This is the time of year when many German Shepherds with skin issues seem to have flare ups. Now that you've noticed brittle fur, bald patches, itchy skin and/or ears, or skin discoloration; what should you do?
The first thing that you should do is talk to your veterinarian. You cannot treat a problem if you don't know what the problem is. Your issue may be something easily curable, like mange mites. Or it could be something that requires major changes in diet and a life time of medication, like serious allergies. To narrow down what course of action you need to take, make an appointment with your vet before making any decisions.
After you have a diagnosis, you can look for the root causes of your German Shepherd's particular ailments. Ear and skin mites will be no sweat to take care of with medication provided by your vet. An allergy panel may find that your dog is allergic to something in it's diet or environment.
Sometimes it's not about what you need to add to your routine or German Shepherd's diet, but what you need to eliminate from it. That said, grain free foods are one of the top recommendations veterinarians will make to curb food allergies. If you switch to a grain free diet, you may be one of the lucky people to solve all of your problems by making a simple change. Do not be afraid to change diets. If what you're feeding is not working for your dog, look into and experiment with different things.
Next up, if you bathe your German Shepherd often with harsh shampoos, you may be drying out their skin by stripping the natural oils from their skin. Symptoms of overly dry skin are brittle coat, red skin, itching and dandruff. Years ago it was recommended by most knowledgeable German Shepherd breeders and enthusiasts to only bathe your dog 2-4 times a year. Luckily, with newer, gentler shampoo formulas and homemade shampoos, you can bathe your dog more often and give your nose a break. Look for formulas that are "All Natural" and don't contain alcohols or sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate, sodiumdodecylsulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium salt sulfuric acid, A12-00356, Akyposal SDS, Aquarex ME, and Aquarex methyl. These agents strip oil from the coat and should be avoided.
If you've seen your vet, your dog doesn't have mites and you have changed your diet and bathing habits, try oil! Cheap dog kibble brands with questionable nutritional values use a lot of bacon grease and other lipids (oils and fats) to make their foods more appetizing and to help your dog's coat look shiny and healthy. I'm definitely not advising that you feed a low quality kibble, but you can learn from them. If you're feeding a high quality kibble or homemade food but still have skin issues, try adding healthy oils and fats. Fish oil is a great food additive. It contains omega-3 and some contain omega-6 fatty acids. Healthy fats are important components in the body’s production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help with a lot of important functions in the body, but most importantly for healthy skin and coat, they reduce inflammation and can eliminate red, itchy, inflamed skin. Try to find a fish oil that has added omega-6 to get the most bang for your buck.
We hope these tips help all of those who have dogs suffering from skin allergies. Don't forget to share this with friends, family and other dog owners of all breeds!