Dogs/Skin and Coat Issue
QUESTION: Hello Roger,
I realize from your bio that you are not a vet and do not answer medical questions, but I would still like to get your opinion on a skin/coat issue my female English Bulldog is having. I switched her to the raw diet (Nature's Variety frozen raw diet to be exact# a little over a month ago. She has been loving the diet, but her coat has not improved as much as I thought it would. She sheds excessively throughout the year and still shed on the raw diet thus far, albeit less than before on a kibble-based diet. Recently, I discovered some type of rash on the inside of her back legs #see attached photo).
At first, I thought perhaps she was allergic to something in the raw diet, especially since it is chicken-based and I know many dogs are allergic to chicken. However, we just discovered this morning that she was infested with fleas. We have remedied that situation but would like to know from you if you think the rash on her legs is from the raw food or from the fleas? Any input you can provide would be helpful. Thank-you.
ANSWER: Hey Mike,
More than likely it would be from the fleas. A flea allergy or just being bit allot can cause this kind of rash. Underneath the belly and inside of the legs are some sensitive areas. Areas that fleas like to attack.
If she is itching and thus scratching a lot, you can either take her to the vet for a cortisone shot that would relieve the itching until she heals more or you can try a couple natural remedies and/or anti itch lotions.
A lot of times just some organic coconut oil works very well. It has anti fungal and anti microbial properties in it. It also penetrates very well and can provide some relief.
It's not as likely the chicken is causing it. We seldom see dogs having allergic reactions to fresh or raw meats. It's usually the dry proteins in kibble that causes most of these problems.
I would still rotate through the other proteins Natures Variety has. I would go for a red meat for a couple weeks then back to white meat.
I would, as we do, still add enzymes and probiotics to her diet each meal. The raw food provides some of these but being most raw food manufacturers use muscle meat for their products, these don't provide a good source of digestive enzymes. In a natural diet the good digestive enzymes are located in the bile ducts and intestine. They just don't include these parts.
The thing about Nature's Variety is that they also use a HPP process on their raw foods. This High Pressure Pasteurization may kill off some of the beneficial probiotics. I believe it still provides some beneficial pre-biotics and enzymes but I always add more to our dogs diet.
Natures Variety is a good food, but according to some holistic vets and another person we know who is basically a scientist of dog food, they all agree about a 80% protein and 20% fruit and vegetables are a perfect ratios for today's dogs.
NV is about 95% meat and 5% fruit and veggies. It can and does work fine for many. We use a raw food product that is around that 80/20 level. You just have to check your suppliers and see what all is available in your area.
Adding additional enzymes and probiotics will help to get more nutrients out of whatever she is eating. The more nutrients she gets, the more can go towards her internal system and help her skin and coat.
Animal Essentials makes a good product that has both enzymes and probiotics in one. It's a powder you just sprinkle on each meal.
The other thing I would add to her diet if you're not doing it is additional fish oil. These products will help nourish her skin and coat. There's just not much omega's in the raw by itself. You will see some good results doing this if you are not currently doing it.
You can get just some basic salmon oil or give her a can of sardines in water once or twice a week. They are a full chain of omega 3's and 6's.
Be careful what you are using to get rid of the fleas as well. An application of the chemical products is fine if you have an infestation, but do not use it on her every month. This will weaken her immune system. There are some good natural alternatives.
Make sure to take care of her bedding and anything else she lays on and include any carpeted areas where she may come in contact with. Once you have a lot of fleas on her, you will have them throughout your house.
A good product to use on any carpeted areas is the laundry soap Borax. Just sprinkle it on carpeted areas and/or her bedding and let sit for 24 hours then vacuum each day. You can do one area at time and just cover it with a blanket.
You have to be very aggressive to get rid of them. Otherwise they will find there way back on her.
So to summarize:
If you're doing the above, give it some time. A dog that's just starting out on raw may take 30-60 days before you even start seeing some good results. Sometimes the bad stuff has to work out of their systems before the good can start showing more.
You're doing absolutely great by switching her to raw. She will reap the benefits for the rest of her life. Which will be longer because of your efforts.
Let me know if you have any more questions or would like to add anything, I'll be happy to help if I can.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank-you so much for the very detailed and informative response Roger. I will be sure to take care of the fleas properly and naturally. I am a big believer in the raw diet for dogs from my research and personal experience with other dogs. What it really comes down to for us is the budget. As you know, raw can be pricey. Natures Variety is just within our budget, but many other brands are not. One such brand is Steve's Real Food. I love the company and the quality of ingredients, but it is a bit too expensive for us. I realize you may be thinking that we can just make our own raw diet at home for the dogs. However, our current time constraints do not allow us to do this, so we need a quick and easy commercial raw diet as the first requirement. Are there any other commercial raw diets you would recommend over the Natures Variety that is around the same price point? And here's the real question for you...is it better to only be able to feed Natures Variety raw frozen diet with NO added supplements, or is it better to feed the best quality dry kibble with ALL the added supplements you suggested in your response above? That is really what I have been trying to figure out. We can't afford to have her on the raw diet and give her all the other supplements unfortunately.
I had our Bulldog on a dry kibble from Canine Caviar. This was the best dry kibble I fed in my opinion. The cooking method they use is unique and minimal, and the digestibility rate of their food is much higher for that reason. I often wonder if I should switch her back to that and add in the omegas, enzymes, probiotics, etc. rather than have her on the raw diet? What do you think? I know kibble is not optimal for dogs but is much easier and more affordbale as you are well aware. I wouldn't mind buying the absolute best dry kibble on the market and the added supplements rather than the raw, but I have to know what is ultimately better for our dogs. What do you think we should do? Is there another kibble you would recommend over Canine Caviar?
Any recommendations you can provide would be outstanding. Our Bulldog is just so delicate when it comes to her diet that it's difficult to find the right balance of her health needs and our budget. Again, I appreciate your time and help with all this.
I definitely understand the budget concerns. We have helped people through this all during the recession we've been going through. The need and desire to feed a good diet and stay within a budget is a top concern with many of our customers.
As a matter of fact, my wife and I did write a book for people trying to figure out what is the best food to feed and staying in a budget. You already know about the good foods so we can just talk about things to do to help cost. But if you want to check it out, it's on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Food-Decoded-Healthy-ebook/dp/B008LX6WGY/ref=tmm_kin_t
If you are a prime member of Amazon, you can read it for free. But I do think you are above the basics.
Natures Variety is a good food and we sell it, but it is our most expensive raw out of three we carry.
We are located in Vancouver, WA and carry a couple of locally produced raw foods, one being Northwest Naturals that we use ourselves. It is the one formulated at around the 80/20 I was talking about.
The scientific person I was talking about in my previous answer, was Steve Brown. The guy behind Steve's Real food. He has a couple of books out as well. Steve has been in our store a couple times giving lectures on the raw food diet to our customers. He knows his stuff but yeah, his products are expensive.
If you haven't, search out the small independent pet food stores in your area. Probably similar to the one you found Natures Variety in. Go to there web sites or call them and ask if they carry any locally produced raw food products for dogs. If you can find a local one, they are usually less expensive than the nationally distributed ones.
I would not recommend making your own raw either. This is hard to make it completely balanced as you need all the nutrients included. The raw in the grocery stores is allowed to have a higher bacteria level as they know we will be cooking it. The raw most manufacturers use for dogs comes from mostly free range animals and not the feed lot stuff that is full of antibiotics and growth hormones.
I would not look to go back to dry food only and add supplements. The best dry food out there is still the worst level of nutrition to feed a dog. It can be a part of there diet to help cost but should never make up there whole diet.
The problem is its dry and contains no moisture. Dogs need a high moisture diet, especially females. They need this high moisture from the foods they eat to help keep their urinary tract flushed out. Many females on dry only develop crystals.
Dogs that are on dry or mostly dry foods will actually live in a mild state of dehydration. This is hard on their internal organs and skin and coat.
Canine Caviar is a good dry but we don't sell any holistic foods ourselves. We can order them in for people who want to go that route but we feel it is not necessary to go holistic for the cost difference.
The more raw you can feed the better. But if it is just one meal a day or every other day then do what you can do. She will still reap the benefits from it.
You can go to a lower cost dry food. I would stay in the grain free versions if you can.
There are super premium dry foods like Orijen and Accana. These are expensive but very good foods. Then at the bottom of the grain free foods is Taste Of The Wild. This is still a very good premium grain free food but because of bigger distribution, they are less expensive.
You can use premium foods that contain grain as well to help save money. If she had no allergy problems in the past, then the healthy grains are still fine.
One of the least expensive foods we carry is Skoki. It only comes in 40 pound bags and usually sells for just over a dollar a pound. We sold a lot of this to people who were still wanting a premium food but needed to cut back for a while.
If you feed dry and raw, keep them in separate meals. It's much easier on their digestive system to keep them separate. Then when you feed a dry meal, add a little fresh meat, veggies or leftovers to help make it more palatable.
Other things you can do to make your raw go further is to add some of your leftover lean meats and veggies from your own meals. Do not add more than about 20% as this will throw off the balance. You can also add some canned dog food to stretch out the raw. You can find a case on sale now and then and/or look for coupons. Adding 25-50% canned will stretch out the raw and they can be combined.
A good low cost grain free canned food we carry is from Natural Balance. They also have a frequent buyer program with there cans so you can build up to a free case.
Whatever you do, please try to include the enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics on each meal or as much as you can. She will get the most benefits from this versus some that are included in her dry. They are just not the same.
When you get some time, read up on prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes. These three are key to good health and longevity for dogs.
You have to remember that dry foods have been cooked at high temperatures and this destroys most nutrition in it. So they have to spray on vitamins and minerals onto the kibble. These are synthetic nutrients and are not complete because they are missing co-factors such as the enzymes and probiotics and thus, not complete balanced nutrition.
So look for local suppliers of raw, get into a lower cost dry for one meal a day and you still should be able to get the enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics as well as a bottle of salmon oil for her. Or many time grocery stores have the sardines on sale of a dollar a can.
If you can do some of the above, it should help with cost ans still provide her with great nutrition.
As we tell everyone, whatever you can do with your time and money constraints is fine. Try to give them the basics and just remember that you are still providing a loving home for a great animal and they appreciate that.
Let me know if you have any further questions.