Pets’ itchy skin can be result of too much corn in diet

The big, black lab happily greeted me at the door on a recent visit to a friend’s home. Slathering me with slobbery kisses and depositing short dark hair on my tan pants, I couldn’t help but notice the dandruff flakes scattered all over Molly’s dull, ebony coat.

After the joyous introduction, Molly plopped down on her bed. While my friend and I chatted over a cup of coffee, our conversation turned to Molly, who appeared to be quite uncomfortable. The tags on her collar constantly jingled from her incessant scratching. Her hind leg was busy trying to rid the skin of the pestilence plaguing her body.

My friend mentioned that the scratching recently had increased, particularly after she had changed dog foods.

We looked at the ingredient label on the bag of food, which revealed the probable culprit for the persistent scratching. While the main protein source was lamb meal, the fourth ingredient was corn.

Corn is a delicious vegetable, especially a fresh-roasted full ear, dripping with butter. But it can cause an array of disorders in pets.

Corn is hard to digest, contains a large amount of sugar and is low in vitamins and minerals, yet it is full of fiber and water. It often can contribute to irritating skin and ear disorders. Corn, wheat and soy are the top three foods you want to avoid feeding pets.

Providing a nutritious, well-balanced diet will ultimately benefit your pet’s whole body. Within a few weeks of providing good nutrition, you should notice a major change in mental and physical characteristics. The dull coat will begin to shine, the dandruff flakes will dissipate, and the itching should diminish.

However, determining the best food for your pet can be as difficult as choosing from the vast array of pet foods available on the market. You may need to try different foods, eliminating grains or protein sources to discover the best product for the overall health of your pet. Read the labels carefully to ensure only wholesome ingredients are listed, and watch for signs, good and bad, that will show how your pet is adjusting to the food. You know your pet better than anyone else!

An insufficient diet may not be the only contributing factor to your pet’s itchy skin. We live in a very arid climate and without moisturizing, even my own skin resembles a lizard’s back. It would be ludicrous to apply lotion all over your animal, but there are other ways you can help stop the itch.

Bathing your pet will help cleanse its body and remove dead skin cells and hair. A gentle, oatmeal shampoo can be soothing to dry, itchy skin. A good bath every four to six weeks is recommended, no matter what time of the year.

While bath time might be ideal for our canine companions, it is not so much fun with the cat! Cats have a built in comb on their tongues, but often a good brushing by owners will help stimulate skin cells while removing dead hair.

Whether you hire the services of a professional groomer or prefer doing it yourself, keeping your four-legged friend brushed and clean will promote its overall health.

Another option I recently read about pertains to the benefits of giving pets fish oil. According to an article found at, the omega–3 fatty acids found in fish oil can improve the coat and skin while reducing inflammation because of allergies. Fish oil helps regulate the immune system, improving compromised systems while calming overactive ones that have produced allergies.

The outward, visible signs often provide clues to issues developing within your pet’s body. Intuitive pet owners, observing physical and behavioral transformations, should determine any recent changes that might contribute to the malady.

Preventative measures, such as a well-balanced diet and keeping your pet clean and brushed, will help deter problems from developing. Always consult with your veterinarian if extreme symptoms persist. 

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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