In all probability, the majority of dry skin, ear infections, hair loss, itchiness, and so forth are the result of an underlying allergy. In these cases, it isn’t a matter of something the dog or cat isn’t getting, but rather something they are getting (through diet, flea bites, contact, or inhalation) but to which they have an intolerance or allergic reaction.
Having recently adopted a dog with horrible skin problems, I am currently working with a veterinary dermatologist who has given me information I found surprising. For starters, none of the currently available blood, saliva, or hair tests for allergies have proven to be accurate. Only skin testing (intradermal allergy testing) has shown to reliably diagnose allergies, so if you suspect that you have an allergic pet, I’d forego a blood test and opt for this route.
Another area in which dietary supplements for pets is frequently used is for digestive support. These supplements will typically contain pre- and probiotics and digestive enzymes. As much as 80 percent of your dog or cat’s immune system is based in their gut. Because she’s on a raw diet, I give these products to my own dog daily, as well as goat’s milk twice a week. Lots of my customers make kimchi, kefir, and a host of other fermented veggies to feed their pets, the theory being that this mimics the stomach contents of prey items they would consume in the wild.
Just like in humans, no amount of dietary supplements for pets can make up for a bad diet. Cats are obligate carnivores and require a meat-based diet to thrive. With dogs, it gets a bit fuzzier. From a taxonomic viewpoint, dogs are in the same Order (carnivora) as cats and are descended from wolves (a predator). However, dogs can certainly benefit from added vegetable matter in their diets. People get on soapboxes and argue whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, but few knowledgeable people would suggest that they don’t do best with a meat-based diet.
With any commercial food, the ingredients are listed by weight, so look for named meats first and a minimum of carbohydrates. And supplement not only with products made for your dog or cat but from your grocery store meat isle. Even adding a little raw meat to your pet’s kibble can make a difference in the nutrients they get. For a dog, small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables can also be beneficial – just be sure that it’s safe for them (avocados, grapes, onions and a few others are toxic to dogs, so look up anything you are unsure about). And don’t be concerned about feeding fresh raw meat. These animals have been digesting raw meat since long before we domesticated them, and their bodies are designed for it.
The hardest part is predicting what your individual pet will like!
Chip Bridges is the owner of Blue Ridge Reef & Pet at 102 WNC Shopping Center Drive in Black Mountain. You can reach him at blueridgereef.com or (828) 669-0032.