Step 3: Nutrition’s role in skin health
As part of the 4 Step Plan for managing your dogs skin disorder, nutrition should always be reviewed.
How can a raw diet help skin diseases?
The simple, fresh, nutritious nature of the raw diet, along with the flexibility to tailor diets to an individual, provides a useful tool in managing skin disease directly linked to nutrition, as well as aiding in a multi-modal approach to resolving other non-food related skin conditions.
1. Primary food intolerances
When a primary food intolerance is suspected a complete raw diet can provide a highly palatable, balanced, naturally hypoallergenic option. While some people find blood testing for food allergies useful they do not always accurately correlate with real life and exclusion diets which systematically eliminate potential allergens are the only way to reach a reliable diagnosis.
An exclusion/elimination diet should include a single protein source which is classed as ‘novel’, this means it has not been fed to the pet before (and so is unlikely to be the cause of the allergy). Ideally the carbohydrate source should also be novel, for example sweet potato, and it is recommended to avoid grain and gluten as there appears to be an increasing number of pets intolerant to these. This diet should be fed exclusively for at least 6 weeks with no access to any other treats/bones/human food. If symptoms subside during this time, a challenge may be undertaken whereby the pet is returned to its previous diet and monitored for recurrence of symptoms.
It is crucial to ensure the raw diet is complete and balanced with no deficiencies or excesses of nutrients as these can commonly manifest as skin problems and will complicate or delay diagnosis.
2. Skin conditions not directly caused by nutrition
A raw diet can still help support skin health and recovery even when the cause of disease is not directly related to nutrition. As the skin is continuously renewing it requires a supply of good quality building blocks as well as a range of vitamins and minerals to achieve this. The high quality protein in raw diets provides a plentiful and easily digestible supply, and the complete and balanced options will ensure the essential nutrients are appropriately balanced. The natural oils also help rejuvenate the recovering skin and coat with essential fatty acids present in the fresh frozen ingredients. These fats, such as the omega-3’s, often degrade in dry foods as a result of oxidation and rancidity but can be locked in with a freshly frozen raw meal.
Maintaining a healthy weight is also essential in managing skin conditions as it enables adequate self-grooming, which is often hindering by obesity, and reduces the formation of skin folds which can predispose to more common skin disorders. An appropriate raw diet can help achieve this by promoting a lean body condition.
Most people have heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’ and this still holds true for our pets. The skin and coat are very visible indicators of health and with a fresh, natural, balanced raw diet our pets can avoid the junk food and support healthy skin with simple great nutrition.
Written by Natures Menu’s very own vet Dr Claire Millar BVetMed CertAVP MRCVS