Treatment For Flaky Skin And/Or Dull Hair Coat In Dogs And Cats

Flaky skin is not representative of healthy skin. Thus, if you are observing flakes on the coat of your dog or cat that means something is inherently amiss with the health of the skin and hair coat. However, there is not one single cause for the presence of flaky canine and feline skin, and determining the cause of flakes is paramount to finding a solution to treat them.

Dry Flakes

When the flakes are observed on the skin and hair coats of dogs and cats are dry to the touch, feeling like the character of fish food flakes, this typically indicates simple dry skin. Flakes of this kind often are not accompanied by significant hair loss, foul odor, and/or redness or irritation. This presentation is fairly easy to treat with a combination of omega-3-fatty acids derived from fish oils taken orally, and weekly to biweekly baths with a moisturizing shampoo fortified with oatmeal and essential fatty acids. This approach comprehensively, directly conditions and nourishes the skin and hair coat.

Oily FlakesWhen the flakes have an oily feel to them, this typically means that a skin disease process is at work that is more complicated than simple dry skin, known as seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when the rate of skin cell turnover becomes excessive due to inflammation. This is also often accompanied by overactive sebaceous glands (glands that secrete conditioning, water proofing oils for the skin), hence the typical oily texture of flakes, skin and hair coat in patients that suffer from seborrheic dermatitis. In addition to flakes and oiliness, the skin is often itchy, inflamed, and there is often a general foul odor to the pet.

The most common inflammatory influence with regard to seborrheic dermatitis is skin allergy. Thus, in addition to direct anti-seborrheic topical management of the skin and hair coat (more on that below); a comprehensive skin allergy management regimen is also imperative. From a supplemental point of view, omega-3-fatty acids derived from fish oils are still important, but for more reasons than just directly conditioning the skin and hair coat. By their nature, omega-3-fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory, diverting inflammatory biochemical pathways to inert, non-reactive pathways

An allergic pet should also be fed a hypoallergenic diet. Diets should be free of grassy grains (wheat, corn, barley, and oats) and contain a novel protein source, that is, a protein source the dog or cat has never before consumed. This covers the patient for possible food allergy, as food allergy sensitivities build over time from prolonged, repeated consumption of a protein, most commonly, an animal source protein. For most dogs and cats, that rules out chicken and beef, as these are the most common protein sources found in commercial pet food diets. Good novel protein sources include: rabbit, venison, and duck, as well as an array of less common sources.

Hydrolyzed protein diets are also very effective, since they take away the necessity to find novel protein sources. Hydrolyzed diets cut large chain proteins into smaller, maximally absorbable chains that are unlikely to lead to allergic reactions that erupt in the skin.

For a carbohydrate source for patients with seborrheic dermatitis, I like rice, technically a grain, but unlikely to cause adverse reaction in the gut. Potato is also a good carbohydrate source that also contains other important nutrients such as potassium.  

Last but not least, from a topical point of view, a pet that suffers from chronic seborrheic dermatitis, should at least in the short term, be regularly bathed with a veterinary grade, anti-seborrheic shampoo. Such a shampoo should have benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid as its two active medical ingredients, while also having aloe, essential fatty acids, and other naturally conditioning agents in it. Your veterinarian can recommend effective anti-seborrheic shampoo products. I typically advise bathing with such a shampoo three times weekly until the flakes, oiliness, and odor are under control, and then bathe the pet as needed.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Naturally Reducing The Impact Of & Maintaining Cardiac Function In Dogs In Cats With Heart Disease

Natural Treatment For Heart Disease In Dogs And CatsWith few exceptions, regardless of the many different presentations of chronic heart disease in dogs and cats, whether primarily or secondarily, there are metabolic and structural abnormalities at the level of the heart muscle. These abnormalities lead to electrical conduction anomalies, deficiencies in the strength and timeliness of heart contractions, and compromise the ability of the heart chambers to adequately fill with blood. The net result of this is a heart that is grossly inefficient and fails to circulate adequate amounts of blood to oxygenate and nourish the body.

Our medical technology in treatment of heart disease has effectively retained quality of life and significant longevity for canine and feline patients with chronic heart disease. Just in my 12 plus year career alone, the advances in medical management of heart disease has progressed by leaps and bounds. However, the supplemental side of nutrient therapy to aid in the treatment of heart disease has progressed painstakingly slowly. What’s more, heart healthy supplements have for too long been ignored as a means to effectively prevent or stave off heart disease in dogs and cats.

L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is not considered an essential amino acid, as a normal body can produced all it needs by the liver utilizing the amino acids lysine and methionine, in combination with Vitamin C, B1, and B6. Carnitine is required for transporting long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells, tiny cellular structures that are consider the powerhouse of the cell. Once transported into the mitochondria, the fatty acids are converted into the ultimate chemical energy source of the body, known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria are abundant in the cells of all organs that have a large energy requirement, including the heart.

Although the normal pet is able to manufacture all of the L-Carnitine it needs under normal circumstances, it may not under different circumstances, where there may be an inherited deficiency in manufacturing this amino acid. It has actually been long theorized that this is the mechanism behind a specific kind of heart failure called dilative cardiomyopathy.

There is also credible evidence that even in chronic heart disease patients that manufacture adequate levels of L-Carnitine, that providing additional L-Carnitine has shown considerable benefit in management of progression and severity of disease. Thus, L-Carnitine should be an integral supplement taken by all patients afflicted with any stage of chronic heart disease. What’s more, for all breeds where dilative cardiomyopathy is seen more commonly – Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and all giant breed dogs – these dogs should be started on a regular regimen of L-Carnitine early on.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is also present in the mitochondria of the cells. It is involved in the conversion of oxygen into energy for the cell. It is especially important for the cells of organs that have high oxygen requirements, such as the heart and brain. Given its affinity for oxygen and other oxidizing compounds, Coenzyme Q10 is also a very potent anti-oxidant that protects tissues and organs from oxidizing chemicals and metabolites. All of this considered, it should come as no surprise that research suggests that Coenzyme Q10 is an invaluable supplement for management of heart muscle damage and debilitation.

Taurine

Taurine is an essential amino acid that has particularly high concentrations in the eyes and heart. It is considered essential to heart health, as deficiencies of it are directly linked to a dilative cardiomyopathy in cats and dogs. However, Taurine deficiency is not necessarily a dietary deficiency, but it could be an inherited abnormality in a dog’s or cat’s ability to absorb and assimilate the nutrient from the diet.

In most cases, dogs and cats fed animal meat based diets will satisfy their Taurine needs. With regard to cats, I have not actually seen a case of dilative cardiomyopathy in a cat fed a feline labelled diet, or home prepared diet heavy in meats. I have, however, seen many cases of heart disease in dogs fed canine diets with adequate crude protein requirements, or home prepared diets heavy in meats.

As such, like Coenzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine, Taurine should also be an integral component to management of chronic heart disease in dogs and cats. Also like L-Carnitine and Coenzyme Q10 in dog breeds known to be predisposed to dilative cardiomyopathy, they should be started and maintained on supplementation from a young age.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Diet And Supplement Management, Prevention Of Diabetes In Dogs And Cats

Nutritional Management Of Diabetes In Dogs And CatsDiabetes mellitus, commonly referred to simply as diabetes, is a disease seen occasionally in dogs, and commonly in cats. The end result of this disease is high blood glucose due to the inability of the body cells to absorb dietary sugar. Before understanding what causes diabetes and the best way to manage it from a holistic perspective, it is first necessary to understand the mechanism of the disease.

Under normal circumstances, after carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars (a.k.a., glucose) and absorbed in the digestion process, glucose then enters the blood stream. Chemo-receptors in the blood vessels detect the spike in blood glucose, and then signal the islet cells of the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin. Insulin attaches to insulin receptors on cells that trigger the cells to take up the glucose. Glucose is then either utilized for energy, or stored for later use by the cells during periods of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). This process generally keeps a dog’s blood glucose between 80-120, and a cat’s blood glucose between 80-180.

Diabetes results when either the islets cells of the pancreas lack the ability to secrete adequate levels of insulin in response to absorbed dietary glucose, or the cellular insulin receptors are unresponsive to insulin. Either scenario may occur for genetic reasons due to inherited defects of pancreatic islet cells, cellular insulin receptors, or both. These cases are called Type I diabetes, or insulin dependent diabetes. Either scenario may also occur due to refractoriness or exhaustion of the pancreatic islet cells and/or cellular insulin receptors due to obesity and diets overly rich in simple carbohydrates and fat.  95% of canine diabetics are type I diabetics. Oppositely, 95% of cats are type II diabetics. This means that for dogs, the vast majority of cases of diabetes represent a genetic ticking time bomb where there was little that the owner could have done to prevent; whereas for cats, the vast majority of cases of diabetes were the result of poor diet, lifestyle, and obesity, all very preventable circumstances.

Please bear in mind that just because most diabetic cats are non-insulin dependent diabetics, does not mean that they may not need insulin. In fact, many do. However, unlike dogs, it does mean that with proper diet, there is a chance that a feline diabetic may be able to get weaned off insulin injections over time (about 20%-30% of the time if the correct diet and insulin are chosen). On the other hand, if a feline has a blood glucose over 400, DO NOT TRY TO TREAT THE DIABETES WITH DIET ALONE. Leaving the blood glucose that high leaves the cat prone to neurological disease, skin and bladder infections, blood vessel injury, kidney damage, and a life threatening complication of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis.

For dogs, the majority of the time, since they are insulin dependent diabetics, it is unrealistic to think that you will successfully wean them off dependence on insulin. However, with natural management with proper diet, exercise, and supplementation, you can minimize the deleterious effects of diabetes on the body, while minimizing insulin doses, which tend to otherwise progressively increase over time. Thus, let us start with canine diabetic management.

The most important point I can make about diabetes, is that since high blood glucose is the end result and primary harmful health consequence of the disease, we need to avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars. Diabetic dogs should be fed high protein (27%-50% of their total daily nutrient intake), no more than 18% fats, and the rest complex carbohydrate and fiber. There are prescription and commercial diets available that meet these criteria, but you need to research and do your due diligence to find them. Ideally, you should avoid feeding diets that are heavy in refined grains or even grain free if possible.

If time and schedule permits, home prepared diets with fresh, unprocessed ingredients are excellent, sticking to the aforementioned general diabetic dietary guidelines as best you can. You can likely achieve this balance by feeding 50% lean meats (poultry, venison, lamb) with 50% fresh vegetables and sparing amounts of fruits safe for canine consumption (pears, apples). Good vegetable choices include green beans and broccoli. If your dog is not crazy about vegetables, pureeing them into a paste or steaming them can make them more appealing.

Another important point about diet with regard to management of diabetes is body condition, whether or not a dog is obese. If your dog is obese, dietary portion control and exercise are of the utmost importance. Obesity continually stresses the pancreas and blood glucose metabolism, making it increasingly difficult to regulate diabetes. Obesity also increases the potential for inflammatory disease of the blood vessels (more on this below) and dangerous clot formations.

I strongly advise pharmaceutical grade omega-3-fatty acids supplementation for diabetic dogs, as inflammation and secondary infections at the level of the skin and urinary bladder are common complications of diabetes. Inflammatory disease in the blood vessels of the body (vasculitis) is also a common complication of diabetes in dogs. Omega-3-fatty acids directly condition and nourish these and other tissues and organ systems, while naturally exerting an anti-inflammatory effect.

With regard to cats, from a supplemental and obesity management point of view, the same applies as it does for dogs. The main difference for management of feline diabetes is dietary. Whereas dogs require complex carbohydrate and fiber in their diet, most cats do not. Cats are in the truest sense, carnivores, meaning that their bodies can synthesize any nutrient they require from meat protein. Thus, diabetic cats (as well as all cats, for that matter), ideally should be fed a diet that consists of 80%-90% meat based protein.

Like dogs, commercial and prescription diets exist that fit these criteria, but it is important to take a close look at the ingredients and nutrient percentage breakdowns prior to choosing a diet for your cat. One sure method to ensure proper nutrient consumption is to prepare home cooked diets for your cat. The ingredients would be much like those described above for dogs, however, I would instead feed 80% meat to 20% vegetables, or even 100% meat provided the cat maintains good GI function fed a pure meat diet.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.