Vargas: Skin problems could be caused by diet – News Chief

Have you heard the old adage “we are what we eat”? Well, it does seem true when it comes to dermatological problems in dogs and cats. Skin infections and recurrent itch and rashes could be linked to your pet’s diet. There are two main ways: unbalance and deficient diets or adverse reactions to foods (allergy).

When it comes to nutritional deficiencies, it is a rare issue thanks to all the readily available and balanced ( as by FDA requirements) commercial diets. Nutritional imbalances occur mostly from home cooked diets or in pets that are fed low quality pet diets in insufficient amounts or if the pet has a medical condition that interferes with the uptake or assimilation of certain nutrients. The most common requirements that are missed are zinc, vitamin A, fatty acids and protein.

I have seen cases of zinc-responsive dermatosis on a Siberian husky ( most common breed affected). He was on a good, commercial diet but presented with dry pads, crusty lesions all over the skin and a very crusty nose. After trying antibiotics and topical therapy we finally solved the issue by adding zinc to his diet. Many other pets present with severe and chronic itch and they do respond to adding more omega fatty acids to their diets. Fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories that are essential for growth and reproduction and a healthy skin. Linoleic acid and linolenic acid are the ones that need to be supplemented in order to avoid a dull, dry and prone to infection coat. Most commercial diets add a lot of these fatty acids but they decay the longer the food is stored.

Dogs that have encountered bouts with pancreatitis or have congenital deficiencies of digestive enzymes (German shepherds) might be at risk for a deficiency due to inability to absorb them properly. I’ve only seen protein deficiency in starved strays but they present with poor coat and poor muscle mass. Luckily, that is easily fixed once a good diet with enough calories is given.

Food reactions can be caused by an allergy to the food item or by a true reaction to a pathogen in the food (bacteria, fungus).

We commonly see skin rashes, itch in anus and face/neck area and scaly crusty areas around the mouth of dogs with true food allergies. I also see chronic and recurrent ear infections that are painful and itchy. The other manifestation of food allergies are gastro intestinal issues like chronic soft stools or vomiting. When it comes to food reactions, these are more acute in nature and could be linked to bent cans of dog food; moldy, damaged dry foods; and recalls from bacterial contamination. An internet search can make any dog/cat food recall information available. Food reactions can be diagnosed by putting the pet on a strict elimination food trial for six to eight weeks. If clinical symptoms disappear it was a food related issue.

Ask your veterinarian to assess the diet and treats that you are giving your pet; this might be the key to a healthier skin.

Dr. Mitsie Vargas is at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven. She can be reached at drv@osahvets.

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