Does Your Pet Have Itchy, Flaky Skin?

This seems to be the season when everyone complains to me about their pet's itchy skin, often accompanied by dandruff. I'm told that their dogs obsessively chew on their feet and the base of their tails, and that their vets prescribe steroids and antihistamines to combat the problem. Clearly, if these "solutions" aren't working, why continue on the same, useless path?

My first recommendation for allergies is to try switching to a new diet. As a starting point, know that many dogs are allergic to grain – rice, oats, etc. Grains are healthy sources of fiber, but not so healthy if they aggravate allergies. Other dogs are allergic to chicken specifically, yet others are allergic to all animal proteins. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not carnivores (I've had an ongoing argument about this with a store owner who carries my products); they're omnivores, and often do very well on vegetarian diets. Alicia Silverstone feeds her dogs vegan diets, and they do just fine, thank you very much.

Why I am anti-kibble: First of all, kibble is not a "live" food source. I like to think of fruits, vegetables and proteins – whether animal or not – as "real" foods. Kibble – what the heck is in there, all mushed up and cooked into a dry ball? Kibble is prone to storage mites and mold, not to mention harmful bacteria. These sources of contamination are invisible. Would YOU eat little dry balls every, single day of your life? When we have allergies, our physicians recommend that we try giving up certain foods, one by one. We experiment with foods in order to, 1) determine whether or not the allergy is food-related, and, if so, 2) discover the source. It only makes sense that we do the same with our animals.

While I've always cooked for Opal and Dixie, because Dixie used to have soft stools, my holistic vet (we have two – one traditional, one holistic) suggested that I try a raw diet. She explained that most dogs do very well on raw diets, I've since switched to raw, and it's true – Dixie's stools are now firm. Both girls love their raw diet, and they do extremely well on it. I prepare Opal and Dixie's meals myself using recipes from books by vets such as Dr. Pitcairn. I prepare their food in bulk and freeze it in meal-size portions. As backup for those times when I just haven't had time to prepare their meals myself, I buy Primal's Turkey and Sardine patties. Honest Kitchen and Stella & Chewy's are also terrific, trustworthy brands. A healthy diet is key to a healthy pet.

Another key to healthy skin is essential fatty acids. I sprinkle the girls' meals with my own Flax Fur Pets, a high-fiber supplement containing a rich, balanced blend of Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 essential acids. I actually developed Flax Fur Pets due to a skin problem that Opal had as a pup! It should be called, Opal's Flax Fur Pets. The EFA's in my formula work synergistically to enhance the immune system, promote the formation of healthy cell membranes and provide for healthy skin and lustrous coats. Flax Fur Pets contains 60 amino acids, 21 antioxidants, essential macro and micronutrients and essential fatty acids for general well being. I occasionally add sardines or other fresh fish to their diets as well.

The feedback I get from those using my Herbal Shampoo is spectacular. This shampoo, which was specifically formulated by a vet as another combatant to Opal's dermatitis and itchy, flaky skin, happens to be my biggest seller! It's not an organic product, and is not available through my website, but through

Other considerations are allergens within your home. Do you clean your home with toxic, chemical-laden products, or with natural, "green" cleaners? Do you keep your home free of dust? Do you vacuum frequently to keep those teeny-weeny carpet dwellers at bay? What is your carpet treated with? Do you spray your home with synthetic fragrances in aerosol cans? What about their beds – do you regularly wash them with gentle detergents and/or steaming, hot water?

There is always a chance your dog is allergic to airborne allergens such as pollen. Strive for that powerful immune system with healthy, fresh foods, fiber and essential fatty acids!

Is your dog being over-vaccinated? Rabies is legally required every 3 years in San Francisco. DHLPP, however, while recommended as an annual vaccine, isn't always necessary. DHLPP is a powerful vaccine than can live in the body for a long, long time. Opal used to be extremely itchy in June, frantically biting and scratching herself. Then, my "aha!" moment: June was the month of her annual DHLPP vaccine! I began asking for titers instead of automatic vaccinations, and get this: this is the 2nd year that they're still carrying the vaccine! Titers are a bit more expensive than vaccines, but the expense is worth the risk of over-vaccination.

If you try my recommendations and they provide no relief, I'm afraid to say that there just may be no solution. My mom has had allergies throughout most of her life, yet her diet is super, duper healthy and she has tried ALL of my recommendations (save washing out her bed or holding off on an annual vaccination). In this case… sorry.

Regardless, if you love your pets, are these suggestions not worth at least a try? I think they are.