Category Archives: Skin problems

3 Breeds Prone to Dog Skin Infections

Bringing a dog into your life is a big responsibility and, in addition to providing your new pet with treats, toys and love, you’ll need to provide her with proper medical care. Knowing what diseases and ailments, including skin conditions, she might be prone or predisposed to can be beneficial in keeping her happy and healthy throughout her life. Although finding the root cause of certain skin conditions in dogs can be tricky, the following breeds are known for getting certain skin infections.

1. Spaniels

Spaniels tend to get ear and lip fold infections. Ear infections happen because of their long, heavy ears, which can promote yeast and bacterial growth, while lip fold infections occur due to the number of lower lip folds they have and the weight of their jowls.

Many yeasty ear infections are secondary to food intolerances, so feeding a species-appropriate diet is very helpful.

2. Standard Poodles

These dogs sometimes have a hereditary condition called granulomatous sebaceous adenitis, which affects the oil glands and can cause hair loss, giving them a “moth-eaten appearance”.

While there are no guaranteed treatments, some things that may help include vitamin-A therapy, omega-3 fatty acids, frequent baths and topical oil treatments. In addition, antibiotics and antifungals may be needed for secondary infections

3. Chinese Shar-Peis

Dogs with short coats, like Shar-Peis and bulldogs, are prone to skin irritation, especially if they also have allergies. Depending on the exact issue, treatment could require frequent grooming and medicated shampoos in these breeds.

When the skin folds into itself [like it does with Shar-Peis], then you have the hair on one side poking into the other, that can cause more irritation. While such a condition doesn’t cause allergies, it can be a contributing factor for skin irritation.

Diana Ruth Davidson,  Westside Dog Nanny,             Certified Professional Pet Sitter,                            Certified by American Red Cross in Pet First Aid

We offer:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Dogs Itchy Skin


What if your dog’s fur seems dry and a bit dandruffy, and also looks to be shedding more than usual. Know what can you do in this situation to help your dog?


Dogs itch for many different reasons, and sometimes, for no reason, and it’s not uncommon for the scratching to seem worse at night, when the house is quiet. Every dog’s gotta scratch some time, and that’s completely normal. But when a dog is incessantly licking, scratching, biting and chewing to the point of wounding herself, then scratching becomes a symptom of an underlying pathology.

The medical term for scratching related to excessive itching is pruritus. This is the second most common reason people take their dogs to the vet (gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea top the list). The causes of pruritus can be quite complex, but there are two main reasons why dogs itch. The first has to do with the condition of the skin itself: Is it infected? Is it too oily? Is it too dry? Of these three, dry skin is a frequent occurrence. The second major cause of pruritus is allergies.

Is It Dry Skin?

One common cause of itching is dry skin. If you live in a region with low humidity, it’s more likely that your dog will have dry skin, which is fairly easy to recognize. When you part your dog’s hair, you see flakes of dandruff in the undercoat, and the skin itself may be cracked and tough. The slightest stimulation of the skin—your gentlest touch—can provoke your dog to scratch violently.

Dry skin can be influenced not only by environmental factors, but also by diet. Commercial pet foods process out the good oils that contribute to healthy skin and a lustrous haircoat. Dry pet foods have an even more dehydrating effect on skin and hair and also stimulate increased thirst, which only partially compensates for the drying nature of these diets.

If you must feed dry foods, then by all means add digestive enzymes to your dog’s meals. In fact, digestive enzymes are good to use with any type of food. Enzymes improve the release of nutrients, and beneficial probiotic bacteria also assist in the digestive process. (Probiotics also help with allergies, as noted below.) A healthy digestive system absorbs fluids more readily from the food your dog eats, thus improving hydration and increasing the moisture levels of the skin and haircoat.

Or Allergies?

Another common cause of itchy skin is allergies. Allergies may make your dog’s skin dry, greasy, or slightly dry and oily, and are accompanied by frequent scratching, licking or chewing. We are seeing significantly more cases of allergic dogs than we have in the past; many veterinarians believe that we are experiencing an “allergy epidemic.” While the reasons for this allergy epidemic are uncertain, some of the theories put forth include the aggressive vaccination protocols that many dogs have been subjected to, poor breeding practices and the feeding of processed pet foods.

Whatever the cause, allergies are difficult to address. In the worst cases, afflicted dogs require strong (and potentially toxic) pharmaceuticals just to get some relief. Though allergies are rarely cured, early identification and intervention can keep them under control, and in some cases, can substantially diminish them.

Preventing Allergies

Clinical research has shown that one important way to reduce the likelihood that dogs will develop allergies is to give them high-potency cultures of beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus when they are very young. Probiotics are relatively inexpensive, absolutely safe to use, and can save both dog and the owner tons of grief—and visits to the vet—later in life.

Regardless of age, many dogs’ allergies are controlled by improving the quality of their diet, giving them high potency acidophilus cultures and high doses of fish oils; adding freshly milled flax seed; and, in some cases, giving them antihistamines. (It can take up to three months for this regimen to take effect; see sidebar for details and dosages.)

Determining which condition your dog is dealing with requires a vet’s evaluation, but implementing some of the suggestions provided in the sidebar can certainly help your pup be more comfortable in her own skin—literally.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Cat and Dog Skin Problems

Cat and Dog Skin Problems

Does your dog (or cat) have skin problems? Is it continually scratching, biting and licking at itself….and you don’t know why? Well, take comfort, you are not alone.

There are really six main reasons why dogs and cats will itch and scratch. The bottom line is… don’t let them suffer! There IS a diagnosis to be made and then you and your veterinarian will be better able to select the proper treatment plan.

Itching and scratching in dogs: One of the most common calls made to any animal hospital in America goes something like this: “Doctor, I’ve got to get this dog in right away. He’s driving us nuts. All he does is itch and scratch, bite and lick and he’s keeping us up all night!”

My thought is that if the pet’s caretakers are being driven “nuts” by the dog’s scratching and licking, how awful must the poor dog feel?

This kind of call to the veterinarian refers to a fairly serious case of pruritus. In reality there is a wide spectrum of causes and severity of itching and scratching in dogs with skin and coat trouble. Some dogs can spend hours romping through fields, digging holes, and rolling in the grass and still have no after-effects at all. Others, kept indoors and fed an excellent diet, may have severe skin disorders.

Let’s see if we can make some sense of this complicated and aggravating situation and try to answer the question “Why does my dog itch-and-scratch-bite-and-lick?”

There are six main categories of dermatitis we veterinarians have to consider whenever a cat or dog skin problem — or “skin case” — is presented. Most skin and coat abnormalities can be defined by or placed in one of these categories:

  • Environmental
  • Nutritional
  • Parasitic
  • Allergic
  • Neurogenic
  • Infectious

Keeping in mind that there are entire textbooks written about these categories, you might understand why veterinarians often take a deep breath before entering the exam room wherein awaits a patient with a “skin problem.” Let’s look at each category, starting with the simplest (Environmental Dermatitis) and finishing with the most challenging (Neurogenic Dermatitis).

1. Environmental Dermatitis

Patients in this category are physically and nutritionally normal, but present with signs of itching and scratching, hair loss and skin irritation. By careful discourse with the owner regarding diet, activity, medical history and environment, and by performing a thorough physical exam, the veterinarian can rule out the other categories of dermatitis. Through the analysis of the patient’s history, the veterinarian will discover that the patient spends time swimming or excavating gopher holes or romping through fields where thistles seem prevalent.

Many dogs are very sensitive to simple lawn grasses. And by matching what is visible on the patient’s skin with a probable environmental irritant — the cause of the cat or dog’s skin problem can be determined and corrective measures taken.

An example is Moist Eczema, often called a “Hot Spot“. These skin lesions often occur as a result of moisture on the skin surface from rain, pond or lake water. Minute scratches on the skin from, for example, a clipper blade, may trigger other cases. Especially in dense coated dogs or dogs where there is an accumulation of mats or shedding hair, moisture on the skin may remain long enough to allow superficial bacteria to reproduce (sort of like an organic soup!) and create an infection.

Some cases of Moist Eczema will spread very rapidly and require rather aggressive therapy to correct. Contact with plastics can also cause environmental dermatitis.

2. Nutritional Dermatitis

When food is the issue, correction of these cases of dog and cat itching and scratching should be a “no brainer,” but even today, many veterinarians and pet owners really believe the “Complete and Balanced” statement on pet food labels.

Unfortunately, many dogs and cats live their entire lives in less than optimum health because their caretaker feeds the least expensive food they can find … and feels secure in doing so because of that “Complete and Balanced” statement.

In my thirty-five years of practice, I have seen hundreds of dogs and cats whose lives changed dramatically, and where the pet’s caretakers were shocked and surprised at the remarkable difference in their pets, by the simple act of providing the pet with a high quality, meat-based diet.

You can read more on dog and cat food protein and overall pet nutrition for some common sense information about sound feeding principles.

Without proper nourishment skin problems in dogs and cats is just one of the possible reactions; the animal’s entire body, not just its skin and coat, will be continuously in a state of stress. High quality meat-based dog foods seldom, if ever, create the kind of skin and coat irritation in most animals.

If you feed dry commercial dog food, be certain that the first ingredient listed is meat such as beef, poultry, lamb or fish. Specialized diets are widely available that are generally better than others in several key categories:

Will supplements help? Absolutely! But if the diet is a high quality, meat-based brand, the need for supplements is much less critical. It has been my experience that supplements such as Omega Fatty Acids, Vitamins and table scraps will always help a dog that is eating a generic, commercial dry dog food; and on occasion, supplements may even show positive benefits in a dog eating a high quality diet.

Many types of cat or dog skin problems are avoided if the animal consumes an optimum diet. In some cases, adding a supplement, such as an omega fatty acid supplement, is the key factor in avoiding repeated episodes of hot spots and other skin problems.

If your dog or cat seems to lack good coat and skin health, consider upgrading the diet to a meat-based ingredient formula and adding a supplement.

3. Parasitic Dermatitis – Ticks and Fleas


The most common response a pet caretaker makes when they see their dog scratching and biting at itself is “I think he’s got fleas”. And sometimes this guess is correct. Dark, copper colored and wingless, and about the size of the head of a pin, fleas are big enough that they can be seen scurrying along the skin surface trying to hide within the sheltering forest of fur.

There are a number of highly effective and safe flea preventatives. Fleas are ubiquitous, but an understanding of their life cycle, where they hide in the dog’s environment, and utilizing modern pharmacology breakthroughs, no dog needs to be “driven crazy” with itching and scratching, hair loss, infections, scabs and other skin problems as a result of flea infestation.

Repeated exposure to fleas can trigger a hypersensitivity (an abnormal, excessive reaction) to the bite of even a single flea. Every veterinarian has been fooled into making a diagnosis of “allergy”, not even suspecting fleas, simply because no fleas were discovered at the time of the physical exam. This is a classic example of a Parasitic Dermatitis (flea bites) triggering a complicated Allergic Dermatitis (due to the flea saliva).

Interestingly, the all-too-common parasite called the tick rarely triggers itching and scratching or allergic reactions, but on occasion will leave an ulcerative lesion that is notoriously slow to heal.

Chiggers, deer flies, and gnats (sometimes called No-See-Ums) can be considered nuisances and generally do not create remarkable systemic skin problems. Local treatment with first aid ointments generally is successful.

Cheyletiella mites look like tiny spiders under a magnifying glass and are often called “Walking Dandruff” because upon close inspection it seems like little flakes of dry skin are actually moving about. Partly because they live on the surface of the skin, these tiny critters can be eliminated easily by using any common flea shampoo. And here’s a creepy thought … Cheyletiella mites can be transmitted to humans where they create, just like on the dog, alopecia (hair loss) with a dry, flaky, slightly pruritic skin surface.

Sarcoptic mites are nasty critters! Also called scabies or red mange, they create very intense itching and scratching, alopecia, and inflamed skin with multiple small scabs often present. Sarcoptic mite infestation, more than any other entity, is frequently misdiagnosed as Allergic Dermatitis by even very competent and experienced veterinarians. There is a good discussion of Scabies here).

Many veterinary dermatology specialists will not accept an uncontrolled “Allergic Dermatitis” referral case unless the referring veterinarian has first ruled out Sarcoptic mites by actually treating the dog for scabies. Do as many skin scrapings as you like, you’re not going to find these little rascals because, unlike most skin parasites, these burrow right down into the skin. (Even ticks simply hold on to the surface of the skin while they feed; ticks do not burrow into the skin.)

Unfortunately, many dogs are treated with cortisone for a supposed allergic dermatitis when in fact these Sarcoptic mites are the cause of the pruritic, inflamed skin… the unnecessary cortisone eventually worsens the situation.

Sarcoptic mites happen to have preferences … certain types reproduce and thrive on dogs, but they do not thrive on other species such as humans. Nevertheless, Sarcoptic mites from dogs can infest humans so if your dog has signs of scabies and you are itching and have little scabs, make sure you see your dermatologist (MD, not DVM)!

Mention your concern about scabies mites. If your physician makes a diagnosis of scabies, your next call should be to the veterinarian to make an appointment to discuss the possibility of Sarcoptic mites in your dog (the one that’s been getting all those cortisone shots for “allergy”).

Then there are Demodex mites — also called “mange.” These little rascals do live and reproduce just under the skin surface in the tiny hair follicles and oil glands of the skin.

Unlike Sarcoptic mites, Demodex mites can be seen on a skin scraping viewed under the microscope. They look like tiny cigars with stubby legs stuck to the front half of their body.

Demodex is most commonly seen in young dogs. In adult dogs, Demodex cases seem to be associated with individuals that are stressed from disease, poor nutrition, immune disorders or a harsh environment.

There is evidence that many cases of Demodex have a genetically transmitted immune protein deficit underlying its manifestation; the dog’s breeder should be informed of any cases of Demodex mites.

If the dog is otherwise healthy, there are effective treatment protocols for Demodex. On the “itch scale”, Demodex causes very little itching and scratching. On the “baldness scale” Demodex creates mottled and patchy alopecia.

4. Infectious Dermatitis

Bacterial, fungal and yeast organisms are notoriously obnoxious pathogens causing coat and skin problems in dogs (and cats). Fungal organisms are called dermatophytes. One type, called Microsporum canis, causes non-pruritic, circular patches of hair loss, often called ringworm. Transmissible to other dogs (and occasionally some strains of fungi can be transmitted to humans) your veterinarian can diagnose and treat skin fungal infections in the office.

Yeasts, most notably a common contaminant of inflamed and environmentally stressed skin called Malassezia pachydermatitis, can irritate an already diseased skin surface. Especially notorious for creating long term, low-grade external otitis, Malassezia does cause itching and scratching and inflammation.

Yeast infections typically create greasy, odorous and pruritic signs in affected dogs. The skin is stressed by the waste products of the organisms and responds by releasing histamine — which triggers further inflammation, itching and scratching and cell damage.

If a yeast infection is diagnosed, there’s generally something else going on such ashypothyroidism, chronic administration of cortisone medication or dietary fatty acid deficiency.

Bacterial dermatitis rarely occurs spontaneously. Normal healthy skin has tremendous numbers of a variety of bacteria present all the time. If something upsets that balance, such as antibiotics eliminating one or two types, the remaining types have a free-for-all! Anything that damages the normal, healthy, intact skin will hamper the skin’s defense mechanisms. Any Environmental Dermatitis, such as contact with grass, plastic, an abrasion or moisture, can adversely affect the skin’s defensive barriers and opportunistic bacteria then have their way. Parasitic damage to the skin will allow invasion by bacteria and trigger the body’s healing defense mechanisms.

A common skin problem in dogs, Infectious Dermatitis often is so irritating that dogs will lick continuously at the lesion and undo any healing that has taken place. A moist, sticky, inflamed skin lesion along with hair loss is characteristic of bacterial dermatitis. These can spread rapidly and even be transposed to other areas of the skin through biting, licking, and scratching of previously uninfected areas.

The treatment for Infectious Dermatitis often includes clipping the hair from the area to allow the air to assist drying. The application of gentle topical medication is helpful as is the administration of oral antibiotics to fight the organisms that are deeply invading the skin.

Yes, cortisone may assist in alleviating the stinging or itchy sensation, but may also suppress normal healing processes. Whenever an infection is present, the decision to use cortisone needs to be very carefully evaluated. A better choice may be antihistamines orally.

5. Allergic Dermatitis

I’ll be honest. There’s no way to cover this topic in one article. Veterinarians spend entire weekends and lots of money attending seminars on this topic alone! It is common, it can be lifelong, it is a challenge to diagnose, and once identified it can be resistant to attempts at treatment. All the other categories of dermatitis must be ruled out (especially those elusive Sarcoptic mites) before a diagnosis of Allergic Dermatitis can be made. Food ingredients, synthetic and natural fibers, medications and pharmaceutical products, plant material and even dust all can trigger an Allergic Dermatitis.

Even common bacteria on the dog’s skin can provoke an allergic reaction to themselves! These cases of sensitivity to normal resident bacteria are very challenging to correct. No matter what kind of allergic dermatitis afflicts the dog, the ultimate cellular cause of the inflammation and resulting “itch-and-scratch-bite-and-lick” activity has a common cause … the release of histamine from skin Mast cells, the deposition of antigen/antibody protein complexes within tissues, the dilation of some blood vessels and constriction of others, the release of toxic chemicals from broken intracellular structures, and chemical and physical irritation of sensory nerve endings.

To what are dogs allergic? Take a look around you right now. Odds are that your dog could be allergic to half-a-dozen different substances in the very room you sit; that doesn’t even include microscopic substances in the air you and your dog breath! Food, carpeting, blankets, dust mites, mold spores in the air, pollen, plastic food dishes, furniture stuffing and ornamental plants all have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction in your dog. Food allergies are so common that pet food manufacturers have invested millions of dollars in research, development, promotion and delivery of “antigen specific” diets to help in the therapy of dogs with food allergies.

How do allergies develop? Each individual’s biochemistry is determined by millions of genetic variables. On occasion, an individual’s various immune responses may over-react to a certain material and “learn” to recognize this substance in case of future contact with it.

The offending agent is called an antigen. Flea saliva is a good example of an antigen that triggers “flea bite” hypersensitivity. When an antigen makes contact with the dog, the dog’s immune defenses – all primed and ready for a fight since it has previously identified the antigen as an enemy – set to work to disarm the antigen.

Unfortunately, during the course of the battle (called an antigen/antibody reaction) side effects of the battle can cause tissue irritation, inflammation, swelling and cell destruction. That’s when we notice skin problems in dogs and when they go into the “itch-and-scratch-bite-and-lick” mode! There’s a biochemical war going on within the dog!

Immunologists have classified a number of different types of allergic reactions. Skin and blood tests are common methods of attempting to identify what the patient is allergic to. Probably the most common type of Allergic Dermatitis seen in dogs is Atopic Dermatitis. This situation is triggered by a number of antigens including inhaled substances such as molds, dust, pollens and other static and airborne microscopic organic substances.

Dogs with Atopy lick and chew at their paws (see photo on right) and scratch their face, eyelids and ears. This skin problem can be very troubling for dogs and frustrating for the owner. One minute the dog may look and feel normal, the next it will chew its paw or face raw from the intense itching and scratching. There is a new product available to treat Atopic Dermatitis in dogs called Atopica. For many patients, this medication has truly been a “life saver.”

Treatment of Allergic Dermatitis includes topical medicated soothing baths, ointments and sprays. The use of oral antihistamines can neutralize some of the destructive effects of internally released histamine.

More effective in alleviating the discomfort of allergies is cortisone. This potent hormone, normally secreted by the adrenal glands, can be manufactured commercially. Numerous derivatives of cortisone are used in pill, injectable, spray, liquid and ointment form. Caution: If you are sent home with a prescription for cortisone, or your dog has simply been given “a cortisone shot to stop the itching,” your dog may ultimately be worse off than before if the true diagnosis happens to be an unrecognized case of Sarcoptic mites!

Be patient, yes, but be persistent, too. If your dog is itching, scratching, and licking, or if the skin and coat are not healthy appearing, you and your dog need to diagnose what type of skin problem it is before treatment is started.

A key point to remember is this: There is no cure for allergies! All we can do is avoid the food, material or parasite that is triggering the immune response, desensitize the patient through immune modulation techniques, and assure that the patient is eating a high quality diet. There are a number of products that address allergies in dogs and allergies in cats that may help: Hypo-Allergenic Food, Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo, Hypo-Allergenic Dog Treats, Hypo-Allergenic Cat Treats, etc.

6. Neurogenic Dermatitis

This group presents a major challenge to diagnose and treat. As a veterinarian I know I have classified a number of cases as “Neurogenic” simply because I have ruled out all the other categories! There’s nothing left but to blame the poor dog for all that incessant licking and chewing at itself! The most commonly seen form of Neurogenic Dermatitis is called Acral Lick Dermatitis, Lick Granuloma or canine neurodermatitis. Read more about lick granulomas by clicking here.

Although rarely seen in cats, in the dog something creates an impulse to lick at a specific area of skin. Characterized by persistent, obsessive licking and chewing at the target area, lick granulomas may have an unknown origin.

Commonly, though, most cases have a suspected cause such as boredom, separation anxiety, frustration, confinement, or even a minor physical origin such as a tiny abrasion that captivates the dog’s interest. The dog persists in traumatizing the area, which is usually confined to an easily accessible forelimb, carpus (wrist) or ankle area, and never allows the skin to heal.

Repeated episodes of self-mutilation, partial healing, then repeated trauma and healing, result in severe and disfiguring scarring. Deep bacterial infections are common and permanent skin damage results. A specialist in dermatology and a behaviorist may be the dog’s best friends in these cases of Neurogenic Dermatitis.


In summary, keep in mind that any dog with skin problems or whose skin and coat are not in optimal health needs attention because that dog surely does not feel well. Be patient with your veterinarian because each category of “Dermatitis” must be evaluated, categories need to be ruled out, and a final diagnosis needs to be established BEFORE proper, effective treatment begins. Expect laboratory work, skin scrapings and blood tests to be required to reach that diagnosis.

If your dog is suffering from Chronic Dermatitis, all is not hopeless. Be persistent in trying to identify the cause and then pursuing a treatment. And do not be bashful about requesting referral to a specialist in veterinary dermatology. These experts work with severely affected patients on a daily basis and can be an excellent resource for assistance to those poor dogs that seem incessantly to itch-and-scratch-bite-and-lick. Resolving these cases invariably puts a smile on the veterinarian’s face, the pet owners face, AND the dog’s!

By T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
310 919 9372



How Coconut Oil Cured My Dog’s Itchy Skin

Coconut oil cured my dog’s itchy skin condition, thanks to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also tastes great, and I share my dog-treat recipe to prove it!
These days, most people have heard about the natural goodness of coconut oil. But up until a few years ago, I never realized it could be beneficial for humans and dogs alike. Sure, I knew plenty about the health advantages of products such as safflower and olive oils. But then coconut oil entered my life in a hugely helpful way, thanks to our rescue pup Maizy.
Due to her hound heritage, Maizy is what I like to call a serial sniffer. She dissects the dog parks every spring, following the scents of squirrels, rabbits, other canines, and who knows what else. Often, she gets so enthralled with this activity that she barely responds to her own name
One day, Maizy’s investigations led her straight into an overgrown thicket of weeds and wildflowers … and that led to an angry-looking rash along her ears and neck. The medication used to treat her skin left it overly dry, and I guess overly itchy as well. Because she scratched, and scratched, and scratched. After several sleep-deprived weeks of this prickly, pervasive problem — and after trying a series of medicated ointments and shampoos, to no avail — we finally visited a holistic vet.
His suggestion surprised me. Treat this issue from the inside out, he said. That meant easing up on carbs and grains to minimize the yeast on Maizy’s skin. It also meant feeding her a serving of pure, virgin coconut oil every single day, and rubbing some onto her skin and fur. We tried this for a few weeks, and WOW. Not only did Maizy lose that yeasty, bag-o-Fritos “doggie” smell, her skin cleared up and her coat looked glossier than ever. Of course, the moment our other rescue pup, Grant, smelled the coconut oil, he wanted in on the action. So now they both reap coconut oil’s tasty benefits on a regular basis.
According to integrative pet care expert Dr. Karen Becker, natural virgin coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiprotozoal properties. That means it can reduce yeast and fungus on contact, both inside and out; and it’s also very healing for irritated skin, hot spots, abrasions, and cracked paws. The “virgin” variety typically starts with fresh coconut meat, so it’s not subjected to chemical processes such as bleaching or filtering. This makes it safe for dogs, cats, and humans to ingest in appropriate amounts.
My vet cited Dr. Becker’s work, explaining that coconut oil is rich in a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) called lauric acid. This substance is most commonly found in the milk of mother mammals, and one of its primary functions is to boost the immune system. That’s why coconut oil is so effective at helping to clear up bacterial and viral infections. Like pumpkin, it can also soothe digestion and upset stomachs. And just as the vet predicted, it’s given both my dogs super-soft fur.
It’s always smart to start small when feeding your pup anything new — especially coconut oil, which my own dogs would gobble up without proper supervision. At my house, we began with about 1/4 teaspoon and increased gradually to 1/2 teaspoon  per dog, once or twice per day.
You can also:
  • Drizzle a bit over your pup’s food, because coconut oil liquefies easily at room temperature.
  • Mold a small blob around pills or tablets your pet might be otherwise tempted to refuse.
  • Rub a little between your palms, run it over your pet’s fur, and brush lightly. Work the rest into your own hands for serious skin-softening benefits.
And here’s an easy recipe for a no-bake treat that’s a huge hit with Grant and Maizy because, naturally, it contains … coconut oil. You can refrigerate these yummy bites or freeze them and thaw as needed. They’re even safe for pet parents to sample. Ummm … not like I would know anything about that.
Nutty Nuggets*
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons organic pumpkin or applesauce
  • 2 to 2 3/4 cups oat, spelt, or quinoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Powdered peanut butter (optional)
  1. Place coconut oil, peanut butter, pumpkin/applesauce, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir until well-combined.
  2. Begin adding flour about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Keep adding until dough mixture is well-combined and pliable. If the mixture becomes too stiff to work with, add a little more pumpkin or applesauce.
  3. Spoon up the mixture in portions that are roughly the size of mini-meatballs. Shape these into a round or oblong pieces by rolling between your palms.
  4. If desired, finish by rolling each piece in dry, powdered peanut butter to coat.
  5. Arrange finished treats on a plate or pan lined with wax paper.
  6. Refrigerate for at least one full hour before serving.
*A word of caution: Always check with your vet before feeding your pooch anything new. This is especially true if your dog already struggles with health issues such as kidney problems or pancreatitis. While natural and healthy, these Nutty Nuggets are high in fat and should be given as very occasional treats. They aren’t meant to replace your pet’s regular diet.
by Marybeth Bittel