Itchy dog nightmares and raw feeding.

My husband and I are lucky enough to have two doggies; Tanzi & Leo. You can read all about the fun we had with overcoming Leo's separation anxiety in another blog but this time, I want to share with you the itchy skin journey we have been through with our girl, Tanzi.




Tanzi is our brindle, pound pup special. We adopted her from Dogwatch when she was somewhere around 4 months old (?) and she is now just over six years old. At a guess, she is a staffy, shar pei cross but it's anyone's guess really! At about two years old, we started to notice excessive itching, back twitches and her little tiny ears were putting off a smell. Eventually this developed into a seriously uncomfortable dog who was constantly itchy and scratchy, not to mention owners who got hardly any sleep because of her scratching most of the night :(


At this stage we had started feeding Tanzi specific, skin sensitive diets; I was working at a vet clinic at this point so I had access to information regarding skin diets and veterinary knowledge of skin and ear issues. Food trials with dog biscuits are hard as most of the time we couldn't see the effects (if any) the food had until 12 weeks down the track, which unfortunately meant trialling many very expensive diets, just to discover we were no better off than the last one. We made our way through every grain free, veterinary and prescription diet and we still weren't at a place where Tanzi's itch had been relieved. We found that with some diets, her skin was still itchy but her ears were much clearer, and vice versa but nothing really made her feel good all over.


The only thing that helped was steriods; prednisone to be exact. Those little pink tablets seemed to be the miracle cure. All itching stopped and everything seemed great. We initially had her on them for just spring and summer, but then, what we thought to be seasonal, environment allergies just never ended and the three monthly prednisone doses turned into all year around. It was after she had been on them for about a year that we began to notice her weight gain and her temperament changing slightly. Upon more research, we discovered that this magical little pink pill actually comes with major side effects, if given ongoing. The thing with the prednisone is that it suppresses EVERYTHING; the things you want to suppress (i.e. the itchy, scratchy) but also the systems that keep the body fighting the bad stuff (i.e.immune system & organs).

It was time to find another solution. So at this point we believed we had tried every diet so we looked into other pharmaceutical options. There was a brand new medication out, designed for dogs and cats with skin sensitivities. We tried it, it worked great. The thing with that though was that with Tanzi being around 27kg at that point, she was right in between doses for mg/kg so we were needing to give her two pills every morning and every night which sounds do-able, right? Until you learn that each tablet costs a little over $2.... With many more years of life ahead of her, to be entirely honest, we simply couldn't sustain that.

While we were wallowing in our defeat, my husband shoulder tapped me and said "please can we give this raw feeding thing a go". Most of you will think, 'yeah, okay - no biggie at all' but for me, who went through Vet Nursing school being taught raw feeding should never be dabbled in and that this taboo had a huge black cross next to it, this was a big step. Now, I don't recommend googling raw feeding for dogs as it is very overwhelming!! After doing just this, I enlisted in the help of a friend who was also doing raw feeding for her two doggies. She was a huge help and we got started on our raw feeding journey for Tanzi and Leo just got to enjoy the ride.


To cut a long story short, we started by neutralising (good old smelly tripe!) and then started adding in different proteins to see which worked well (and which didn't) for Tanzi. They both loooooooved it (we couldn't feed one dog one thing and the other something different so Leo joined the raw feeding journey too) and we very quickly found their coats were immensely shinier and as we fine-tuned the proteins, there was no more itching and her hair started to grow back on her belly and groin!! Not to mention we knew within a week if a protein was agreeing or disagreeing with her, rather than the 12 weeks as we had previously experienced. We now feed her a sole raw-food diet and find she does best on a duck, heart & tripe diet. We are careful with the treats we give her but try and go as simple as possible, with only one protein source per treat.



Things haven't always been super smooth sailing since making the transition though. We are still occasionally fighting a bit of a battle with her ears but she is much better off than she was. We think the ear thing is a combination of sensitivities but also structure; she has these tiny, little ears that don't quite fit her head properly and that the vet has to use cat otoscopes to look down the ear canal, so unfortunately, I think the genetic engineering gods were working against her there....


I am not a vet, nor by any means an expert in the raw feeding field but feel free to get in touch if you are interested to know any more detail of our journey with this or if you have any questions. But one last point to make is that every dog is an individual - what works for Tanzi, may not work for other itchy dogs. I just want you to know there are different options for different dogs and I hope every owner who can relate to this story finds their doggies best option!




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Head to Tail is a proud Canterbury business, owned by Veterinary Nurse, Nicole Cusiel. 

Nicole is one of the most qualified pet care providers of dog walking, puppy classes, behaviour consulting and other services in the market. She has more than six years clinical veterinary nursing experience, working with dogs, cats, rabbits and all types of animals.

She holds a Bachelor of Science (Biology), with a focus on animal behaviour papers, from the University of Canterbury.

She also holds a Diploma in Canine Behaviour & Psychology and has a Certificate in Puppy Training and is continuing to develop her skills and knowledge through correspondence training. 

All of Head to Tail's team members are also veterinary nurses or have many years experience of working with animals.

The best care for your best friend!

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