The Link Between Diet & Itching

It’s no secret that there are massive links between diet and the skin. If you’ve ever been to see us in our stores, you’d know that at Brown’s we are always talking about diet and the role it plays to your pet’s welfare. If you think your dog or cat has a skin sensitivity, or they’re always itching and scratching (and driving you nuts!) then read on…

What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

Allergies and intolerances are very much classed within the same family. Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to proteins in the food- this can happen both immediately and as a delayed response. Allergies tend to be more severe than intolerances, with symptoms ranging from digestive upset to breathing issues.

Intolerances are more common, although often harder to diagnose due to the more subtle symptoms. The intolerance reaction can happen hours or sometimes days after the allergen has been consumed. The usual symptoms will stem from the gut in the form of bloating, gas, or IBS, but not exclusively. They can also appear as joint pain or more commonly, itchy skin.

Intolerances should not be underrated, whether mild or severe. They can make your pet very ill, both physically and mentally. They can become very unwell and their quality of life can suffer.

How do you know if your pet has an intolerance?

This is where your close relationship as an owner will be so valuable. Pets can be very stoic and hard to read (cats especially!) and you may find a food intolerance presents as something entirely different. Look out for;

-Itchy skin, especially if inflamed
-Dull or greasy coat
-Digestive issues- vomiting, diarrhoea, gas or gurgle belly, loose or inconsistent stools
-Changes in behaviour- reluctance to eat, hyperactivity or lethargy after eating, lack of energy
-Excessive licking or nibbling
-Overgrooming or hair loss (more prevalent in cats)

So what should you do about the diet if you suspect an intolerance?

If your pet is itching and you suspect it is caused by an intolerance, the first step is to examine the diet (yes, this includes treats and any “human” food they are given too!) Have a look at the ingredients and make sure there are no nasties present, for example, derivatives, sugars, and additives. Anything synthetic or hard to digest could affect the skin. Even something as innocent as a toast crust could irritate your pet so it really is a good idea, at least initially, to avoid human food.

One thing to be aware of is foods that are labelled as “hypoallergenic” or “sensitive”. While some of these foods are great, there is not a list of requirements that a food needs to have to be labelled as hypoallergenic, meaning it could purely be a marketing ploy on the bag. Not only that, it could be the most hypoallergenic food in the world but if it’s chicken based and your pet is intolerant to chicken, it wont work for them!

If the food is good the next stage would be an elimination diet. This is where all proteins are eliminated bar one. We tend to recommend duck or fish to begin with. If you see an improvement in your pet, you can then work from there introducing other proteins back in and tracking the results. An adverse reaction will give you an indication as to what your pet is intolerant to. It’s important to be strict or you might not get an accurate result.

If you would like support in examining or changing your cat or dog’s diet, please get in touch with us via email or in store.

Are there supplements I can feed my pet to stop their skin itching?

We always recommend supplementing your pet’s food for all round holistic wellness. Herbal remedies, like with us, work in different ways for each individual. Herbal remedies can provide instant relief, eliminating skin issues or dramatically reducing their severity on your pet. Most of these can work in conjunction with veterinary medicine, but always double check with your vet if you’re unsure.

The following products get a special mention from us at Brown’s as we always get great feedback on them.

Dorwest Garlic & Fenugreek tablets are designed to relieve minor infections including skin conditions, and have antiseptic and antibiotic properties. They are also anti-inflammatory, and we all know that inflammation is the number one enemy of the body (more on this in our upcoming “gut” features!) They are small tablets that should be fed whole- if you have trouble getting tablets into your pet, try Arden Grange Liver Pate and thank us later!

Proflax Skin & Coat is a flaxseed based oil blended with herbs including nettle and camomile, all known for their powerful calming effects on the skin. Proflax works particularly well for itchy skin irritations that are hot to the touch.

If you are wanting something topical to apply for itching, try Ekoneem pure neem oil. Not only is it a natural insect repellent, neem oil is suitable for itchy, sensitive, and sore skin irritations on dogs and cats. It stops itching on contact and promotes a natural immune response to encourage the healing process.

For a breakdown of all the skin supplements and treatments we offer, and which ones will suit your pet, contact us for a consultation or check out our pharmacy