Why has my pup developed itchy skin?

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Question: Why has my pup developed itchy skin?

As the level of humanisation of dogs increases, it appears the age at which an increasing number of pups develop skin irritations reduces, with many developing serious skin sensitivities within the first few months of life.

The natural response is to immediately look for factors that could be causing the irritation…. food sensitivities, grasses and other environmental allergens as well as the food the pup is eating. But it is not necessarily the fault of any of these inputs. In many cases, it is simply an inherited response from the mother. This is not to say the problem is genetic. Rather, it’s simply the end result of the birth process.

One of the most significant preparations in the mother prior to the commencement of the birth process are changes to the vaginal microbiome. It is during the pup’s transition along the birth canal that the actual inoculation of the pup’s gut microbiome commences. On arrival at the outside world, the new-born puppy then licks, snuffles and sucks its way around mum until it latches on a teat. During that first exploratory journey, additional microorganisms, mostly from the mother’s gut microbiome through faecal residue, further inoculates the new-born with a microbial load similar to the mother’s gut microbiome.

If this natural process is interrupted by well-meaning human attendants, a large portion of this natural seeding for the pup can be lost. Excessive intervention during birth ultimately presents a major obstacle to the correct development of the new-born’s microbiome. Of course, this assumes the mother has a viable and balanced microbiome of her own, and we often see pups with developed sensitivities simply as a result of the mother passing on her own compromised microbial population.

Chemical interference and pollution are also major obstacles to the development of the new-born’s microbiome. Young dogs and antibiotics are a dangerous mix, and should be avoided in all but the most dire circumstances.

Once the pup finds a teat and gets its first drink of mother’s milk, a further seeding of the pup’s gastrointestinal tract occurs courtesy of the milk microbiome and the specific presence of nutrients in the milk that appear to exist only to feed the developing microbial population. Once again, allowing this natural process to occur without interruption is essential to the future well-being of the pup.

The next major stumbling block in the developmental process for the pup relates to the feeding program that is implemented once the mother can’t supply sufficient milk and the transition to solid food commences. There appears to be as many variations to the introduction of solid food as there are people on the planet! The only satisfactory feeding program that fully supports the ongoing microbial development of the pup, and consequently its overall growth and development, is a correctly formulated complete food. Anything less simply adds to the likelihood of issues further down the track, and is one of the major contributors to puppy gut related issues such as diarrhoea.

In summary, the management of whelping and puppy rearing is without doubt the most significant event in the life of the dog. A properly developed and managed program sets the new puppy up for life, whereas failures in this area can foreshadow a lifetime of problems. Skin irritations are just one of the ongoing issues that can afflict dogs with incomplete or compromised microbiomes as the microbial population that inhabits the body is inextricably involved in all metabolic processes throughout life. Consequently, it pays to get it right in the first place, as it is devilishly difficult to rectify a bad start later in life.


About the author… Bill Wiadrowski is a consulting nutritionist who has worked in the field of performance animal nutrition for over 50 years. His latest development is the LifeWise range of next generation foods that are rapidly gaining acclaim for their ability to repair common gut and skin sensitivities issues in domestic canines.


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