Treating Dog Scratching With Fatty Acid Supplements

All too frequently people look to the wrong solution when they see their dog scratching. Their immediate thoughts leap to fleas or dirt so their assumption is that the dog needs a bath. If the dog is suffering from dry skin or skin allergies, a bath could make the problem worse. The solution is oten simply adding fatty acid supplements to the dog's diet.

Identify the Source

Fatty acid supplements will not resolve all triggers for scratching. It is important to identify the source before treating. Fleas, ticks, ringworm and other more severe triggers cannot be treated by fatty acid supplements. Skin ailments that can be treated with the supplements are:

  • Dry skin
  • Skin allergies
  • Food allergies

What are Fatty Acids?

Fatty acids are specific types of polyunsaturated fats. The two main classes of fatty acids important to dog health are omega-3 and omega-6 acids. The classifications are based upon the molecular structures of the acids. Dogs can produce some, but not all, of the fatty acids they need. The fatty acids that they cannot produce are called essential fatty acids and must be obtained through their diet.

How Does it Work?

Arachidonic acid is stored in cell membranes and released when the cell is damaged. It then combines with certain enzymes causing inflammation and itching. Essential fatty acids combat this reaction because the essential fatty acids combine with the enzymes, making them less available to bind with arachidonic acid, reducing the inflammation and itching.

Choosing a Supplement

It is important to use the correct fatty acid supplement to treat the source of scratching in order to achieve successful results. It is important to note that use of these supplements increases the dog's need for antioxidants so Vitamin E should be supplemented as well. You can find a number of dietary supplements in pet stores and health food stores. Read the labels to find the appropriate combination for your dog's condition. Keep in mind that the quality and concentration of the supplements vary widely so if one doesn't work after several weeks, switch to one with a higher concentration.

  • Allergies should be treated with high amounts of EPA, DHA, GLA and Vitamin E. These can also be effectively used in conjunction with antihistamines.
  • Skin disorders and dull dry coats benefit from supplements high in LA, Zinc and folic acid.
  • It is important to remember that treating with fatty acid supplements takes time to see results. Because your dog is taking these in through his diet, it takes time for the body to process and absorb the nutrients.
  • These nutrients also need time to build up in the system to an appropriate level and repair the existing damage.

Whether it's a dog skin rash or dry skin caused by too much bathing, supplementing your dog's diet with essential fatty acids can reduce the need to scratch and bring his skin and coat back to healthy condition.