your pet. I was recently talking to a customer, and he mentioned that he had stopped a course of antibiotics for his dog whilst halfway through. What he didn’t know was that once you’ve started on antibiotics, you need to complete the entire course. Giving a partial dose is like giving the bacteria just enough to build resistance, without giving enough to actually treat the problem.
So now we go from a dog with practically no bacteria (due to antibiotic use, eating an incorrect diet, chlorinated drinking water, glyphosate residues, etc), to a dog that has too many detrimental bacteria, and not enough beneficial ones. This is known as gut dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance. From there it is only a matter of weeks or months (depending on how many contributing factors are present) until your dog will likely develop Leaky Gut, also known as Intestinal Permeability.
Intestinal permeability is where the gastrointestinal tract walls (designed to allow food and other nutrients to pass from the intestines into the bloodstream) becomes too permeable. Think of the holes in the intestinal walls as little gates that should open and close allowing certain substances through to the bloodstream but not others. These tight junctions become inflamed and stop working correctly - like a gate being left open for everything to run madly in and out. The substances designed to remain in the gastrointestinal tract, like certain viruses and bacteria, now have free access to any part of the body.
Obviously, this is not an ideal situation. A leaky gut can cause all sorts of issues, ranging from allergies and hotspots all the way to auto-immune diseases. It also causes inflammation, which is where we see the itchy skin, chewing of the feet, inflamed spots, etc. Not only can there be skin issues, but you have endotoxins (which are natural microbial bioproducts) that can get into the bloodstream and cause extensive problems.
Now you know the reason behind the itch, we can get into how to treat it. A persistent, ongoing itch is usually a symptom of a deeper, underlying issue. If we follow the trail back to where it began, we can see just how important the little microbes are! They play such a crucial role in maintaining harmony in the body, but particularly in the gut. When the balance of microbes is disturbed, it causes all sorts of issues for your dog. We need to be more proactive with our pets and initiate a strategy that looks after good microbes, instead of just killing everything and hoping that the problem solves itself.
MicroMed recommends for any dog with any skin or ear issues, and particularly an ‘itchy dog’, that you ensure the carbohydrate content of your pet food is zero for the first two weeks, followed by no more than 5% carbs in the following two weeks. Recently, some pet food manufacturers have stopped listing the carbohydrate content of the food, making it difficult to know what the carb content is. We’ve created a chart to help you figure out the carbohydrate content of your dog’s food even if it’s not listed.
It’s really important that you’re feeding the protein-eating microbes, and not encouraging the carbohydrate-eating ones. Balance is everything in the gut. Almost half of the bacteria in the intestines are Fermicutes (carb-eating)- if you allow them to overtake by feeding too much carbohydrate, they will multiply too quickly and overtake the gut. When this happens, you commence a vicious cycle of gut inflammation, leading to leaky gut, and then leading to whole-body inflammation and allergies.
So what do you need - an action plan.
- Do not feed your dog any carbs if your dog has an ‘itch’, ‘yeast’, or ‘fungal’ issue until that problem is resolved.
- Re-establish the healthy microbes with a highly-diverse, commensal blend of probiotics.
- Feed your dog a prebiotic that will feed the probiotics, (examples being chlorella or apple).
- If you suspect your dog has a leaky gut, contact MicroMed for our Leaky Gut Protocol.
- If your dog is suffering inflammatory issues, such as hotspots, pink inflamed skin patches, and mild digestive issues, MicroMed recommends 1/2 tsp of the herb slippery elm (as a powder), mixed with a small amount of water and then stirred into your dog’s food. Continue this for a period of a month or so.
- Add an antioxidant, preferably a polyphenol-rich antioxidant (think red, yellow and orange foods such as sweet peppers, carrots, pumpkin). Polyphenols have the capacity to change the bacterial populations in the gut of your dog. They can bind to and alter the cell membranes of bad bacteria, interfering with their activity and growth. If we simply allow our dogs a healthy, fresh diet, nature can take care of the rest.
Just like humans, dogs can react to a variety of things including grass or certain types of food. But if your dog has had long-term skin or health issues, they likely have a leaky gut. It can be difficult to get a diagnosis of this, as it’s not widely taught in New Zealand yet. However, MicroMed has an easy leaky gut protocol for dogs of all shapes and sizes to help them get back to optimal health. Instead of treating the symptoms your dog has, it’s time to start treating the root causes.
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