Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hot Spots, Rashes & Infections: Holistic skin and coat care

One of the most common medical complaint in dogs is the notorious “Hot Spot,” also called “acute moist dermatitis.” There are dozens of causes of hot spots, including allergies, parasites, or just licking and chewing, but the common factor is infection, whether bacterial or fungal or yeast. And hot spots can appear anywhere on the body: Hind leg, feet, rump area, neck, etc. The bottom line for your dog is that there is an infection and intense itching, regardless of how it got that way. Sometimes hot spots seem to appear out of thin air. For example, many dogs are very sensitive to simple lawn grasses. These animals are physically and nutritionally normal, but show signs of inflamed skin and hair loss. Or, a skin lesion can occur as a result of moisture on the skin surface from rain, pond or lake water. Minute scratches on the skin from, for example, a clipper blade, may trigger other cases. Moist eczema is one example of a hot spot type. If the coat is dense or allowed to become matted, moisture on the skin may remain long enough to allow superficial bacteria to reproduce and create an infection. Some cases of moist eczema will spread very rapidly and require rather aggressive therapy to correct.

Rashes and Skin Infections (Infectious Dermatitis)

Bacterial, fungal and yeast organisms are notoriously obnoxious skin and coat pathogens. They can cause skin infections, rashes and other problems in otherwise healthy dogs. Bacterial dermatitis rarely occurs spontaneously. Normal healthy skin has tremendous numbers of a variety of bacteria present all the time. If something upsets the normal balance, such as antibiotics eliminating one or two types, the remaining types proliferate. Any contact with grass, plastic, an abrasion or moisture, or parasitic invasion can bring down the skin’s defensive barriers and opportunistic bacteria then have their way. Fungal infections first appear as one or more small areas of hair loss that may be reddened or inflamed. As infection progresses, crusts may form on the area of hair loss, the patches increase in number and size, and large portions of skin may become involved. Yeast, a type of fungus, can irritate an already diseased skin surface. Yeast infections typically create greasy, odorous and inflamed skin in affected dogs. Symptoms may include blackening of the skin, dry flaky skin or greasy type grit on the skin. As the condition worsens, a bad yeasty smell or odor may accompany this, and the dog will experience severe itching, leading to endless biting, chewing and hair loss.

Parasites and Mange

Skin Problems Caused by Parasites (Fleas, Ticks, Mange Mites and More) A parasite is an organism (a flea, for example) that spends a significant portion of its life in or on the living tissue of a host organism (your pet) and which causes harm to the host without immediately killing it. Some parasites are relatively innocuous, some are not, and some can cause serious skin problems. Fleas, Flies, Chiggers, Ticks, and Gnats When a pet parent sees her dog scratching and biting at itself, the first thing she thinks is “Oh no! Fleas!” Chiggers, deer flies, and gnats (sometimes called No-See-Ums) can be considered nuisances and generally do not create remarkable systemic skin problems. But repeated exposure to fleas can trigger a hypersensitivity to the bite of even a single flea, leading to an allergic response, and ultimately to hot spots or worse. Tick bites seldom trigger an allergic reaction, but can leave a slow-healing lesion.

Mighty Mites and MangeMites are microscopic creatures resembling tiny spiders. Among the species that attack animals are members of the Sarcoptic mange mites (family Sarcoptidae), which burrow under the skin. Demodex mites (family Demodicidae) are parasites that live in or near the hair follicles of mammals, including humans. Cheyletiella mites look like tiny spiders under a magnifying glass and are often called “Walking Dandruff” because upon close inspection it seems like little flakes of dry skin are actually moving about. Sarcoptic mites are very nasty critters. Called scabies or red mange, infestations of these mites are highly contagious and produce intense itching, reddening of the skin, thinning of the hair (alopecia) and development of crusts and scabs. Bacterial skin infections commonly occur in the inflamed, irritated skin. Sarcoptic mite infestation, or mange, is frequently misdiagnosed as allergic dermatitis by even very competent and experienced veterinarians. The mites burrow right down into the skin where they are virtually undetectable by skin scrapings. Sarcoptic mites prefer skin with little hair, so they are most numerous on the ears, elbows, abdomen and hocks. As the disease spreads, hair is lost and eventually the mites occupy large areas of skin. Sadly, many dogs are treated with cortisone or prednisone for a supposed allergic dermatitis when in fact these Sarcoptic mites are the cause of the pruritic or inflamed skin, and the unnecessary cortisone eventually makes the condition worse.Then there are Demodectic (or Demodex) mites, which cause another kind of mange. These mites are found in small numbers in the hair follicles of normal pets. In stressful situations, however, they proliferate, and large numbers inhabit the skin and hair follicles. The good news is that Demodex mites can easily be seen on a skin scraping viewed under the microscope. The less good news is that generalized demodicosis is serious and often difficult to treat. Large areas of the body may be affected, and often the affected areas are also infected by bacteria. In these cases, the skin is red, crusty and warm, and has many pustules. It may bleed easily and has a strong, rancid odor.

Why Not Steroids?

Corticosteroid drugs, called "steroids" for short, are potent chemical substances that can reduce swelling and inflammation quickly. Common corticosteroid drugs used to treat skin issues in dogs include cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisolone and prednisone. These compounds reduce itching by reducing inflammation. In other words, these drugs treat the symptom of itching, but can do nothing about the underlying cause of the itch. Unfortunately, they also affect every organ in the body. Prednisone is the most potent anti - inflammatory and anti-itch steroid and is often used for treating allergies in dogs. It is usually reserved for dogs with moderate to severe skin allergies, or skin diseases that are difficult to diagnose. These medications are often over prescribed without a positive diagnosis and without careful monitoring, and the pet owner can be unaware of the potential seriousness of the side-effects.

Whether a dog has hot spots or mange or allergies, often it’s the secondary infections that cause the worst itching. If steroids are given to treat the symptoms of itching, the bacterial or fungal secondary infections will be given a boost, and will get much worse very quickly. The reason for this is that cortisones depress lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, making it easier for bacterial infections to occur and then to proliferate unchecked. In other words, steroids can compromise, or crash, your pet’s natural immune system. When this happens, your dog will lose hair and his skin will become black with a terrible odor and insane itching. Traditional medicine can no longer help him when the disease reaches this stage, and your vet is likely to recommend euthanasia. Even holistic, naturopathic veterinarians may recommend treatment with small amounts of corticosteroids to give some affected pets relief during the flea season. However, these treatments may be dangerous to your pet if prolonged and only offer temporary relief of symptoms at best.

These treatments may include topical medications, soothing baths, ointments and sprays, oral antihistamines, or steroids. Caution: If you are sent home with a prescription for cortisone, or your dog has been given “a cortisone shot to stop the itching”, your dog may ultimately be worse off than before if the true diagnosis happens to be an unrecognized case of Sarcoptic mites!

We carry at our on-line store a holistic series of products coming from a company called
DER Magic. I have tried their products and experienced success with both, our cats as well as our dogs, this stuff really works. You know I don’t like to advertise the products we carry at the on-line store. But sometimes I just can’t help it and feel, if in general it really helps your companions, why not passing on a recommendation. Other stores do it too, even vets make their very specific recommendations when it comes to food, treats and remedies and illness cure. Coming back to DER Magic Skin & Coat Care: This company, as so many within the holistic circle of pet food, treat and supplement suppliers, was started because it’s founder, Dr. Adelie Ritchie, also proud owner of a couple Shih Tzus, tried to figure out how she could help her pups, who often were in need of a quick fix for bug bites, rashes, hot spots or other dermal boo-boos. The doctor’s original prototype product was formulated many years ago, back when Dr. Ritchie was breeding and showing Yorkshire Terriers and teaching organic chemistry at a community college in Florida. At the time, her prize show dog developed a serious skin disease and then progressively got worse under standard veterinary treatments, to the point where her vet suggested euthanasia to put the dog out of her misery. Shenanigan was her name and she had thick black skin by this time, smelled horrible and cried constantly. Back then, as is still the case today, there just weren't any good choices out there for veterinary treatments that weren't loaded with cortisone, steroids, antibiotics or strong chemicals, and even those treatments were not effective enough to save Shenanigan's life. This is when Dr. Ritchie got to work on formulating an effective topical treatment with natural, herbal and organic ingredients. Shenanigan got dunked, slathered, gooped, and drenched in potions, all somewhat effective, but not quite enough. Finally, after a few trials, the prototype DERMagic Hot Spot Lotion was born, and Shenanigan's relief was visible and immediate. She stopped crying and scratching, and her hair was sprouting again within 48 hours of the first treatment. Within six months, she was again in full coat and was parading herself proudly around the show ring. Over the years, Dr. Ritchie used her formulations to treat dogs and cats and horses belonging to family members, friends, and her colleagues in the dog show business, but it was not until much later that a good friend challenged her to make her great products available to every pet owner facing skin problems with their beloved companion animals.
Today, Dr. Ritchie offers a well rounded program of just a few, but extremely effective holistic skin and coat care products. All of them constantly receive very positive recognition in the pet oriented and related media including for example Animal Wellness Magazine to name just one. The line includes a complete 4 step skin care system, a hot spot salve, lotions, soap bars, Dead Sea aromatherapy bath salts and of course shampoos and conditioners.

Besides the very powerful fact that they simply work, what I like the most about Dr. Ritchie’s products is that she enables me to offer yet another effective solution within a well rounded holistic program, from food and treats to supplements and skin & coat care, all together designed to successfully help our customers in their efforts to get rid of their pet’s allergy problems.

Related to today’s comment, here is how Dr. Ritchie (who also by large contributed today’s comment) addresses the task on hand: DER Magic products stop infections associated with parasitic infestations, and kill certain parasites outright. They kill bacteria, yeast and most types of fungus, fast, and are the first line of defense against hot spots. Aside from being immediately effective at relieving itch, fighting fungal and bacterial infestations and promoting healing of affected areas, these products are safe and free from corticosteroids.

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