How itching and scratching can be caused by poor nutrition

7 CommentsTuesday, 14 April 2015  |  Kate

Skin problems on dogs can be devastating so it's important to correctly identify them. Just because the symptoms are external it doesn't mean that the cause is external too. Although there are a lot of external causes for dogs with skin problems; skin conditions are just as likely to derive from problems inside the dog. A weakened immune system is not one that can adequately protect your dog from what's out there and they can usually be attributed to what your dog has eaten.

Most commercial dog foods contain only the barest minimum of what dogs need and often replace the missing content with cheap filler products. This is all so the big companies can turn a favourable profit. A sample commercial dog food will probably use an ingredient like corn as the base of the diet.

What does a dog need corn for? Evolution did not see ancestral dogs and wolves grazing in corn fields for their lunch. And don't get me started on animal meat derivatives which are a by-product of the human food industry i.e. the parts we don't eat like the intestines, bones, cartilage, etc.

These ingredients (not to mention preservatives, colours, artificial additives and other derivatives) contain very little nutritional value, especially after the cooking process heated even more nutrients out of the food.

Open formulas also contribute to poor health as well. When dog food is manufactured, its recipe will either be a closed or an open formula. An open formula is where the recipe is left open to changes such as ingredient swapping.

Most commercial dog food manufacturers use an open formula so they can swap ingredients when they become cheaper on the market. While this is beneficial for a company it can have negative health effects for dogs. For one thing it means that you never know what's in the dog food all the time. Another thing is that dogs' digestions do not cope very well with sudden dietary changes. When choosing a dog food, look for one with a closed formula because this means the recipe is constant so you know your dog is always getting the same thing.

There may also be toxins present in commercial dog foods which make a dog's immune system work lots of overtime to deal with them. This can severely weaken the immune system leading it to react in inappropriate ways, with very itchy results such as different skin conditions cropping up. A lot of low quality dog foods are also very lacking in the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins that dogs need to maintain a healthy immune system.

A general nutritional deficiency could be the cause of itching and scratching. Even a lack of specific nutrients could be the cause. A shortage of omega oils can lead to flaky and dry skin. The easiest way to avoid digestive related skin problems and conditions is to provide your dog with a healthy and balanced diet that is free of ingredients they don't need. A good quality diet will help to keep the immune system running smoothly, maintain healthy skin and a healthy coat, and reduce itchy incidents.

Remember: Meal times are not the only time that your dog eats; treats are also part of the dietary intake and should be just as healthy and nutritious as his regular meals! If your dog is lacking essential vitamins, minerals or enzymes then you might want to consider adding a dietary supplement to their food. For example, if your dog is experiencing dry and flaky skin then a supplement that contains omega 3 & 6 oil like Yumega Plus can be very effective at restoring skin condition.

In a lot of cases a proper diet should help dogs with skin problems recover or prevent them in the first place. If they still experience skin conditions though you should consider other causes like allergies or parasites.

Remember: It is important to note that there is a difference between diet-related itching and food allergies as these are an allergic reaction to a certain type of food. You can read more about food allergies here.

The difficulties in choosing the right dog foods are obvious to anyone who has ever tried. The front of the packet is usually covered in superlative adjectives to sucker you into thinking that the dog food you're holding is the best. The back of the packet or wherever the ingredients are listed will usually make very little sense to most of us. Most companies use vaguely scientific sounding words on their food labels to hide what's really in their food.

If you want to be able to walk into any pet store and actually understand what the labels are saying then you can read our article on Understanding Pet Food Labels.

Sue Drake
Wednesday, 18 December 2013  |  15:41

I've recently adopted a patterdale terrier who was rescued from the pound and alive with fleas. He was switched to James Wellbeloved while in the rescue, and treated with Advocate twice in the 4 weeks in foster. I adopted him on December 8th and immediately switched to raw food, and have bathed him with a neem shampoo bar. I think there may be slight improvement, but how long would I expect to wait for an improvement before trying something else?

Monday, 3 February 2014  |  11:13

Hi Sue, huge apologies I only just realised there was a comment here.

Shampoo him a few times and that will do it. I suspect you've got it under control by now though.


Friday, 1 May 2015  |  8:13

I have a 1year old Flatcoat retriever who is itchy and losing her fur. On the vet's advice we moved her to Hill's ZD but there has been no notable change but I have stuck to it for about 3 mths now because it is so difficult to eliminate what is causing the itchiness. We recently got test results back and out of a list of 20 things she is highly allergic to corpra grass mites but nothing else which the vet said is unusual in itself. She started losing hair round her eyes (it was asymmetrical) and under her chin but now it has travelled to her chest hind legs.Her lovely coat is now flat and dull and she smells. I have 2 shampoos sebacalm and malaseb to use alternate weeks. I know it takes time but I am getting impatient for her. I notice you sell yumega but the vet has prescribed nutramega and I can't see any noticeable difference between products - do you know of any. The neem oil products you sell: do you use them in conjunction with advocate etc or instead of? Sorry for the long post ;-)

Friday, 1 May 2015  |  9:19

Hi Jo

I think these vet recommended foods are generally a waste of money. Poor ingredients for a very high price.

I would change the diet to a better quality food, ditch the shampoos and go for Yumega Plus, Ekoneem oil for the bald bits and Skinny Shampoo and Spray to get the coat back to fitness and your dog free of parasites.

The neem in all these products will get rid of the mites and keep them under control in the future. The Ekoneem on the bald bits will get the fur growing again and they will all help take the itch out.

The Yumega Plus will help her fight off the mite allergy from the inside and really help with coat condition too.

Sorry for the long reply! Call us anytime.

Johanna Kershaw
Saturday, 16 May 2015  |  13:34

Brilliant and very informative

Johanna Kershaw
Saturday, 16 May 2015  |  13:38

I feed my chihuas a really good kibble mixed with home cooked food ie meat and vegetables,,have just bought the vinegar and will introduce it gradually

Johanna Kershaw
Saturday, 16 May 2015  |  13:41

I don't understand vets selling animal food,it's all rubbish and very expensive.