by Dr. Isla Fishburn (reprinted with author's permission)
Canine wellness is about physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health of your dog. In order to maintain balance in your dog as a WHOLE organism, we have to observe and analyse several aspects of your dog’s life from before birth to present day. Over the next 12 days of wellness I will introduce you to some of the concepts of wellness, what these include and what we need to consider on a daily basis to optimise the health and longevity in our dogs.
Today, we are going to look at HEALTHY SKIN.
When we look at external and physical problems that a dog may have, it is much easier to see the symptom. As a result, we are more inclined to focus on the symptom, rather than the cause, and put all manner of lotions, potions and other substances on or in to the dog to try and alleviate the issue.
However, as you will hopefully now know (because I keep going on about it) your dog is a WHOLE organism and every part of its being is connected to itself. Thus, something like a skin issue (unless from physical injury) is the dog’s body showing us a physical signal that there are imbalances in your dog on some level. These may be a result of emotional, physical, mental and/or spiritual imbalances.
The skin of any animal is a living, breathing organ (and the largest metabolic organ of the body) and so we must treat the skin in the same way as we would treat any other part of the body, holistically. A dog that has healthy skin is a sure sign that the dog is of good health and wellness. This doesn’t mean to say that a dog who does not have dry, inflamed, flaky, itchy or bald patches of skin is healthy, every dog will display imbalances differently and some dogs will have higher tolerances or more subtle signs. You have to observe your dog and learn what your dog’s skin and fur usually looks like, feels like and smells like. For a dog that already has skin problems, you may also want to take photographs of the skin on a regular basis and keep a visual diary of how and when the skin may improve or appear to be worsening and why you may think this is; does it change seasonally, depending on the time of day, depending on what you feed the dog, or when s/he has exercised, etc.? For example, when my dog Tunkasila was unwell a few months ago, her hair did not fall out, she did not have weeping hotspots or anything of those extremes, but because I spend time massaging my dog’s skin, noticing any changes that may be hot or cold to touch, observing if hair and coat patterns may have changed or simply noticing how my dog’s skin and fur feel, I did notice that her skin had become dry, cooler to the touch and that her hair was dry and had lost its shine. In this case it was because my dog had developed physical imbalances as a result of an illness.
Remember that because the parts that make up your dog are greater than the whole, signs of unhealthy skin are not just due to physical imbalance, but can also be emotional, mental or spiritual too. For example, a dog that spends most of its day stressed, anxious or fearful may develop dry, itchy or inflamed skin as a result of emotional imbalances manifesting themselves as physical imbalances. Of course, let’s not forget about toxicity here too, which I discussed in day two of canine wellness. If you are putting something in to your dog’s body that is going to create toxicity (this may be highly processed food, a pharmaceutical drug, chemically altered water, etc.), then your dog’s skin, as the largest metabolic organ on the dog’s body, will support its immune system by throwing out some of that toxicity through the pores of the skin. This can be just one example of why your dog may have unhealthy skin.
It is also worth noting that what you put on your dog’s skin is just as important as what you put in your dog. Like I have just said, toxicity can be a cause of many imbalances. Thank goodness there is a growing interest and easier access to more natural products that we know are safe to put on the dog’s skin and provide healing. Yet, there are still many who are not aware of the harm they can be doing by putting something on their or in to their dog because it is a synthetic chemical, which there are thousands of in existence today.
So, you have to be aware that whatever touches your dog’s skin may also create harm for him/her. Next, we can move to the environment and assess if there is anything there that may cause further imbalance to your dog. For sake of keeping it short, by environment, I mean the home environment rather than all the many environments that your dog may be exposed to (but it is worth having a think about all of these). In our house I burn sage as a room cleaner and I make up a spray of essential oils with antibacterial properties to clean my floors and work surfaces. In so doing, I hopefully minimise the potential for my dog’s skin to be exposed to synthetic chemicals in the home. So, have a look around your house and see how many synthetic products your dog and his/her skin may be exposed to. I would also advise that you think about removing any plug-ins or automatic room sprays you may have in your home (we use natural salt lamps around our home, which are very cleansing and therapeutic. I also invite you to lick a salt lamp that has been switched on for a few hours. The surge of electrolytes entering your body is great for healing. I am not often unwell but if I am one of the natural healing products I use is licking a salt lamp). Even if, on the rare occasion, I am applying a perfume, I always make sure this is not sprayed in the direction of where my dog may be, because the spray may go over my dogs skin or simply irritate their nose.
Of course, your dog may have unhealthy skin because they are ageing and unable to exercise like they used to. Exercise (but not too much of it, as I mentioned yesterday) is important for circulation and shedding of old skin. Equally, perspiration is very effective at eliminating toxic chemicals from your dog’s body.
Another sign that your dog may have imbalances can be seen not just in what your dog’s skin looks like but how it smells and how your dog, in general, smells. This includes what your dog’s breath smells like. Body odour is very reflective of the body’s internal state of toxicity or imbalance. Thus, the more you support your dog’s body with correct diet and nutrition, a balanced lifestyle (all that I have discussed throughout the twelve days of wellness) and the use of natural care and healing products, the more you will notice a difference in the quality of your dog’s health, wellness and vitality. Learn to observe your dog’s skin and get an idea of how it feels and smells. Feel for any hot or cold areas, changes in coat pattern and develop an understanding of what is healthy skin for your dog.