Tori's taken to going into the backyard to observe her kingdom, perhaps producing one bark just in case anyone was thinking of messing with her, and comes back into the house looking pleased with what I suppose she sees as a job well done. Despite this display, she was not above running away from a tiny twig that attached itself to a few hairs when she squatted to do her business. Racing around with a look of sheer panic in her eyes, then glancing at me with what I'd like to think was appreciation when I removed it. She's done this before, and she'll do it again just as she tries to run away from a dingle-berry that happens to be swinging on her. It's a dog thing. And laughing really hard is a dog owner thing.
As most of you know, I've owned the K9Kitchen group on Yahoo since 2000, and named the book after the group (in honor of the wonderful members). That group continues to exist, and now a sister group on Facebook is available. So, if you're spending time on FB, come and join us! We'll discuss raw and cooked home-prepared diets and nutrition science in health and disease, and we'll try to help you help your dog!
From The Nose to The Toes
Skin health is a really big deal. Skin is a large organ that protects delicate tissues underneath, keeps out infection, and plays an important role in maintaining normal body temperature within narrow limits. There are other roles too, and I could get into details about the different layers of skin (aren't you relieved I'm not going to do that?), but the one that most people react to is the visual part which is the epidermis (on the outside) whereas we need to consider the basal cell layer (within the epidermis) because we can think of it as a factory forming new cells. Like any factory, the quality of the product being made will depend in part on the materials being used. And because skin needs to be waterproof, there's an interesting connection between fatty acids and good hydration. Let's break this down:
Healthy skin minimizes the migration of moisture upward from deeper dermal tissues. As we all know, oil and water don't mix. That's why the fatty acids in the skin do a good job of preventing water loss. In contrast, fatty acids deficiency can lead to a poor barrier, encouraging water loss. A dog may then drink more water to compensate. I've worked with rescue dogs (especially those just rescued from a puppy mill) who drink copiously and start to show signs of improved skin health before fatty acid supplementation begins.
From a nutritional standpoint, skin is responsive to retinoids (vitamin A and compounds derived from it), collagen synthesis involves vitamin C, vitamin E is essential for healthy skin, and I could list B vitamins and their vast roles as well as minerals and their critical roles, not to mention good quality protein and essential fatty acids. So, what's up with skin that seems to do odd things despite the dog eating a balanced diet, and drinking well?
None of what I'm about to tell you is applicable unless and until your veterinarian has examined the dog. Once that's done....
Problem: Dry nose - it looks like flakiness, as if bits of skin are curling and will fall off, but that doesn't happen. Some refer to it as Collie Nose, but it's not just Collie's that get it, and it can actually be a more serious condition, so be sure to have the vet look at it.
Possible Solution: I've had great luck with massaging one drop of evening primrose oil into the nose leather. Give it a long, gentle massage because the dog is going to lick it off as soon as you're done. Do this 1-2 x daily. If you're wondering if another oil would do the same thing - could be, but I've never seen the quick results that primrose oil has produced. If this has helped, but not 100%, massage vitamin E on the nose leather (I've rarely needed to do this though)
Problem: Snow-nose - the dark nose pigment fades in the winter and returns in the summer. Not a health problem, and nobody knows why it happens, but if you're a show dog and you want to look your best, try this:
Possible Solution: Massage one drop of vitamin E into the nose leather once daily. Pigment usually returns within 1 month. If not, combine with wild salmon oil and do the same thing. I have to wonder if this is more to do with the vitamin D in this wild salmon oil than omega 3 fatty acids.
Flaky Tummy: For reasons I can't explain, some dogs get very dry tummy areas despite the rest of the skin looking great. I've often wondered if it's because they have direct contact with something that irritates that area (lying in soil in the summer, sharper blades of grass, etc), but whatever the reason, bathing the dog and using a dab of coconut oil as a moisturizer afterward works well. Be sure to let the oil sit on the skin for a minute or two, and rinse it off really well unless you don't mind grease stains on carpets and furniture.
Dry foot pads and/or toes: Obviously, keep your dog off salted roads, hotter than heck sidewalks, etc. Boots can be helpful during bad weather, but once the dog has tender tootsies, help is needed.
Possible Solution: Soak all paws in a thick solution of warm water and Epsom salts (roughly 1 cup of salts in 2" of water), being careful to watch that the dog doesn't slip and slide. Gently pat dry. Allow dog too run around like a kook, and once s/he is tuckered out for the night, massage one drop of vitamin E into each paw. Best is to protect the paws from being licked by using booties of some sort. Good luck with that. A better bet is to accept that whatever you've been able to massage into the skin is what's going to help heal, and pat the rest off rather than have the dog irritate the paws by licking them nonstop.
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" The finishing touch to any outfit is dog hair" - author unknown