With spring here, problems like allergies, skin infections, hot spots, and ear infections will be affecting pets soon. Unfortunately, most pets with these problems will continue to be treated with numerous doses of steroids and antibiotics, even though most pets can heal without these medications. While traditional medications have their place in helping pets with these problems I’ve found the natural approach works so much better for most of my patients.
There are 2 important points I want you to get out of this article. The first is that medications are not needed for many pets with skin problems, and when they are needed low infrequent doses are usually all that is required. Second, it’s imperative to get the correct diagnosis. I see many pets misdiagnosed as “allergic” that really have more serious problems. Treating these pets with medications will NEVER result in a cure unless the correct diagnosis is obtained.
The main skin problems include infections with yeasts and bacteria, usually as a result of allergies or thyroid and adrenal disease.
To help with allergies, herbal remedies such as Xiao (an herbal blend of gypsum, anemarrhena, burdock, rehmannia, and dong quai) relieve itching, redness and inflammation. A few drops of this herbal mixture on food each day often gives my patients the same relief they would get from corticosteroids (I actually tell my clients to think of this herbal blend as a natural alternative to steroids-all of the positive effects from steroids with none of the negative side effects!)
Skin infections, both yeasts and bacterial, are usually treated by conventional doctors with strong medications (antibiotics and azoles) for several weeks up to several months. While occasionally necessary, indiscriminate use of antibiotics and antifungals increases costs of care, can predispose pets to numerous side effects (GI disease, liver disease,) and have increased the number of microorganisms now resistant to these drugs (not a good thing if the medications are needed to save a pet or person from a life-threatening infection.)
I have found several natural approaches that work equally well in most cases. Oleuropein, the active ingredient in olive leaf extract, is my go-to natural remedy for infections of the skin and ears, and really anywhere in or on the body. This is combined with some type of immune supporting herbal blend, such as Healthy Qi, which contains astragalus, green tea, gotu kola, and ginseng to help the immune system fight the infection. When dosed properly, this combination replaces anti-infective medications in most of my pets that have bacterial or yeast infections.
The MOST important part of treating skin disease is frequent, even daily if needed, bathing with an organic shampoo specifically formulated to not dry out the pet’s skin. Organic oils such as coconut, lemongrass, citrus, and lavender help heal damaged skin and remove allergens and bacteria and yeasts to accelerate healing. I’ll give myself an endorsement here-I’ve specifically formulated my All-in-One and Itch Relief shampoos for frequent, even daily use without harming the pet’s skin. These shampoos are gentle, environmental friendly, contain no additives or chemicals, and help heal the skin while leaving a fresh fragrance.
High doses of EPA and DHA, the active omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil, also help by changing cellular physiology to normalize inflammation for the life of the pet. The most important point is to dose based upon EPA and DHA content rather than fish oil content, and to give doses typically higher than those on the label.
As with skin problems, ear problems, especially infections, increase in the spring, likely due to undiagnosed and untreated allergic disease. While conventional doctors rely upon steroids, antibiotics, and antifungal medications, holistic doctors prefer natural oil combinations instead (many of these products also serve as great ear cleaners to be used after bathing and 1-3 times weekly to decrease future infections.) In my practice I have found fantastic success with an herbal oil combination I developed that contains both peppermint and spearmint, plus tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus. One of my cases of persistent ear mite infections was cured after only 3 treatments (although most infections with mites, yeasts, and bacteria typically take 2 weeks of therapy with the herbal ear treatment.)
Finally, because herbal oils can be very toxic and even fatal if not used properly, I recommend purchasing products with a proven track record rather than trying to make products yourself by mixing oils. In my experience, unless the person formulating the product has knowledge of herbology and toxicology, too many problems can arise if the oils are not blended properly: either they are not effective or they are toxic.
While conventional medications are needed for difficult cases, in most instances using natural therapies for common spring problems is much safer and often more effective. My patients will be healing this spring with little or no use of potent medications. Those with allergies who take my recommended supplements year-round typically have milder problems when allergy season flares up.