Your Pet's Healthy Skin Requirements
You may have heard that the skin is the largest human organ. The same is true for your pets. It follows that such a large organ has many functions: protection from invading microorganisms and the elements, heat regulation, storage of water, fats, and vitamins, and controlling evaporation. It also fits that such an important organ would have many requirements to function correctly. The following is a collection of skin care requirements to keep your pet both healthy and happy.
The skin is pretty self-sufficient, but one thing it absolutely can not do without is proper nutrition, which involves the inclusion of protein, fats and fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in diet.
- Protein: Protein is by far the most important nutrient for skin health. The keratin that makes up the protective outer layers of skin is made almost entirely of protein. The majority of the hair shaft (which, let's face it, is all over pet skin) is composed of protein. Protein deficiency can cause such conditions as hyperkeratosis, epidermal hyperpigmentation, flaky skin, loss of hair pigmentation, and increased hair fragility, all of which prevent the skin from performing its many functions.
- Fats and Fatty Acids: Fats often get a bad rapport. While low fat diets may be beneficial to humans, pets need the fats that come along with meats. Fatty acid deficiencies can result in flaky and coarse skin, alopecia (hair loss), and itchy skin. Anything that causes itching can also leave the body susceptible to secondary infection as skin cells are destroyed through itching.
- Vitamins: Pets, like people, require a vast collection of vitamins in their diet. Pets who don't get enough of vitamins like riboflavin, biotin, B vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin D can develop flaky and reddened skin, loss of hair pigment, loss of hair, and itchy skin.
- Minerals: One of the most vital minerals in pet skin health is zinc. Zinc is used by enzymes which maintain and create skin cells. Without it, skin can become hardened or inflamed.
Preventing Allergic Reactions
Dogs and cats can have allergies just like people do, reacting to such things as pollen, mold, chemicals, dust, and even fleas. But instead of sneezing and watery eyes, dog and cat allergies manifest through itchy skin. And as mentioned previously, itchy skin is never good. Itching destroys skin cells and transfers bacteria, leaving pets vulnerable to the development of secondary infections. You can help your pet with allergies by paying close attention to what allergens set them off and avoiding them.
Paying Attention to Environmental Factors
While environmental factors may be responsible for allergies, they can also cause problems for pets with no allergies. Excessive moisture from swimming or staying out in the rain can create what are known as Hot Spots, skin lesions which can easily become infected. Thistles and other seeds can get stuck in pet hair, contributing to the formation of mats, providing the perfect homes for insects. Be sure to periodically check your pet's coat and skin thoroughly. You can avoid the infections which can be painful and irritating for your pets simply by providing a well-balanced diet and plenty of attention.
Photo Credit: Bruno_Caimi