Using Food as Medicine…Part 6
TREATING BI-COASTAL ABBY’S MISERABLE ITCHY SKIN WITH FOOD
Abby is a bi-coastal yellow lab who spends her winters in Arizona and her summers in New York. When she’s in Arizona, she presents no skin problems, but in New York she’s got chronic skin issues including generalized itchiness. When in New York, she also pants a lot, seeks cold and has episodes of urinary leaking.
Upon examination, I found that both of Abby’s ear canals were abnormal with redness, odor, a tarry discharge and very itchy. Her skin and coat were also abnormal with redness, scabbed lesions, and odor. Her fur was dull and greasy to the touch and her skin — while parasite-free — was inflamed and the poor girl was experiencing urinary incontinence.
Abby’s parents were desperate to relieve her constant itching and improve her quality of life. But, skin problems and pruritus — severe itching — are some of the most common issues our pets suffer with and treating them appears to be of the most complicated when compared to treating any other illness. It is tough, because the risk factors and factors that exacerbate these issues run the gamut of possibilities including: stresses (aggressive vaccination, emotional stress), inappropriate diet, side effects of pharmaceuticals, genetics (poor breeding), and pollution, among others.
So finding out what is causing the skin inflammation and itchiness can be tough. Abby’s parents were not open to using acupuncture on Abby, but were willing to follow through with herbal remedies as well as food therapy.
We agreed that the intermittent and occasional urinary incontinence would be addressed after resolution of the excess skin problem, and got to work.
I explained that feeding a dry kibble diet would only contribute to Abby’s condition. Dry kibble dog food is highly processed and leads to body fluid damage as well as heat, which Abby was already experiencing at high levels. That’s why I recommended that the owner slowly transition the diet to a canned moist diet or a home-prepared diet.
Since Abby was always fed the same food and has a history of food sensitivities, a sudden food change may make it difficult for her digestive systems to adapt. That’s why I recommended introducing the new diet gradually. Going slowly with Abby and giving her time to adjust to her new food and will also reduce the chances of digestive upset.
It was recommended to start by mixing 25% new food with 75% old food. Slowly change the proportions over three to five days by gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food. At the end of this transitioning process, they should be feeding Abby 100% of the new food.
Since the primary complaint was the itching due to the damp heat, my approach with food therapy was to clear the Damp and Heat, detoxify and cool the Blood. I recommended a diet formulated with cooling ingredients, listed below, to counteract the effects of pruritis due to excess heat and damp.
- Turkey (cooling),
- Beef (neutral and a blood tonic),
- Catfish (cool/neutral and a Qi, Blood and Yin Tonic which also promotes digestion and relieves summer heat),
- Carrots (neutral/warm, clears heat, detoxifies and strengthens connective tissue),
- Green Beans (Yin tonic),
- Barley (Cool/Cold, Yin tonic, Drains Damp and clears heat, cools the Blood and dispels wind),
- Celery (cooling and drains Damp),
- Cucumber (cooling),
- Broccoli (cooling, clears Heat, drains Damp, relives Summer Heat),
- Eggs (neutral, Yin/Blood/Jing tonic),
- Spinach (cold/cool, Yin tonic, clears Heat and is an astringent),
- Flax Seed Oil (cold/cool, Yin tonic),
- Honey (cool, detoxifying, relieves pain),
- Black Sesame Seeds (cool, Yin tonic, detoxifies, relives pain and treats stiff joints), and
- Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation
I recommended that the food be prepared in a ratio of 40% Protein: 40% Carbohydrates , 10% Organ Meats, 10% Fats. The diet was to be cooked.
Because a healthy diet is a varied diet, I recommended that Abby’s parents also transition some variety into the diet, as long as there is no adverse signs to the original diet change.
My suggestions included:
- Rotating the protein sources with others that are cooling, (ie. Duck or Rabbit),
- Yin tonics (Goats milk, Buckwheat, Tofu or Quinoa), and
- Foods that drain damp (Kidney beans or Mushrooms).
In just over seven months. With only the use of herbal therapy and food therapy, all of Abby’s miserable skin symptoms were gone. The key to relieving Abby’s skin issue was the owners’ cooperation and diligence to be compliant and administer the treatment plan as directed.
“It matters not whether medicine is old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories are Eastern or Western, so long as they prove to be true”
Please stay tuned for my next blog….. Why Go See the Vet If My Dog’s Not Sick?
Michel Selmer, DVM, MS, CTCVMP – “The Caring Vet”