The skin is your pet’s largest organ and the first line of defense for their body. Your pet’s skin needs proper care and nutrition to maintain its barrier function and protect the internal body from the environment outside. The skin also contains tens of thousands of hair follicles in every square inch, which are responsible for continually growing and replenishing the fur that makes each of our four-legged friends so soft and lovable.
Here’s what can you do to help keep them looking and feeling their best at any age.
Healthy Skin & Coats Start From Within
Healthy skin and a soft, shiny coat can say a lot about your pet’s overall well-being. Because the two are closely related, strategies to care for the skin and coat often go hand-in-hand. While a regular grooming routine is essential for removing dirt, debris, and odors on the surface, it’s at the cellular level where your pet’s skin health and coat quality are most profoundly impacted.
The skin is a complex network of trillions of specialized cells that need the resources to grow, function, and replicate properly. Some resources can come from inside the body, but most need to be replenished, and often, in order to keep up with the body’s continuous metabolism and cell turnover. That’s why a healthy diet is essential to provide the nutrients that cells need to keep normal processes running smoothly. But not all foods support skin and coat health equally.
What should you look for in a food for skin & coat health?
Optimal skin and coat health nutrition include ample protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Without the proper amounts of these nutrients, the skin can become easily damaged, dry, and flaky; and your pet’s fur can become brittle and shed excessively. By providing the body’s necessary tools to maintain and repair itself, you can support your pet’s skin and coat from within.
- Animal-Based Protein is a rich source of amino acids, which are the building blocks your pet’s body needs to repair cells, synthesize the keratin, collagen, and elastin, and produce pigmentation that gives your pet’s coat its characteristic color. Good animal-based protein sources include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and organ meats.
- Omega-3’s, 6’s, and 9’s are families of healthy fats that have important roles in your pet’s cell membranes and are precursors to important immune modulators that play a vital role in their immune, hormonal and inflammatory responses. Marine fish oils (like salmon, menhaden, sardine, herring, mackerel, or anchovy) are excellent sources of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. Certain animal fats and plant oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as chicken fat, canola oil, and safflower oil. Omega-9’s make up a large portion of the fatty acids found in Palm and Coconut Oils.
- B Vitamins such as biotin (B7) help the body break down glucose, fatty acids, certain amino acids for cellular energy. Together with niacin (B3) and choline, pantothenic acid (B5) helps protect the skin by promoting the synthesis of skin fats, while riboflavin (vitamin B2) helps build proteins in the skin and offers protection against environmental damage. Good sources of B vitamins for dogs and cats are organ meats, fish, and yeast.
- Vitamin A is required to form and repair normal, healthy skin cells and the production of sebum, which is the natural oil that helps protect your pet’s outermost layer of skin. Good sources of Vitamin A are organ meats like liver, fish, and eggs. Vitamin A can also be added in a supplemented form to complete and balanced pet foods.
- Vitamin E protects skin cells from free radical damage as an antioxidant. Free radicals are produced by cells through normal metabolism, pollution, and sunlight and contribute to the aging process and cellular death. Good dietary sources of Vitamin E include supplements (alpha-tocopherols) and many plant oils and grains.
- Zinc is a co-factor in more than 100 enzymes, with cell replication, nutrient metabolism, and cell membrane structure roles. Zinc is also involved in the transport of Vitamin A into the blood and collagen and keratin synthesis of new skin cells and wound healing. Red meats such as beef, lamb, and organ tissues are naturally rich in zinc. This mineral is also commonly added to dog and cat foods in a supplemented form as Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, or Zinc Amino Acid Chelate.
- Iodine is required only in very small amounts by dogs and cats but has an important role in the production of thyroid hormone. The thyroid regulates your pet’s growth, development, and metabolic rate, including cellular turnover rate and hair regeneration and loss. Sea kelp is one of the richest natural sources of iodine, but this mineral is also commonly added to dog and cat foods in supplemented form.
- Copper is an essential mineral that participates in the synthesis of melanin, a pigment that helps give your pet’s hair and skin color. Copper is found naturally in organ meats and shellfish but is commonly added to dog and cat foods in the form of Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, or Copper Amino Acid Chelate.
- Selenium plays a vital role in hair growth and helps to reduce cellular damage caused by free radicals. Dietary sources of selenium include organ meats, shellfish, eggs, and the supplements Sodium Selenite and in some diets for dogs, Selenium Yeast.
Providing a balanced diet with proper ratios of essential nutrients, using skin-supporting nutritional supplements, as well as keeping them hydrated with plenty of fresh water, are great ways to help your pet maintain healthy skin and a beautiful, shiny coat. Always consult your veterinarian to determine the best plan for your pet’s healthiest skin & coat regimen.