Psoriasis is mostly known as a human condition, but it can affect our furry friends as well. Although its most visible symptoms are itchy, scaly skin, psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disorder that affects the entire immune system. Therefore attempts to cure the disease from the inside out may be more effective than topical applications to treat the skin disorder alone.
Dogs with psoriasis outbreaks get itchy, sore, scaly, reddened skin. This happens because T-cells, which normally mature over a period of months, do so in just a few days. Consequently the dog has more than are required, and the body reacts to try to get rid of them. This causes scaly, raised patches that flake off in “plaques.” Because the symptoms can look a lot like those caused by eczema or seborrhoeic dermatitis, you should head to a vet to get a proper diagnosis before designing a treatment plan.
Sunlight helps both human and canine sufferers of psoriasis. The sun’s ultraviolet rays destroy T-cells, leading to a more natural pattern of growth in the skin. Dogs who are exposed to ultraviolet-B radiation show reduced symptoms of psoriasis. If your pet has symptoms, try taking him out for his walk during the day when the sun is shining. Do so every day to achieve consistent results. This is especially effective with scalp psoriasis, common in dogs.
Immune System Boosting
Because psoriasis is an immune system issue, boosting the dog’s system can help alleviate some or all of the symptoms. Canine immune systems are bolstered by additions of omega-3 fatty acids, common in foods such as fish and herbal supplements such as evening primrose oil, as well as vitamin C and zinc. Whole grains, fiber and natural foods such as raw meat also are good additions to the diet. Avoid immune-busting additives such as meat by-products, cornmeal, preservatives or wheat. Always check with your veterinarian before changing your dog's diet.
You can apply topical agents to your dog’s skin or wash him with substances that reduce the inflammation and itching of psoriasis. Salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, can help both when applied topically or given orally. Potassium permanganate can help when added to baths or applied to skin. Sulfur works well for psoriasis of the scalp, as does coal tar contained in lotion, shampoo or ointment. Always contact a vet before using any medications on your animal.
Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.