Atopic dermatitis refers to red, itchy (allergic) skin. According to many vets I've worked with it's been a growing problem for many years, and my client roster would agree. There's always been a struggle to distinguish between allergies to foods and allergies to dust and pollen, but even when it's been possible, elimination of the latter is not realistic. Since diet and observations are my main tools, I've been using both for my clients' dogs and am finally ready to put it together for you to consider:
I recalled reading that dogs with atopic dermatitis had low circulating levels of vitamin E, but that's in dogs fed kibble whereas I work with home-prepared diets. Still, it didn't seem too risky to increase the vitamin E amount, so I doubled what NRC suggests. Some dogs (not all) improved fairly well when fed 10 IU of vitamin E per kilogram of body weight. To be clear, this was not in addition to a diet that contained a great deal of vitamin E already.
In thinking about what could help more, the skin barrier itself came to mind. If we could improve that barrier, wouldn't that be best of all? It was just a theory, but it seemed logical, so I started searching. In infants with eczema who don't eat enough foods containing the amino acid histidine, the condition corrects quickly once histidine is supplemented in the diet. Foods rich in protein (poultry, meat, fish, eggs, some grains, fruits and vegetables) are good sources of histidine. Most home-prepared diets are already loaded with protein, so this wasn't a focus for me. I provide a link at the end of this article that shows you why I mention it here.
B vitamins, especially niacin plays key roles in skin health. Pantothenic acid is vital for metabolism of protein, fats (this is what made me think about in terms of skin barrier) and carbohydrates. The amounts in foods can be variable, and the amounts being absorbed and utilized by a specific dog is unknown, so I supplemented fairly heavily.
Choline plays a role in the transport of dietary fats, and the USDA website doesn't show choline values in all foods. Even when the values are noted, many diets I've analyzed are really deficient. The best source is egg yolk, and while soy is not on most people's list of good food for dogs, it's high in choline as well. I used egg yolks for those dogs who could tolerate them, beef organs (kidney is a fairly good source), and the vitamin B compound that contains choline as well.
Inositol is suggested to prevent moisture loss, so I included beans and cantaloupe as food sources.
Vitamin C in the form of Ester-C (easier on the stomach) was included in diets for dogs that were not prone to calcium oxalate stone formation.
Finally, and this is a key point - I sometimes replaced coconut oil with either safflower, canola, or wild salmon oil as necessary. I have nothing against coconut oil and it does have a place in nutrition, but I've found that many people replace an oil with it, or reduce the fat in the diet by using skinless poultry, or beef with less fat in order to accommodate the coconut oil. The need for omega 6 and omega 3 is real. If we dismiss this and add coconut oil as if it has the same properties (it does not!), we can play havoc with the fatty acid profile needed.
I wanted to see if I was on the right track, and searched pubmed for any news before writing this newsletter, and look at what I found. This seemed uncanny.
Seminar in the UK
Please join me in the UK in 2016 when I'll be speaking about...what else?...canine nutrition. This won't be just any seminar. I'll be sharing a new concept, a different way of thinking about it, and a new approach. We're going to have a blast!
"Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” - Orhan Pamuk