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Healthy skin from deep within

An easy, regular routine can ensure that your dog has a beautiful coat and a healthy skin. The most common complaint that veterinarians face in their daily practice is skin trouble! Dry, itchy skin, redness, sores, little bumps, pustules, falling hair, typical ‘doggy’ odour are some of the usual signs. Owners tend to give a lot of importance to their pets’ skin and coat condition mainly because skin rashes and falling hair affect the appearance of the dog. What few people realise is that the skin often shows the first signs of ill-health. This, the first article of this series, will focus on internal problems that manifest as skin disorders.

Diet for good health:

Your dog’s diet affects every aspect of his health including alertness, skeletal and muscular development and general vitality, but the first and most common sign of nutritional deficiency is a dry, itchy skin. Unfortunately, Indian dog owners are yet to wake up to the fact that feeding a good commercial pre-formulated dog food is best for the dogs. Only when your dog is on a 100% diet of a good pre-formulated dog food (without any addition of home-cooked food) can you be certain that he is getting all his nutritional requirements in the correct amount and proportion. It is important to understand that feeding an imbalanced diet will lead to serious health problems, some of which may become evident much later in the dog’s life, and are often difficult to treat, like joint disease. Consult your vet on a regular basis to determine the most suitable dog food formulation according to his growth and life stage. How does diet affect the dog’s skin and coat? Simply put, certain nutrients in the daily diet are essential for maintaining a healthy skin and coat, mainly essential fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid), vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, calcium and biotin. Certain amino acids, the basic ‘building blocks’ of proteins, also play an important role in skin health.

Your next question may be that if your dog is on dog food alone, does he need additional supplementation? I usually do not recommend popularly prescribed supplementation of calcium + phosphorous + vitamin D. There is always a tendency to over supplement these minerals, resulting in some very serious, irreversible bone and joint defects. If you are feeding your dog on 100% dog food, your dog’s coat may still benefit from correct supplementation. Research done at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, UK, concluded that even dogs fed with 100% dog food show further improvement in skin and coat health when their diet is supplemented with certain nutrients. A good supplement enhances the coat softness and feel, increases coat gloss and helps in better coat scale.

Apart from diet, other internal factors also affect the condition of the dog’s skin and coat, which have been summarised in the form of a table.

Deworming do’s and don’ts:

A dog who is not dewormed regularly also suffers the same problems as a dog with nutritional deficiencies. Internal parasites ‘eat away’ certain nutrients from the dog’s digestive system. The deworming schedule that I recommend is once a month for pups up to the age of 7 months, every two months for pups between 7?and?12 months and thereafter, every three months. Dogs fed home-cooked food, especially meat, will need to be dewormed more frequently. It is best that you consult your vet for a deworming schedule specifically designed for your dog.

The ‘itch-scratch’ cycle:

The reason why skin conditions take so painfully long to treat, is because of the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. Any of these conditions can make a dog feel ‘itchy’ dry skin, allergy, the presence of loose hair, ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, mange, etc). Every time the dog scratches, he causes mild to severe abrasions or scratches on his skin and also introduces infection-causing organisms into the layers of the skin. As these abrasions and scratches on the skin begin to heal by the process of granulation, it causes an intense itching sensation, which starts the whole vicious cycle all over again. Therefore, when treating any such skin condition, it often becomes essential to give the dog a good anti-histamine for a few days, only to break the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle and give the treatment enough time to start acting. It may become necessary to give an antibiotic. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your dog. A beautiful skin and healthy coat starts from inside. No amount of external applications with the best products can give a healthy lustre to an unhealthy dog.

Next issue: Maintaining the lustre, which focuses on bathing and grooming the correct way.

(Dr. Freya Javeri, BVSc & AH (Bombay Veterinary College), MVS (University of Melbourne, Australia) is a member of the prestigious Dog Writers’ Association of America. She was the former editor of Canine Review, the official publication of the Indian National Kennel Club. She is a qualified judge, with a diploma in dog judging from the Animal Care College, UK. She has been judging all-breed championship dog shows since ’98. She is currently practicing as a veterinary surgeon and animal behaviour consultant, specialising in small animals (dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets) with two clinics of her own in Ahmedabad. She can be contacted at 9824433227, email: dr.freyajaveri@yahoo.com)

Teddy touched our hearts deep

The phrase “every dog has his dog” always crossed my mind when I used to see my dog lying flat on his back with his four paws dangling in air. Teddy was gifted by my mother on my birthday, making our family members five. He was a white spitz, similar to a snow ball, but we fondly named him teddy bear. He was just opposite to his name as teddy bear means cuddles and teddy would just let us pet him and that too only when he wanted to. Cuddle was a distant dream! Perhaps we should have called him Grizzly bear – cause he was all teeth.
What I loved most about my dog was his attitude. He was the most pampered one in the family and no matter where we were, his thoughts were never out of our minds. He loved to get attention and hated to be ignored. Throwing attitude to his family members was very common. Even if we were 10 minutes late in attending to him, Teddy would simply growl and walk off in the other direction, making you feel like a complete fool. Even though my father was not happy to keep a dog, Teddy managed to melt his heart to the extent that both the males had a mutual and implicit understanding between them.
Every morning when mom used to do pooja in the house and take rounds with the agarbatti, his nostrils and taste buds used to be proactive in the anticipation of the tantalizing ladoos. He was crazy about hot chappatis, which he shared with my parents, each afternoon. Watching him eating a chappati was cute. He used to put the chapatti in his paws and tear it into small pieces.
He never used to like loud noise in the house except for his own bark. Whenever my sister & I used to fight, he used to come in the middle & bark as if telling us to stop. Talk about not liking noise and he simply ignored his natural orchestra. He would snore at different pitches every second.
Also he would step on our bed and God save us if we moved. We would get a sharp snap telling us ‘enough- don’t disturb’. But he was smart enough to jump back on the floor, the moment he heard my father heading towards our room.

But having a pet is not always a fairy tale. Let me share an unusual and embarrassing incident with my dear dog. One day, it was time for his evening walk and he was getting very restless. I tried to pacify him in all possible ways as I was waiting for our house help to take him for a walk. Meanwhile, I was also searching for a book to read. I was sitting on the floor as the bookshelf was low. Just for a fraction of a second, I turned around to see where my doggy was. To my greatest surprise, I saw his bum angled towards my face & saw him fart at that very moment. Oops! That was the major lesson of that day …… Understand the call of nature of your dog! Well, the sad part is, I had to learn it the stinky way!  It was a nightmare for me for several days.
Teddy was the heart of the family. He passed away two years back but his memories are still fresh in our minds. Animals have an uncanny way to teach you love and their faithfulness, love and care touches your heart deep. I know, he will live in our hearts, all our lives …
– Karishma Dewan