Updated: Aug 27
'My Dog is always scratching, and her skin becomes so red and inflamed whenever she runs through grass - why? How can I help her?'
I am asked this on an almost daily basis, and in MOST (not all) cases this is usually caused by an overgrowth of Yeast within your dogs body. Yup Yeast, in this case the exact strain of Candida that all humans carry in our bodies. Candida can become very aggressive is fed the right food and given the right environment to grow. We all know it as Thrush, that horrible, itchy infection that can drive us all crazy, so much so we scratch ourselves to the point of breaking the skin allowing infection to set in.
Why don't we feed Starchy Grains or Starchy Veggies to our dogs? Around 150 strains of yeast are thought to utilise starch as a sole carbon source for aerobic growth. In short what this means is starch is food for yeast! Starch, or amylum, is a complex carbohydrate that exists in many foods, including grains, vegetables, and fruits. Sources of starch are primarily: maize, tapioca, wheat, rice, corn,mpeas and potatoes.
The other thing Candida requires is warmth and moisture. And where does this occur? In between the toes, around the 'armpits' and groin areas. The ears and around the eye areas are also perfect breeding grounds, especially if you have a fluffy dog with hair that irritates the eyes making them water. Warm and wet, with a steady diet of starches that turn into sugars = yeast overgrowth!
A great visual example can be found in the simple process of making a loaf of bread. You need flour (starchy carbohydrate), sugar (the process of digesting the carbs in our dog's guts produce sugars), yeast (not the same strain as Candida but they behave the same way), water and warmth. BOOM! It's not the same, but you get the idea!
There are a few telltale signs that will help you figure out whether your dog has a yeast infection, leaky gut or allergies.
Here are other signs of yeast infection you’ll want to look for:
Chewing or licking the feet
Dark rusty-red hair between the toes
Dark rusty-red hair under the eyes (often seen on lighter colour coats)
Black skin (often with hair loss)
Bad smell and greasy hair (seborrhoea)
Ear infections or head shaking
Speckles on the underbelly
Hair loss on the tail and upper back
Greyish or rust colour around the genitals
It’s important to know these signs … because the longer your dog’s yeast infection goes untreated, the harder it will be to resolve. Yeast or candida is an opportunistic fungal pathogen but a normal part of the gastrointestinal flora and genital tracts. The issue is when there’s an overgrowth. If we are tackling an overgrowth, the last thing we want to do it continue feeding it and as you’ve now realised, starch is a great food source for yeast!
Sadly, there are a colossal number of dogs that suffer with their skin, whether seasonal, or 365 days of the year. So, what on earth is going on?
Short version: ALL Kibble and many commercial diets are very high in carbohydrates.
Before we dive into some of the possible other reasons why your dog is constantly scratching and biting himself, check out our Video on YouTube - I give you 5 LIFE HACKS TO STOP THAT ITCH using simple home remedies. If you find it helpful remember to LIKE and Subscribe so you get all the latest information about all things Dog!
Let’s take a look at the skin in a little more detail, what it is, what its function is and what can go wrong.
The skin is actually the largest organ of your dog’s body. It consists of three major layers:
The Epidermis – this is the outer layer of skin, the protective layer. The Dermis – this layer supports and nourishes the outer layer. It provides strength and elasticity. Here you will find collagen fibres, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles. Here you will find cells and compounds involved in inflammatory response and therefore allergies. The Subcutis –this in the innermost layer of the skin, here you will find fat and muscles. Subcutaneous fat provides insulation, padding and storage for reserve energy.
Not only does the structure of the skin prevent water and electrolyte loss to help maintain body homeostasis, but it forms a protective barrier which helps protect against infections, parasites, and the elements. In dogs, their hair also forms a barrier, therefore hair health is synonymous with skin health, and a dog’s coat type can actually influence skin status.
What Is The Gut Barrier?
In cases of leaky gut, it becomes permeable to larger proteins or pathogens. In short, things from the gut get to places they shouldn’t really be. In leaky skin, the tight structure hasn’t formed, and so potentially harmful compounds can get through the skin layers and go to places they shouldn’t be either.
When ours, or our dog’s immune system senses non-self-compounds (those that have gotten through its first line of defence), it mounts an inflammatory response resulting in swelling, itching, pain and so on.
If we consider the itchy dog, they gnaw at their paws because they are itchy, this then compromises the skin structure causing further inflammation and so the cycle continues.
The other way in which the skin serves to protect is through its microbiome.
Not surprisingly when there is dysbiosis in the microbiome of the skin, conditions like atopic dermatitis often ensue. Dysbiosis simply means out of balance. There are good bugs, and bad bugs, and the aim is to keep them in balance. The environment has a huge impact on the microbiome of the skin. There are noted variations in skin microbial communities between those living rurally and those in urban areas. There is also an increase in chemical use associated with urban living, which also influences the composition of the microbiome. Diversity is significantly reduced with the use of detergents and antibacterial cleaning products. Potentially pathogenic taxa is also increased as there are fewer good guys to keep the bad guys in check. This is why skin issues like acne or dermatitis are deemed western diseases; they simply just aren’t found on the skin of indigenous tribes or on that of individuals from non-industrialised societies. Unnecessary use of antibiotics also affects the microbiome, along with excessive use of grooming products and of course nutrition. Is my dog in pain?
Some skin issues can also be a result of pain. Some dogs will nibble and chew at areas they find painful. It’s essential to understand the root cause of any issue; symptoms are simply a sign of something else. This constant licking or nibbling leaves a lot of saliva, making the area wet, and often warm. Not only is there pain in the area, but yeast is invited in to join in the misery.
Gut Health and Nutrition for Skin Health
There is a clear link between the gut microbiome and the skin microbiome so gut health is also important to skin health. The gut is a key player in immune responses, so if your dog is suffering with food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis or leaky gut, then these issues can certainly show up in other places in the body, particularly the skin.
Not only that, if there are malabsorption issues, then the skin won’t be getting the nutrients it needs to thrive.
The skin is the largest organ in the dog’s body and with good reason. Sadly, a colossal number of dogs suffer with their skin for a range of different reasons. It’s essential to identify the root cause of any dysfunction but being mindful there is a clear link between gut and skin health and in fact symptoms involving the skin can be indicative of other issues or pain in the body.
HALP! Is there anything I can do to get rid of the Candida overgrowth? YES!
Cut out ALL starchy carbohydrate ingredients - NOW
Add into their bowl lots of leafy green cooked vegetables
Add in seafood, preferable lovely oily fish like sardines
Help their immune systems fight off the yeast. Our gorgeous Skin Soother Meal Supplement will kick start the healing process, support their immunity, and boost their vitamin and mineral intake.
At proper levels, Candida is a fungus that aids in nutrient absorption and digestion. But when Candida overproduces, it can become a serious concern that leads to a wide variety of negative and serious health problems. In fact, invasive Candidiasis is a leading cause of mycosis-related death in the United States, and Candida overgrowth has become the hallmark sign for most autoimmune diseases today.
A yeast-free Candida diet is one of the best ways to reduce and eliminate Candida symptoms—and the addition of Spirulina to an anti-candida diet can help even more! Multiple animal studies have shown that Spirulina is an effective antimicrobial agent, particularly for Candida. Specifically, Spirulina has been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which in turn inhibits candida from overgrowing and thriving in your body. Additionally, the immune-strengthening properties of Spirulina will also help the body to eliminate Candida.