QUESTION: I have two dogs. One is a shiz tzu and one is a small breed mix. Both have allergies. The shiz tzu has been acting as if something is biting it. At times, he will whine and snap at his butt. He also scratches his back and face on the floor. The other one scratches occasionally but not as much as the shiz tzu. I know that shiz tzus can have skin issues, so I thought that it was just that. However, I was brushing it and noticed some black specs around its neck. I became concerned that he had fleas. I washed him (and I use a monthly flea treatment on both of them). I also used a spray to see if that would kill any fleas on them. I have washed and sprayed bedding, carpet, etc. He still scratches and acts like he is irritated by something. Not all the time, but frequently. The other dog doesn't act that way. I have used a flea comb to find fleas and I'm not seeing any. This makes me uncertain now if he has fleas. Maybe he had them and now is itching due to sensitivities to the bites. Basically, I would like to know if there is any way for me to tell if he has fleas or is the scratching more skin allergies, especially since the other dog doesn't seem to have the same severity of symptoms. I don't know what else to do.
ANSWER: Hi Crystal,
Sorry to hear you are having so many issues. Let's try to take control of it and give them some relief.
First, there are many different allergies and things going on inside of dogs that can cause these and similar symptoms. You have to do an elimination process to find the answers.
Dogs can have bugs going on inside them, can be allergic to fleas, foods, contact allergies to new detergents being used on bedding and other areas and even air born allergies.
The most common I've found by far is the food allergy. Most people are just unaware of what they are feeding and how it can cause problems. This is big firm marketing at its best.
Flea allergies make up a distant second but being allergic to fleas can also be a sign of an improper diet. A week immune system from an improper diet will cause this.
You could get a flea comb and run it through their fur. If you pull up some fleas, you know that is an issue that needs attention. If not, then we move on to the diet. Your groomer can also help you determine if you are having flea issues.
If you see fleas, get a product from your vet called Comfortis. It comes in a pill form and you have to get it through your vet. Look it up online. It's more of a natural product that kill fleas and prevents them from reproducing. This is huge.
Do NOT use common chemical based flea treatments more than once. Continuous usage can blow out their immune system and this will cause further skin issues and allergies and/or other medical conditions.
Now, if you find fleas, get the Comfortis and eliminate them.
Do not bathe too often as this will remove too much of their natural skin oils that help protect them. Without this can make their skin dryer and crack.
Next, let's make sure the diet you are providing is complete and will support their immune system.
I wish you would have told me what you are feeding and the brand names so we can go over the ingredients and see what might be causing more problems.
If you want, write back to this same question and let me know exactly what you are feeding, brand names and any treats or supplements you are giving.
But I'll lay out below what is the best to the worst diets.
First, the natural raw food diet is the best in the world for any dog. This gives them the "live" nutrients that are missing from "cooked" food diets. This makes them complete and cooked diets incomplete. If you don't give a dog or human the diet they were meant to have, things can and do go wrong.
If you want to find out more about a raw food diet and how to transition to it, write back and we can go over it.
The next best diet is a "lightly" cooked diet such as My Perfect Pet foods. They make a nice balanced meal that has been just lightly cooked so many of the nutrients are still available.
But once you cook, even slightly, you still kill off two of the most important nutrients that dogs need to stay healthy. These are enzymes and probiotics. They are found naturally in a raw food diet but are destroyed when you cook foods making a cooked food diet incomplete.
Feeding a raw food diet isn't for everyone so you can feed cooked foods, you just have to supplements with enzymes and probiotics so it will be more complete.
There are commercially manufactured raw food diets for dogs that make feeding it very easy. They come in nuggets, bars, chubs and medallion sized.
So next on the list is homemade diets. These are great as you know what's going in it but it's hard to make it balanced as you have to get so many nutrients in it.
Next is canned foods. These are decent but again, you need to add the right supplements to make them balanced.
The bottom of the list is dry foods. Even the best dry foods are the worst diet for any dog. It can be a part of a diet but should never make up more than half at most. If you don't have to feed any dry, don't.
The problem with dry foods is that they are dry, void of any moisture. Dogs need a high moisture diet to nourish their internal organs and the skin and coat. They are the highest processed foods, the more you process it, the more nutrients that are stripped out of it and they have to spray synthetic vitamins and mineral back onto it. They are also the hardest to digest. This is harder on their digestive system.
A dog on dry or mostly dry will live in a mild state of dehydration. This effects their internal organs and can dry out their skin causing additional problems.
The next thing you need to watch out for is grains. If a dog is having any type of skin issues, get them off any grains, even the good ones as these can cause irritation.
Some good grain free foods are ones like Orijen, Accana, Taste Of The Wild, Instinct, Before Grains and Wildernes. Stay away from commercial dogs foods like Science Diet, Iamms, Beniful, Purina brand, etc. These have allergy causing grains that cause skin issues. Look for the bad ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, by-products, chemical preservatives, artificial colorings, etc.
So a good grain free raw, lightly cooked or canned food and supplementing with enzymes, probiotics and some omega's will get them back in shape, most every time. And we have done this a lot.
A good enzyme and probiotic supplement we use is one from Animal Essentials. It contians both enzymes and probiotics in one powder that you just add a little to each meal. We feed a raw food diet to our dogs and cats and we still add extra enzymes and probiotics to help their digestive system that much more. It's the number one thing you can do no matter what you feed.
The enzymes and probiotics help the inside body. But to help more, you can also supplement with other good antioxidants to help them even more. Some good greens like kelp, spirulina or a good product online is Nzymes. This is a great antioxidant. Look them up online and you can learn more about what it causing some skin and coat issues.
Anything you change, start slowly and work your way up. Too fast a change can cause digestive problems temporarily.
Get some good salmon oil or other omega oil and give to them every day. This will help nourish their skin and coat.
The diet is the key thing with dogs or people. It has the power to heal or cause great harm. You want your pets to stay healthy and out of the vets office, this type of diet and system will help do that.
Let me know if you have more questions or would like to discuss any of this any further. If you do, let me know what you are feeding so we can go over that.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi, Roger
You gave me a lot to think about. Right now I feed them natural balance fat dogs dry food and add in natural balance reduced calories canned food. I also feed them treats of jerky type meats, greenies, and busy bones. What would you suggest for treats instead of processed snacks. Also, they have bad breath and I was told there was a natural supplement that would help clear up any internal issues that was causing that. Lastly, my mixed dog eats poop sometimes. Can that be related to his diet as well?
I'm glad to hear you are at least feeding a decent food. We used to carry the Natural Balance products until they were bought out by Del Monte who test on live animals. We don't support them any more.
There have been a couple of really good brands that were bought out by big corporations that test on live animals. It's a shame because these were decent to very good foods.
It sounds like weight may be an issue as well. You need to show some tough love and reduce their intake. I know it's easier said than done. Also, get them moving. Dogs need a lot of exercise. A treadmill works very well if you can't get them outside for long walks.
If you can afford it, just feed the canned food and no dry. This will help the weight as well as the dry foods always contain too many carbs. Low glycemic is the answer to reducing weight.
My Perfect Pet makes a low glycemic food that really works for weight issues. you may want to look them up and see if they sell in your area.
The other problem with the dry is that is very high in fiber. This is a problem with prescription formulas from the vets as well. Too much fiber pushes the food through the intestinal system too fast and does not allow enough digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
So again, they can lack break down of foods. When this happens, they lack specific nutrients to be absorbed through the blood stream to vital organs as well as the skin and coat.
For treats, stick to real meat or sweet potato treats. NO processed strips, chews or other made up bone treats.
Look for real treats that are low in calorie.
Look for the small, independent pet food retail stores. These are the places where they carry the better brands of foods, supplements and treats. NOT the big chain pet food stores. Most of their employees have not been trained in nutrition and cannot help you with your issues.
As I said in the first answer, get the enzymes and probiotic supplements as soon as you can and get them on it. This is the number one thing you can do no matter what you feed. This is what will help their internal systems to operate better.
It will help with their digestion, immune system and skin and coat. This is what will help with the breath as better digestion is a good start.
Many believe the lack of live enzymes in the diet is one of the reasons they eat poop.
Look for good healthy dental chews as well. Greenies used to have problems but I think they have changed their formula. There are several good brands you will find in the pet stores. They will also carry other dental cleaning aids. Some you can even pour in their drinking water. You have to keep the tarter down as this can give some bad breath as well.
We use real bones for our dogs. This is natures tooth brush and of course they love them.
Back to your first issues, if you use a flea comb and find the fleas, get them treated with the Comfortis I talked about.
If you are not seeing any fleas, get the diet changed as they are having a problem with some of the ingredients. One more than the other it sounds like.
You should be using a different protein based food all the time. Rotation and variety is very important. You never want to feed the same thing all the time as dogs can develop an allergy to eating the same thing. This is very common with chicken as it is the most used protein in dog foods.
Get the enzymes and probiotics started and add some omega's like the salmon oil daily. Especially when it's cold outside and we are using heaters, many dogs get extra dry skin when this is going on.
Use a good antioxidant to also help their internal system and build their immune system. A strong immune system will help fight off fleas, diseases, allergies and a host of other illnesses.
So let me know if you have any more input or would like any other help with any of this.