your companion animal’s skin healthy and coat shiny can prove
challenging. Even though you might already feed a quality food, and
brush and shampoo regularly, there’s more to this area of pet care than
you might think. Veterinarians will tell you that the condition of the
skin can be a good indicator of a pet’s overall health and nutrition
status. That’s why wise pet parents should monitor their companion
animal for any of these tell-tale signs …
• Dry, flaky skin or a dull, brittle coat
• Oily, foul smelling skin or a matted coat
• Thin coat, excessive hair loss or red, blotchy skin
• Excessive scratching (especially, seasonally)
The skin is the largest organ in the body and requires proteins and
other nutrients. It’s not surprising that subtle changes in the amount
of nutrients supplied to the skin can have a noticeable affect on its
Fortunately, many pets eat complete-and-balanced pet foods that meet the
nutrient profiles specified by expert panels and regulatory bodies.
However, there are other factors that can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Pet foods that are improperly stored in the home, or in warehouses for
many months without climate control prior to entering your home, can
have reduced nutrient availability. Deficiencies may also arise when an
animal is unable to digest, absorb or utilize nutrients as a result of
genetic, environmental or stress factors, or some diseases. Even if your
companion animal eats a nutritious diet, her skin takes a backseat to
the rest of her organs … in essence, only receiving the “leftovers”.
Therefore, I believe it’s important to supplement with additional
nutrients, to help your furry one achieve skin and coat health.
Here are the top five essential nutrients you should consider for
optimal skin and coat health:
1. Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
The importance of balanced supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids cannot
be stressed enough. Omega-3 fatty acids play a structural role in cell
membranes, help resolve inflammation and are vital for maintaining
normal skin structure and function. Omega-3’s are fragile molecules and
prolonged storage or improperly balanced vitamin E can deplete levels of
fatty acids in food and supplements. Signs that your pet may be
suffering from a deficiency of these nutrients include a dull, dry coat
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vital to the maintenance of skin cell
membrane stability and protection against free-radical damage. Also,
vitamin E interacts with many nutrients while in the body, including
omega-3 fatty acids, to promote optimal skin health.
Zinc is critical for regulating different aspects of skin cell
metabolism. Its presence is involved in skin cell replication. Zinc is
essential to the body’s response to disease and inflammation and is
involved in the metabolism of another crucial skin nutrient, vitamin A.
Signs of a zinc deficiency include: a dull, dry coat; localized redness;
hair loss; and scales that appear on the legs, around the mouth or on
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is involved in skin cell growth and repair. It is essential to
maintain the integrity of the skin barrier and the proper growth of hair
and nails. Vitamin A also supports the production of healthy oils in the
skin. Both deficiency and excess vitamin A can lead to skin problems
such as hair loss, poor coat quality and increased susceptibility to
bacterial infections, which is why the correct balance of vitamin A is
so critically important in the diet.
5. Vitamin B
The B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, d-pantothenic acid,
niacin, pyridoxine, B12 and biotin) work in concert with the nutrients
mentioned above to coordinate energy metabolism and synthetic processes.
B vitamins are water-soluble, and therefore can’t be stored in the body.
The balanced daily intake of these vitamins is vital to overall health.
Dry, flaky dander and hair loss are the signs most consistently
associated with B-vitamin deficiencies.
An important take-away from this discussion is that all these nutrients,
while each important in their own right, work in concert with one
another, and with other nutrients in the body. That’s why it’s
incredibly important that these nutrients be provided in a balanced,
holistic way. As you can see, some of the deficiency symptoms overlap
(e.g., a dull, dry coat and dandruff could signal a deficiency of any or
all of these nutrients). I urge you to choose a balanced skin-and-coat
supplement, and to work with your veterinarian to ensure that your
companion animal is receiving all the nutrients he or she needs to
Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place for
Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM