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Description of Problems:
The origin of any skin problem for a dog begins with the harsh chemicals inside the dog shampoo.
The purposes of these chemicals are:
1. Thicken the liquid so production is cheap and they can make big profits
2. Consumers expect the liquid to be sticky and thick
3. Create foam and bubbles as consumers think more bubbles=cleaner
(Actually more foam = lesser cleaning effect, we have been indoctrinated wrongly by advertisements and cartoons!)
But these chemicals damage the hair and irritate the skin.
This damage may not happen within 1 wash. It could happen over time within 1 year.
Very often dog owners' dogs face skin problems after 1 year old. Hence the dog shampoo companies can get away with this.
And so the itching starts! The pain, irritation, burning sensation or discomfort makes the dog irritable.
If the pain or the itch is near the body and the head, then the dog will lick and scratch that area a lot.
The scratching actions lead to open wounds or skin being opened such that bacteria and fungi can enter.
The licking introduces water from the saliva, and hence the bacteria and fungi will grow.
If the pain or the itch is near the eyes, then the dog will cry or tear excessively.
So near the eyes, the hair will be wet and wetness plus tear stain from the eyes will encourage the red brown yeast to grow. It is important to note that the reddish brown hair is actually yeast that already grows within the hair. Common misconception is that the brown hair is dirt or tear stain entrapped in the hair, wrong. If we look from the microscope, the truth is more menacing. It is fungus.
If we do not change anything, this vicious cycle will go on and on.
Our recommended solutions
As from the diagram, we can see the root cause of this mess is the shampoo. Hence if we switch just the shampoo, the root cause is removed and over time, the dog will heal.
But for some situations where the fungus has progressed so much, we need to hasten the healing and stop the cycle with other sets of measures.
To minimize and prevent the licking, we use a cone or Elizabeth Collar (the Brits call it the E-collar, not to be confused by what Americans meant by electronic collar).
To minimize the impact of the nails creating wounds on the skin, we use dog mittens or socks.
Then we want to cut off the water supply to the area. Because water promotes fungi growth.
So we blow dry our dogs very thoroughly after washing. Do not miss the armpits, chest, paws, behind the ears and the underbelly. Many dog owners and sometimes even the so-called "professional groomers" miss these areas. These areas are slow to dry and need more time to get dried than the coat/backbone of the dog.
For the red brown yeast near the eyes, we want to use a soft tissue to gently dab to absorb the water for at least 3x a day. Without the water supply, the yeast will die.
They may come back again if the area is wet for too long because they leave behind spores. And spores are very tough seeds of the fungus that survive many things over millions of years. So it is good to maintain the area to be as dry as possible.
For fungus that are on the body, usually they are deep within the skin and cannot be removed physically.
But for fungus that are on the hair near the paws and the eyes, it is possible to cut them with scissors and shavers. This is to limit their growth and reproduction.
Our Journey with Fungal Infection - Betsy (Border Collie mix Corgi)
Betsy had a fungal attack on the underbelly, mostly near the armpits and the thighs.
We use Silky, paid more attention to the drying routine and always check with a soft tissue that these areas are always dry. We applied baby powder on her skin to ensure no water is on its skin.
We also put her on a cone initially because she loves to lick those areas when she felt itchy.
The saliva is indeed making the matters worse as the fungus now gets ample water supply to grow and to thrive.
You can see at the top left picture, she loved to lick because it is itchy there.
The whole healing process from top pic to bottom take somewhere between 6-8 weeks. We cannot tell for sure how every dog will heal. But it is seldom solved in a matter of days. And we had to religiously check with soft tissue to ensure that the area is kept dry.
Silky helps in making Betsy not lick or scratch too much. But even if you use Silky, and you do not dry properly, this will still happen.
Fungus may clear on one good day, then its spore will grow when there is water supply.
Our Journey with "Tear Stain Problem, Damaged Hair, Flea, Sensitive Skin" - Mimi (Maltese)
Mimi is a maltese and naturally has a white fur. However as she grows up, we notice the red brown "dirt" that we thought was a "tear stain". Aside from the main topic of "tear stain problem", she also had dry and damaged hair and always scratched a lot. We went to vet and Mimi was termed as having "sensitive skin". We were given the medicated shampoo. And there was also the flea problem so we seldom bring her outside of the house.
Her tail had fungal infection, similar to Betsy's, as a result of her constant licking. And we found out that many maltese owners as well as shihtzu owners have the same problem.
We discovered by ourselves by microscope analysis that the reddish brown deposits are not tear stain. The truth is more menacing: it is yeast! And this yeast constantly pulls water from the eyes, causing Mimi to cry and tear excessively.
Just as we described in our recommended solutions above, we did these 3 easy steps:
1. Use Silky
2. Cut off the reddish brown hair with scissors/shaver
3. Dry off the area with soft tissue 3x a day
As we cut off the brown hair, and as the hair grows, the brown gets limited to that length only.
It takes roughly about 3-4 weeks before the whole tear stain problem is finally solved.
The first thing that a panic dog owner would do is to go to the vet. Then the vet would do any or in combination of these
1. Label the dog with "sensitive skin", "eczema", "genetic disorder" and other medical names that are frightening
2. Get your dog on their dog food diet, usually packaged dry kibbles
3. Get your dog on "medicated shampoo", which still contains same set of ingredients anyway
4. Give antibiotics
5. Give steroids, antihistamines, painkiller
6. Give the dog a cone to be worn
7. Give creams and lotions
Why these approaches have limited effect
1. Labeling the dog having these conditions is misinterpreting the real root of the problem. There is a yeast there and the big contributor of this yeast is clearly the shampoo. It is not the fault of genetics if a harsh chemical is applied on the skin every time. Yes, some dogs have thicker skins and some dogs have thinner skins. So some dogs can tolerate the harsh chemicals for longer period of time. Even so, the dogs with thicker skin will have negative reaction and show the sympotoms later on if we apply harsh chemicals on its skin over a long period of time. It is no wonder that most of dog owners that develop skin problems are usually 1 year and above. The harsh chemicals took time to do its damage and the dog shampoo companies could get away with this.
2. Diet change-We agree that some dogs are allergic to some foods, especially chicken. About 20-40% of dogs are allergic to chicken and chicken eggs from our observations. But this rash will appear uniformly red all over the body. They do not display patches by patches on the body. So again, we have the wrong solution to the wrong problem because of wrong diagnosis of the root cause.
3. Medicated shampoo- it just contains anti fungal and anti bacterial properties in bigger amounts. The rest of the chemicals are the same. So in the short run, the fungus can die off. But in the long run, the fungus will adapt to it and become stronger. Plus, we have not even addressed the harmful chemicals in the shampoo
4. Antibiotics- They kill bacteria and some fungus. Same as no.3
5. Painkillers- They switch off the alarm of the body. Great that the rash may seem to subside, but the fungus is still there
6. Cone to be worn: Ok at least this is the logical thing to do. But there are other problems that we have to tackle to break this vicious cycle.
7. Creams and lotions are basically fats and they must use a preservative called "parabens", otherwise the cream will spoil and turn smelly. The most common paraben is methylparaben and ethyl paraben, but there are other derivatives. Parabens, as it is a preservative, will block the normal biological processes of the skin too. Thus the skin is now not able to heal. We are dealing with dog's skin and not a plastic coat. A dog's skin is a group of living cells and applying a preservative on the skin is just...wrong!
Note: Yeast is a group under the Fungi kingdom. Forgive us if we have confused you between yeast and fungi. A yeast is a fungus but a fungus may or may not be a yeast.