Natural Therapies for Dealing with Skin Problemsby Marina Zacharias
Skin problems are, unfortunately, very common in all breeds. The skin being truly the largest organ in the body, is in fact the easiest way for the body to eliminate toxins. We have been conditioned by the medical establishment that when we see any skin abnormality, it is to be viewed as troublesome and unsightly and must be gotten rid of as fast as possible (i.e. the usual route of antibiotics and possible steroids). When nothing but conventional treatment is used it leads to a suppression of symptoms. But what happened to the toxins the body was trying to eliminate? The problem may appear gone, and may stay that way for a short term. When the body feels up to "housecleaning" again, the symptoms may return. Again, if suppression methods are used for treatment, you are effectively pushing back the problem deeper into the body. Soon the body will give up trying to eliminate through the skin and will choose to go through the organs instead, leading to a much more serious problem.
Holistic methods will help the body to deal with the underlying problem so that a true healing response is obtained. There are a great variety of methods used and all are aimed at helping the body help itself. There are cases when a problem warrants antibiotic treatment. Sometimes you have to put the fire out before the clean up crew can go in and do the job. When this is combined with giving the body support holistically, good results can be achieved.
I will try to touch briefly here on a few of the more common skin problems and some good remedies to treat them. In cases of serious illness veterinarian advice should always be sought.
Demodectic Mange has become quite a problem which usually afflicts the younger dog. (However, chronic cases are becoming more frequent in the older animal). The usual course of treatment after diagnosis is to use harsh chemical dips until all signs of the mites are gone. In severe unresponsive cases, Ivermectin is being tried on a daily basis. A problem with active mange is a compromised immune system which must be addressed. Dips only further hurt the immune system and in cases of very sick animals have actually caused death. We have been very successful in treating mange holistically.
Topically Lavender oil is used alternately with lemon juice directly on the spots. Internally the immune system must be helped. A glandular nutritional supplement called Immuplex combined with BHI homeopathic remedies called Skin and Inflammation are used. NR Herbal Compounds are also excellent to help boost the immune system and should be used regularly for maintenance and prevention. This is a Juliette de Bairacli Levy formula that combines garlic, sage, thyme, eucalyptus, wormwood, rue and vegetable charcoal that has given excellent results over decades of usage. This is wonderful when given routinely to all dogs (and cats) as a preventative and for their overall good health. Vitamins are also important in the mange case. Supplementation of vitamins, E; C; B and zinc should be given. Diet is, of corse, important and as much fresh food should be given as possible. If the mange surfaced after a period of vaccination, then detoxifying with the homeopathic remedies Thuja and Sulpher are good to help clear the body of the residual effects.
Dermatitis and staphylococcus infections are common problems. They can occur by themselves or as secondary infections. The same homeopathics and supplements as mentioned previously can be used, in conjunction with BHI Lymphatic. This will help rally the lymph glands into helping boost the immune system to fight infection. Chinese herbal complexes are excellent to use. Isatis 6 is a combination that will not only fight bacterial infections but also viral and fungal as well. Astragalus 10+ combination helps the immune system especially in chronic situations. This complex has also given good results in severely depressed immune systems. If the staph. Infection is persistent then a homeopathic nosode can be given to help the body build its own immunity to the bacteria. This has been quite effective. A homeopathic remedy called Cutis comp. (Heel) has a deeper action on the skin and also can give good results.
A great substitute for antibiotics is Colloidal Silver. This forgotten remedy (due to the high power pharmaceutical companies) has proven itself through history. There are almost no disease causing organisms that can live in the presence of even minute traces of chemical elemental silver. It has the ability to destroy not only bacteria, but viruses and fungi as well. However, one has to be extremely careful as to the quality of the product. Many companies are promoting it as the panacea to all problems. Colloidal Silver should not be used prophylactically on a long term basis. Be very wary of companies marketing hype that tell you otherwise.
Unfortunately in the process of healing skin conditions it is common to suffer hair loss. Reducing the amount of hair loss and aiding in speeding up the regrowth process can certainly be helped with holistic remedies. Homeopathically, BHI Hair and Skin combined with BHI Enzyme greatly help the body in triggering the proper enzymatic function for hair growth. Fresh chopped Dandelion leaves can be added to the food and the affected areas can be bathed in an infusion of Rosemary or Marigold. Providing the proper trace elements and minerals is also very important. I have relied on NR Seaweed Mineral food for the last ten years. This is a blend of deep ocean Seaweed from Europe (made from the whole plant and not just the surface growth) combined with other key herbs such as Nettles, Cleavers and Uva Ursi. When used daily it promotes strong thick coat; good pigmentation; supports bones, reproductive organs and Thyroid function. Many breeders tell me the dramatic difference they see when using this product over the current kelp products that they had been using (many of which come from polluted N. America shores or are so highly heat processed they have lost the essential nutrients).
Fatty Acid supplements are also important to the overall health and in particular help the skin and coat when used daily. The supplement should be high in Omega 3 fatty acids and should be in the form of cold pressed oil. If high heat is used in the processing (i.e. capsules, or powder forms) it will kill all the benefits of the product. The only brands of oil that I trust to be correctly labeled are: Flora; Omega Nutrition; or Seymour Organics. I prefer Flax seed oil. Please do not think that by reading this ingredient on your dog food or supplement label, that this is enough. The body needs a truly cold processed product in order to utilize it.
A very common problem in any breed is ear infections. The usual fare of antibiotic or steroidal ointments are commonly used. This may clear the problem temporarily, but quite often the ears become chronically infected. Yeast infections usually being the predominant trouble. To help this I have had good success using the Herbal Earwash to cleanse the ear as needed. Externally Traumeel liquid (Heel) is put in the ear twice daily to help decrease the itching or inflammation. Internally a Chinese herbal complex called Picrorrhiza 11 is given. This herbal combination helps the body fight yeast infections while at the same time it helps boost the immune system. As the ears improve the Traumeel would be discontinued and normal cleansing with the Herbal Earwash would be maintained. The Picrorrhiza 11 can be used long term if needed (i.e. in a genetic problem).
Many ear problems can also be related to allergies, either inhalant or food related. A wide variety of dermatological conditions may originate with allergies. Allergies are at epidemic proportions today both in animals and humans. The causes are many and the entire subject is certainly beyond the scope of this article. Each animal needs to be treated on an individual basis, to help determine the underlying cause of the sensitivity in the first place. However, I can touch on a few suggestions to help get things on the right track.
Allergy symptoms can be troublesome and often show up as itchy skin. Homeopathically BHI Allergy and Skin remedies can bring on relief (instead of using anti-histamines). If the itching is severe then Chinese herbal complexes called Zaocys and Xanthium 12 are extremely helpful in reducing irritation. A bath in Murphy’s oil soap (made from pure vegetable oils) or an Epsom salt soak can be soothing during the healing. If the skin is "hot" to the touch or red and irritated then a supplement called Beta Thym would be used. This supplement contains Thymus, L-ornithine and Beta Sitosterol (a plant derivative of cortisol) which greatly helps to reduce the inflammation in the body naturally, while also helping to boost the immune system.
Often, in chronic allergies or when there has been a history of drug use, the body’s adrenal function is stressed and thus compromised. By giving a glandular nutritional supplement called Adrenal Complex this helps the body pick up the nutrients it needs to heal. Any allergy is a sign of a weakened immune system which needs to be supported. This can be helped with the supplements mentioned for mange. Additionally Pycnogenol is excellent in helping to reduce histamine production while increasing the bioavailability of vitamin C. Pycnogenol is made from Pine Bark and has been a long favored anti-oxidant in Europe. Again one must bey very careful as to the source of supply as most companies have only 30% bioavailability to the body. A good supplement should have 90%+ bioavailability. (This is wonderful for us humans too!) I use Pycnogenol from DaVinci Labs.
If you know what your dog is allergic to (which can be tested for), a desensitization program can be utilized. In place of using serum injections of the antigens, homeopathy can be used with excellent results. The antigens are made into homeopathic remedies called allersodes and are given to the patient orally. These help to create the correct immune response to achieve desensitization without any risks of side effects or overdosing which can occur with the injections (less costly too!). This has proven very successful in flea allergies. For flea desensitization we use a product called Biting Insect Mix.
Hot spots can occur from a variety of problems and can be treated in several different ways. I prefer using a homeopathic ointment called Traumeel externally on the spots. Often, when caught early this is enough to dry up the spot. Or this can be used in alternation with colloidal silver. Orally BHI Skin, Inflammation, and Traumeel work well to promote healing and stop the progression of any further outbreaks. These same formulas work well for interdigital cysts too. If these problems are reoccurring then again the immune system needs help. Generally, NR Herbal Compounds and/or Immuplex provide the needed support.
In cases of eczema or dandruff type conditions where the animal has been given the proper Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E but the trouble still persists, this can be indicative of liver congestion. The liver is the toxic eliminator for the body. Through aging; overuse of drugs; poor nutrition, etc. the liver becomes less efficient at waste removal. Nutrients that are needed by the blood supply to nourish the skin become "backed up" and cannot be utilized. To help this a Chinese herbal combination called Tang Kuei 18 is given. This aids in nourishing the blood supply and alleviating congestion, while giving aid to the liver function. The skin then has a chance to heal.
In any skin condition it is common to find that the liver function is stressed. Most dogs today need liver support just simply due to environment; processed food; heartworm preventatives, etc. To give good ongoing support to the liver a glandular called Livaplex can be given routinely. This is extremely important and can give an amazing relief of symptoms when combined with Immuplex. Seniors, in particular, can benefit from this supplement. Milkthistle and Dandelion also aid in supporting the liver.
A bloodwork analysis called a Metabolic Nutritional Analysis is extremely useful for all animals. This allows us to determine where the animal may be out of balance regarding endocrine function and then what specific nutritional support is needed to help the body regain a functional balance to heal itself. This can be done preventatively before physical symptoms are apparent and of course it is most important during illness. This has truly saved the lives of many "hopeless" and "untreatable" cases, that were given up on by conventional treatments. Used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies results are outstanding.
As more and more prestigious Universities are adding courses in natural medicine to their curriculum, it would appear that access to a greater variety of health care is a growing demand. There is a great deal of new science behind holistic treatments that is being brought to the forefront daily. Modern technology is providing the tools to help us understand that there are effective methods of dealing with health problems other than poisoning, cutting or burning.
We can all benefit as long as we continue to be open to learning.
(Marina Zacharias is a breeder/handler of Basset Hounds and has been using natural methods of health care for all her dogs for over ten years. She is a Natural Rearing consultant, author, Editor of the Natural Rearing newsletter and founder of the NR Breeder Directory.
She has been a noted guest speaker at a variety of functions including the 1995 "Educational Symposium for Alternative Veterinary Methods." Although she is not a Veterinarian, she is certified in Homeotoxicology (homeopathic) and does regularly attend the annual conventions of the American Holistic Veterinarian Society. She is also an associate member of several European holistic health care associations.
If you would like further information on holistic care for your animals, including a sample copy of the Natural Rearing Newsletter please contact Marina, P. O. Box 1436, Jacksonville, OR 97530 Phone (503) 899-2080; Fax (503) 899-3414 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)