Maintaining the Health of Your Pet’s Skin and Coat
An important part of maintaining a healthy dog is ensuring he or she has a healthy skin and coat. A healthy coat will be soft and relatively smooth even on short or wired-hair breeds. The coat should be shiny but not greasy, and it should not have a strong odor. Your dog’s skin should be smooth and soft with no flaking, redness or signs of irritation. It should be neither too dry nor too oily and have no areas of hair loss.
Signs of skin disease include the following:
• Red patches, spots or pimples
• Scabs, crusts or thickened skin
• Hair loss
• Flaky or scaly patches
• Bad skin odor
• Itching, scratching, licking or rubbing
There are several different factors that may contribute to change in your pet’s skin or coat and some pets may experience one or more of these at one time.
• Allergies: Your dog may be allergic / intolerant to either dog food or environmental factors like dust, pollen or mold.
• Parasites: Fleas, lice and mites can all cause mild to severe skin irritation.
• Hormonal Imbalances: Dogs with too much or too little of certain hormones are prone to skin problems.
• Infections: Bacterial and fungal infections can cause skin problems or be the result of excessive scratching that damages the skin.
Treatment and Prevention:
Nutrition is foremost. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy coat is nutrition. Hair is mostly made of protein. The better your dog’s food, the better your dog’s coat/skin.
Foods that contain High-quality protein as its main ingredient provide the building blocks to repair damaged skin. Feeding unique protein sources, such as venison or duck, can also help reduce reaction in dogs with a food allergy or intolerances to more common ingredients.
A good diet also should include clinically proven antioxidants, such as multi-vitamins C + E and beta carotene. These support a strong immune system and protect it from cellular oxidation caused by free radicals.
Essential fatty acids provide key building blocks for healthy skin and a glossy coat. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are often added to commercial diets, but may also be supplemented using fish oil or flax-seed oil.
Check skin and coat for fleas and ticks regularly. Not only do these pests contribute to poor skin conditions, they can also lead to other health conditions such as anemia and several tick borne illnesses.
Keep pets groomed regularly. Different breeds will require more grooming, but all dogs should be brushed regularly and bathed occasionally with a hydrating shampoo designed for a dog’s skin and coat (a mild baby shampoo may be used as well). If your pet has problem skin or allergies, medicated shampoos are available.
Consider allergies. While allergies tend to affect our sinuses, allergic reactions in pets typically manifest on the skin. Notice if your pet(s) skin or coat changes with the seasons, coming into contact with plants/grass/detergents or with certain grains or proteins. This often requires patience and trial and error, but understanding what is causing an allergic reaction can help prevent skin and coat problems before they start.
Some conditions may require medical attention. If you suspect allergies, a bacterial or fungal infection, hormonal imbalance, or see fleas/ticks, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian.