The Importance of Your Pet's Skin Health
Many individuals do not understand just how important skin health actually is to themselves, much less their pets. The skin actually has many responsibilities that it must fulfill to ensure good overall general health.
- Absorption: Skin is responsible for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, in addition to allowing the diffusion of certain molecules such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.
- Protection: The skin is the first defense mechanism of the immune system.
- Sensation: The skin contains many nerve endings that are sensitive to pressure, touch, vibration, injury, heat, and cold.
- Evaporation Control: The skin is not only a barrier to keep harmful agents out, but is also a barrier ensuring that fluids are not lost.
- Heat Regulation: The skin has a role in the regulation of heat within the body.
- Communication: Often times, the skin is used as a means of expression. It is a way that is often used to determine mood, attractiveness, and overall physical state.
- Excretion: The skin is necessary for the process of sweating, which is one way the skin can regulate temperature.
How Skin Works
The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin that is clearly visible. The cells that are responsible for the production and maintenance of the epidermis are known as melanocytes, keratinocytes, and Langerhan's cells.
The epidermis is formed by through mitosis that occurs on the innermost layers. These new cells replace the old cells, effectively pushing the old cells outward. As these cells are pushed, they are filled with keratin through a process known as keritinization. This is the reason that skin cells are constantly shed.
Skin and the Immune System
The skin is the most obvious component of the immune system. The skin effectively acts as a barrier, preventing access of harmful agents into the body. Healthy skin that is not damaged is generally impermeable to harmful agents such as viruses and bacteria. The skin is also comprised of specific cells, known as Langerhan's cells, responsible for the secretion of small amounts of antibacterial substances. It is these secretions that are responsible for the timely death of many harmful agents. Skin that is not properly cared for can leave your pet more susceptible to infections.
When skin is not properly cared for, this can leave the body in a state that is more susceptible to infection by pathogenic organisms. The dead skin that is produced on a daily basis must be cleaned away. When the skin is dirty in excessive amounts, the skin is more easily damaged and it becomes more difficult for the body to secrete the natural antibacterial compounds. If you are concerned about the skin care of your pet, consult your veterinarian.