We all know and love the scratchy-bliss face. That moment when we happen upon the perfect unreachable spot - between the ears, just above the shoulder, or right at the top of the tail - the instant rise of those furry eyebrows above a blissfully wistful distant stare of neck-stretching, leg-kicking, scratchy-spot perfection - the undeniable pinnacle of good itchies.
But oh, when it comes to the bad itchies - the bitey, chewy, flakey, rashy, inflamed or, at worst, infected itchies - life takes a decidedly far-from-blissful turn. The world of skin irritants our pups navigate is a wide and varied one that ebbs and flows with changes of season, diet and environment. Insect bites, chemical ingredients in grooming or pest-prevention products, dietary incompatibilities, pollens and seeding grasses are just a few of myriad causes that can tip things toward the less blissful end of the itchy scales.
So how can we tip those scales back in our favour and sooth our furry friend’s skin back to optimal health? Luckily there are some beautifully simple preventative steps and wonderfully easy-to-use natural soothers than can ease the burden of the undesirable itch.
Just as we bipeds take care in choosing our own shampoos, soaps, moisturisers and ointments to be as gentle and biologically compatible as possible, that same level of choice and care should be applied to choosing grooming products for our four-legged companions. Your dog’s skin is naturally more alkaline than human skin (approx pH 7, compared to our pH 5.5). This means that using shampoos and soaps designed for human skin on your pet can disrupt their natural balance of oils and alkalinity leading to dry or flaky skin, excess shedding, and the potential onset of eczema or dermatitis. Always choose grooming products designed especially for pets, and avoid any that contain harmful chemicals like parabens, sulphates, dyes or synthetic fragrances. The wonderful natural range of grooming products from Ivory Coat are my personal favourites.
Always remember that the health of your dog’s skin can be a strong indication of their overall health. So, just as with humans, a bad diet can lead to an overall decline in health and compromised immunity which can lay the skin open to sensitivities, reactions and infection. Always feed a quality diet rich in good oils, grain free if possible, and free from fillers like corn or beet meal and the classic ‘meat by-product’. The key is really to know exactly what your dog is eating - get acquainted with the ingredients lists on the food your feeding, or go raw and real - and make informed choices. Whatever you choose to feed, there are some wonderful natural, bioavailable and nutrient-rich supplements that, when added to daily meals, can do wonders for strengthening immunity, skin and overall health. Augustine Approved’s Super Boost and Meals for Mutts Green Tripe Powder are perfect examples.
You’ve probably already read about the complete and utter awesomeness of virgin cold-pressed coconut oil as it applies to humans - its anti-microbial properties, its perfect balance of healthy fatty acids, the benefit of those medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) in promoting healthy metabolism and cognitive function, and its many topical applications as a soothing/healing/moisturising skin balm and hair treatment. Well, it’s every bit as wonderful (and safe) for dogs! I give a heaped teaspoon to my dog daily to help promote the production of good skin and coat oils, along with many other bonus health benefits. She adores it, and loves to lick it straight off the spoon. Topically, it’s also a soothing, safe and lickable balm to smooth into dry noses, scratchy paws, chafing between toes, rashy or flakey skin - and with its added anti-microbial properties can help prevent fungal and bacterial skin infections when applied regularly. Always remember to choose virgin cold-pressed coconut oil for supplementing and applying it you or your pet. The processed varieties of coconut oil have unfortunately lost much if not all of their beneficial properties during manufacturing. You’ll find Augustine Approved’s Virgin Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil (also a key ingredient in their Super Heal) right here at Organic Bone.
Manuka Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar
Both known for their astounding anti-microbial and healing properties I consider this dynamic duo to be the most important two ingredients in my healthy-skin toolkit for my bull terrier, Lulu. I use medicinal grade UMF 5+ Manuka Honey and organic unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar both supplementally and topically to help keep Lulu’s allergenic and dermatitis-prone skin healthy and free from bad itchies. I add 1/2 teaspoon of UMF 5+ Manuka Honey to her daily diet, along with 1 teaspoon of ACV to maintain good pH levels and a healthy systemic microbial balance, allowing for optimal immunity and skin health. As if that wasn’t enough, topically these two truly come into their own. I always keep a little bottle of Lulu’s magic skin spray (as we call it in our house) mixed up and at hand ready to treat any signs of skin irritation, dermatitis or pyoderma (skin infection). To make the DIY spray I mix 1:1 cold filtered water and ACV with 1 level teaspoon of UMF 5+ Manuka Honey in a 100ml spray bottle and shake well until the honey is dissolved. Vinegar being a natural preservative, it keeps well without refrigeration for 2-3 months. Whether it’s a simple grass rash, insect bite, a sneaky patch of atopic dermatitis or hotspots, this simple DIY spray always saves the day. A quick spray over the affected area, then smoothed over with some soothing virgin coconut oil when dry is enough to keep almost all nasty itchies at bay. AND it just so happens that it’s great for treating rashes, eczema and psoriasis on us two-legged animals as well!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lix North - Artist, Illustrator, Photographer, founder of www.lulubully.comLix grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand, surrounded by animals. 20+ years spent studying holistic principles and gaining a basic understanding of metabolic, enzymatic and genetic processes empowered her to manage my own sensitivities, methylation and immune issues at a level that conventional medical science alone was unable to offer. So, as her bull terrier puppy Lulu’s sensitivities became apparent the most obvious solution seemed simply to apply the very same level of research and holistic care. The results speak for themselves through the healthy, energetic, cheeky, now 13 year old, Lulu Bully.