Skin-Soothing Herbs for Dogs and Cats: Simple Ways to Reduce ItchingOct 30, 2020 ● By Greg Tilford
From allergies to liver deficiency, many factors can itch, inflame and irritate the skin of our pets. A dog’s or cat’s skin can become damaged or compromised because the skin is the first line of defense against attacks from external substances. Skin problems in pets have many causes, yet a variety of herbs can help a dog or cat feel more comfortable.
While the catalysts of acute-onset skin issues such as insect bites or sunburn are obvious and can be dealt with directly, most forms of skin and coat disease are caused by deeper issues that can be extremely difficult to identify and address. Chronic or recurring skin conditions that cannot be attributed to influences outside the body usually point to deeper health issues, some of which can be serious or even life-threatening.
The greatest mistake one can make when assessing a skin problem is assuming the problem is only skin deep. And while topical salves, liniments, shampoos or lotions can be quite effective in temporarily suppressing itching and pain, they will not likely address the root causes of a dog’s or cat’s skin ailment. For that, the situation must be approached from the inside-out with diet and several key herbs.
Many cases of chronic skin issues in dogs and cats are either directly attributable to or strongly influenced by inappropriate and allergy-inducing ingredients in pet foods. Be critical about the quality of pet foods and avoid those that contain meat byproducts, artificial flavors and preservatives, as well as all grains, especially wheat and corn.
It’s also important to give a good fish or krill oil supplement to dogs and cats. The omega-3 fatty acids in these marine lipids play critical roles in regulating immune system inflammatory response to allergens. More specifically, they inhibit inflammation, while omega-6 fatty acids typically found in grains and vegetable oils stimulate inflammation. Both processes are necessary for healthy body functioning, but an imbalance of too much omega-6 sets the stage for skin allergies, a dull coat and excessive shedding.
Liver deficiency is another common factor to consider. The liver is responsible for producing digestive enzymes and acids needed to break down and assimilate food while also filtering waste from the bloodstream. If the liver is deficient in any of these functions, excess waste that cannot be eliminated via normal pathways will wreak havoc on the body, often manifesting as a skin condition. If this happens, symptoms commonly recognized as pyoderma, eczema or psoriasis will increase as the body tries to eliminate the waste, pushing the toxins outward and away from vital internal organs toward the skin.
In addition to dietary adjustments, liver support is helpful when it comes to skin problems, and this is where herbs come in.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa). This herb has an ancient history as a skin remedy. It contains inulin, an indigestible polysaccharide constituent that serves as a prebiotic, feeding beneficial microflora in the gut and improving digestion. It also contains a broad variety of compounds that gently stimulate the liver at various levels to help detoxify the body and aid in transporting waste out of the bloodstream. Burdock can be found as a tincture or a fresh root at many health food stores. Grate the fresh root liberally onto the pet’s food at each mealtime. Burdock is fairly neutral in flavor and very safe, so there’s no need to worry about overfeeding.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). The roots and leaves are highly nutritious. They contain a complex assortment of liver-supporting compounds as well as diuretic properties that aid the body in eliminating toxins via urination.
Red clover (Trifolium pretense), alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and milk thistle (Silybum marianum). These are well-known blood cleansers worth considering. Look for formulas that contain a balanced array of all three.
Greg Tilford is the CEO of Animal Essentials Inc., a natural pets supplement company. He is the author of five books, including Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s.