Dealing with itching, scratching pets with chronic ear and skin infections is incredibly frustrating for pet owners. Listening to chewing, licking, and scratching has the same effect as nails on a blackboard for me. Pets suffering with allergic otitis and dermatitis can lose weight from the constant motion of scratching and rubbing. Sometimes they smell so horrible it’s difficult to stay in the same room with them. No one wants to pet their greasy, thickened, flaking skin.
At first, the bacterial skin infections will respond to antibiotics, but then return as soon as the antibiotics are discontinued. Over time, the bacteria change, becoming resistant and requiring stronger antibiotics. Chronic use of steroids, anti-inflammatory medications, and immune-suppressant pills and injections totally ruin the ability of the body to heal. These pets suffer greatly. Many will develop cancer or die of overwhelming infection.
While suppressing the immune system may temporarily decrease allergy symptoms, this course of action results in serious long-term damage. The immune system is necessary to fight infection and maintain overall health. The immune system is comprised of the thymus gland, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels, as well as the spleen, skin and liver. These organs work to form barriers, produce immunity, and filter blood.
There is a well-known connection between the microbiome (bacterial population) in the gut and healthy immunity. Chronic use of antibiotics destroys the microbiome, resulting in overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast, swelling of the intestinal cells lining the gut, and an event called “leaky gut“, where bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles are allowed to enter the bloodstream, setting up an immune reaction.
In order to heal a leaky gut, a species-appropriate diet must be fed. The feeding of starches such as grains, potatoes, and legumes which break down to sugar, feeds the yeast and causes more inflammation. Feeding high-starch, highly processed food will not bring about good gut health. It is impossible to change the “allergy” outcome without changing the diet if the dog or cat eats a diet high in potatoes, legumes, or grains.
Pre- and pro-biotics should be added to help repopulate the gut. Fermented foods and sprouts are a great source for these. Digestive enzymes can be used to help break down the food and lessen the work of the damaged bowel. The amino acid glutamine can help heal injured cells. Glutamine is found in high-protein foods such as meat and fish and in supplements.