It is amazing that, after all these years of veterinary practice, I still love the 12 week old puppy vaccination appointment! Many of my colleagues are perplexed by my love of such a ‘mundane’ consultation; but it is here that I often feel I can do my best work.
By putting in place good husbandry practices from this early age, I can help to prevent this pet from returning to see me time and again with chronic disease complaints.
One of my biggest bug bears is to see the new puppy come in and in response to my standard question “Do you have any health concerns with Fido that you have seen over the past few weeks?” is the owner who says,
“yes, he is really itchy. I have washed him each week in the puppy shampoo recommended by the pet store and I have applied the flea treatment recommended but he is still scratching all the time”.
And the new owner is invariably surprised when I plead “Please stop washing the dog!”. No more baths at least until I have seen you next month!
“But they were covered in poo from the breeder!” they exclaim. “He needed a bath!”
That may be – but he doesn’t need more.
Specialist dermatologists agree. The fastest way to predispose a pet to developing atopy (allergic skin disease) is to too frequently wash the pet in shampoo and to neglect the gut microbiome.
Even pet shampoos strip the skin of vital oils, dehydrating the skin and compromising the skin barrier function. Once the skin becomes dehydrated, it suffers tiny cracks, or microfissures in the outer layer. These cracks let in allergens to the deeper layers of the skin where they stimulate receptors and interleukins to start the inflammatory cascade. The beginning of itch!
What can you do to protect your puppy’s skin?
The best way to protect your puppy’s skin is to avoid washing him in shampoo. Sure, if he needs a bath, you can wash him in warm water to get the dirt off. Or if soap is absolutely needed, you can dilute the shampoo and rinse it off really well afterwards. But this should only need to be done well once. Definitely not weekly.
If you do need to use shampoo, replacing the skin barrier oils with Alpha Keri Oil or QV bath oil (for white dogs) will go a long way to repairing the hydration of the skin and protecting it from those early microfissures.
And of course, pay attention to the gut – feed a fresh food, natural diet full of pre and probiotics and real vitamins and minerals.
And then, you can bring your dog in for the annual health exam each year and answer my question “Do you have any health concerns with your dog”
“Nah, not this dog!”.