A Blog About DIY Raw Feeding
This is a personal blog sharing my experiences raising big dogs and feeding my pack a raw food diet. I am not a veterinarian.
Before switching to raw, Rodrigo and Sydney were an itchy pair. I tried everything including coat conditioners, fish oil capsules, and changing their food. I didn't know what was going on with my dogs. Looking back to that time, seven years ago, I feel sorry for the dog mom that I was back then. I was so frustrated and desperate to find a solution. For my dogs, the solution was as easy as switching them from dry dog food to raw food. Most of the itchiness vanished with the diet change, however, I did have to make a few more changes to cure the itchy paws and skin.
Dogs and Itchy Paws and Skin
Before I go into all the things I did to cure my dogs' itchy skin, I want to make it clear that their symptoms were minor when compared to other people I meet. Before switching to raw, Rodrigo's skin issues were pretty bad and we went to the vet repeatedly in an attempt to cure the problem. Of course, the repeated rounds of antibiotics weren't doing him any favors and, back then, I didn't understand the impact of antibiotics on gut health nor did I know about the connection between gut health and the immune system. If you have a dog that has severe skin issues, I highly recommend seeking the advice of a holistic veterinarian.
7 Things I Did to Cure My Dogs' Itchy Skin and Paws
1 – Feed a Diet of Fresh Food
I've already mentioned it twice so, by now, you know that I feed a diet of raw food. But what about raw feeding alleviated my dogs' itchy skin? As I understand it, there are fewer ingredients in my dogs' diet today than when I fed kibble, which means fewer things to trigger an allergic reaction. Some pet parents have found that their dogs don't do well on a diet of processed foods and when they switched to a fresh food diet (raw food, home-cooked, or a hybrid diet), their dogs thrived and their health issues vanished.
2 – Add a Digestive Supplement to the Diet
Have you ever heard the phrase “healthy gut, healthy dog?” I think I first read it in a Dogs Naturally Magazine article or social media post. When the gut is healthy, the immune system can focus on keeping the rest of the body healthy. This is why I think that with some dogs, improving the diet and/or adding a digestive supplement (or fermented foods) to the diet will alleviate skin issues.
In my experience adding a digestive supplement to my dogs' diet has been helpful. I don't add a supplement to everyone's diet, just Rodrigo, because of his history of gut issues. I'll add it to the diet of my other dogs if I think they need a little more support (they have loose stool). Mainly I stick to natural foods: fermented fish stock, fermented vegetables, and raw goat's milk/kefir.
3 – Stop Bathing Weekly
I used to bathe my dogs a couple of times a month, sometimes weekly. I thought that this is what we were supposed to do with dogs. I didn't realize that I was washing away the natural oils that protected their skin and coat. And I didn't put too much thought into the shampoo that I chose, because I was naive and thought that if a bottle said “natural” then it must be true. WRONG!
Over the years, I've learned a lot about raising dogs and I have become picky about the product I buy for them and only use 4-Legger shampoo, the only organic/natural shampoo I trust. Today, I bathe my dogs every few months (unless they roll in something) because that's all they need. I use coconut oil to freshen their coats. It's a natural antibacterial and kills germs so massaging a small amount on my dogs' coats takes away any growing odors most days.
4 – Wipe Paws with an Apple Cider Vinegar Mix
There's something about wet grass that makes Rodrigo's paws itch and one thing that helped is wiping his paws with a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Someone recommended a soak, but I could never get Rodrigo to sit still long enough to soak his paws. The mixture does a great job of killing any yeast and I've used this mix on my dogs' tummy, armpit, and ears with success.
Sydney used to get yeasty ears and I would mist the blend into her ears daily for seven days, clean them out, and then massage her ears with coconut oil. After doing this, she hasn't had an issue with her ears since.
5 – Soothe Paws with Coconut Oil
As I stated above, coconut oil is an antibacterial and massaging my dogs' paws (or any yeasty area) with coconut oil does a great job of relieving the itch and, when my dogs had yeasty issues the coconut oil cleared it up. The only thing that sucks is that my dogs love coconut oil so they lick it off. I've learned to massage coconut oil thoroughly on their paws (or other areas) before bedtime. This gives it the best shot of doing the job without being rubbed or licked off.
Read: Stop Feeding Your Dog Coconut Oil to learn more about the benefits.
6 – Choose the Right Allergy Supplement/Medicine
There are a gazillion supplements out there for dogs with allergies and the only one that I can recommend is WINPRO Allergy. Although improving their diet helped with allergies, Rodrigo still has itchy paws and Zoey and Scout have goopy eyes at times. Giving them a “treat” of WINPRO Allergy clears it all up in no time. The rest of the time, I leave it up to the fermented foods.
Because the supplement industry makes millions of dollars, even for pets, I'm suspicious about anything offering a magic cure. If one of my dogs had allergies so severe that nothing else was working, I'd have no issues looking to prescription medication. It's not ideal due to possible side effects, but having a miserable dog isn't ideal either. If prescription mediation was the only option, then I'd work on supporting my dogs' liver health by adding milk thistle to his or her diet.
7 – Reduce Exposure to Toxins in the Environment
And, finally, I try to reduce excess toxins from our environment. This is a tough one because we surround ourselves with chemicals – laundry detergent, cleaning products, weed killers, and so on. I started with the property by insisting that we stop using chemicals on the grass. We don't have a property that looks like a golf course, but I'd rather have a few weeds than sick dogs. I use essential oils in place of air fresheners and cleaning products.
Not all “natural” options work. I tried natural laundry detergent and I may as well have washed our clothes in water – it didn't do a thing. But I'm still working on it and when I can find a natural, non-toxic solution for all things living, I give it a try.
All Dogs Are Different
I catch a lot of flack from people who are upset that I don't have the answer to help their dogs and I get it. I've experienced the frustration and this post is about what worked for my dogs, but these tips may not work for all dogs. If your dog is raw fed and is still experiencing itchy paws and skin, yeast issues, I highly recommend seeking the counsel of a holistic veterinarian. The itchy skin can be due to diet, food sensitivities, gut issues, environmental toxins, or something I haven't learned about yet. An experienced veterinarian can help you narrow down what's going on, saving you some time and helping to relieve your dog's discomfort.