Can changing their diet make a difference?
Vets will report that itchy dogs are one of the most common minor ailments they come across. Intense itching can be hugely frustrating for both owner and dog, not to mention distressing, potentially painful, unattractive and can lead to other health and welfare problems.
Diet is often blamed for causing itchiness and in some situations, dietary intolerances or hypersensitivities can manifest as itchiness. However, before rushing to a dietary change, there are some other points worth checking first:
- Eliminate ectoparasites such as fleas. Even if you never see any evidence of fleas, they might be there, and control of flea populations is dependent on both environmental control as well as “on-animal” control. Make sure ALL areas that your dog has access to (including the car which is often forgotten!) are treated to eliminate fleas. Monitor your dog for contact with other animals (such as cats, rabbits and other dogs!) that might be a source of infestation.
- Rule out other skin infections. With the help of your vet, ensure a correct diagnosis. There is no point in altering your dog’s diet if in fact, they have a fungal, bacterial or other infection causing the itchiness. Sometimes that infection takes a little work to identify and needs skin scrapings and other tests for confirmation. Appropriate and correct treatment can then be prescribed by your vet.
- Allergy tests might be useful, but only after other potential causes have been eliminated and many are not fully effective at identifying true dietary sensitivities!
- Consider your dog’s breeding. Some breeds and breed crosses have a genetic make-up that predisposes them to skin conditions that might benefit from nutritional support. For example, Arctic breeds (think Malamutes and Huskies) often suffer from zinc deficiencies, so considering the levels of dietary zinc is important. If you are at all concerned, seek veterinary advice.
- Don’t over-supplement complete diets. Some skin conditions can actually be a consequence of over-supplementation with certain vitamins, vitamin A especially! If you are feeding a complete dog food, there is no need to supplement with additional vitamins and minerals.
If all other causes have been eliminated, a dietary change might be worth trying in the form of an elimination diet. Essentially, you alter the diet in a way to eliminate potential ingredients that might result in sensitivities or intolerances. It’s important in undertaking an elimination diet that you think about EVERYTHING your dog eats, not just their usual food! Examples of ingredients that have been shown to cause sensitivity reactions in dogs include soya, beef, dairy and some grains.
The Skinner’s Field and Trial range includes diets that are free from specific ingredients that might be linked to sensitivities. Our diets are also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) that are linked to skin and coat health. If you have eliminated all other causes for your dog’s itchiness and would like to consider a dietary change, feel free to contact us for some friendly, practical advice about what might be most suitable for your dog’s situation.
Written by Dr. Jacqueline Boyd