Five Essential Nutrients for Skin and Coat Health

Five Essential Nutrients for Skin and Coat Health


Dr Jane BicksKeeping 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 overall condition.

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 and dander.

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.

3. Zinc

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 the eyelids.

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 shine.

Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place for companion animals,
Dr. Jane Bicks

Comments (14) -

  • Walt Gadberry

    2/23/2011 10:27:15 AM |

    My precious 14 pound girl kitty has scratched her face below her eye so bad that it is bleeding.  I thought she was doing pretty good for a while.  I had been swabbing the wounded area with disinfectant I got from the local vet, mixed with some anti-itch lotion.  And keeping her nails cut as short as I dare. I thought it was healing OK.  But this morning I find that she has scratched it all open, worse than ever.  The vet gave her shots, but I don't think that's helping either.
    She gets Life's Abundance food and supplements already.  Should I give her some of the krill oil caps that my wife and I are taking?

  • Danielle K Bingham

    2/23/2011 10:49:46 AM |

    This is an excellent article. I do have a question, however. My Newfoundland (a show dog) has a gorgeous coat, but since moving from FL to NC, I noticed that the climate resolved some skin issues but created others. Far fewer hotspots (thank goodness!), but his skin seems dry and a little flaky. I've increased his fish oil supplements and he gets Vitamin E, but I hesitate to add either more zinc or Vitamin A, because of the dangers of overdosing. How does one determine if either of those need an increase or decrease? Thanks.


    2/24/2011 9:12:08 AM |

    Would like to know answers to the above questions.
    Thank you.

  • cindy rogers

    2/25/2011 7:43:35 PM |


    I use your dry catfood.  Every winter, it gets dry and cold and the cats end up with dry skin.  Is there anything I can give them to eliminate this.  They don't itch, the dry skin just appears and no matter how much I brush them, there's always more.  I have the same prob with dry skin, but I can use body washes and lotions to help my skin.

    Any suggestions on what will help?  Lacey is sensitive to smells and cannot tolerate perfumed stuff.  Thanks.  Cindy, Lacey, Rochester, Suzie, and Daisy (Daisy is a bunny and has no skin problems just a respitory problem).

  • Lewis Turner

    3/1/2011 2:34:07 PM |

    It is my nature to view most pet related issues from a retailer's perspective, because I've spent so many years in that field.  This article is perfect as an example of one to print and have available for customers who are genuinely interested in the facts.

    For those currently in the pet retail arena, be it a store or as a dealer for Life's Abundance, having access to this quality of material not only boosts your personal confidence but further legitimizes the product line.  My only caution is to first be sure your customer wants this much detail before your monologue begins.  Let the customer ask.  Then you're much more likely to have an interested listener.

  • Janet Roberts

    3/6/2011 3:08:57 PM |

    Since we started our dogs on Life's Abundance food and supplements 7 years ago, we have not had any problems with itching or hot spots (thank goodness!)  I definitely believe giving our precious companions quality ingredients helps them avoid these problems.  Also agree that specific questions should be addressed to your own vet, as they know the pet's history and do an examination in person.  Thanks Dr. Jane!

  • Debbie Franklin

    3/7/2011 12:56:00 PM |

    Great information Dr. Jane (as always) We have a puppy that has been having flaky dry skin. Their previous owner switched their dog food from Life's Abundance to a grocery story brand. :-( We are already seeing a difference with putting her back on Life's Abundance Dog Food, but also are adding the Skin & Coat supplements. Can't wait to see her skin and coat improve! Thanks again for such wonderful products.

    Debbie Franklin

  • health care and management

    8/24/2012 10:36:02 PM |

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    12/6/2013 12:39:41 AM |

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  • yvonne ostby

    10/29/2014 2:22:01 PM |

    My dog licks himself excessively.  Now the hair is gone.  There is brown stain all around his mouth and where he licks.

  • Ann kirby

    8/18/2017 9:34:54 PM |

    When is your formula from FRR coming out? Are you selling it as separate food from your All Stages or are you incorporating it into your All Stages dog food?

  • Dr. Jane

    8/21/2017 12:08:56 PM |

    Thanks for your question, Ann. Our new baked foods will be additions to our current line-up, not replacements for any of our other much-loved recipes. While we are not ready to announce a definite launch date, we can share that the first test batches are now in the works! Every day brings us closer to an official announcement about the production schedule for our baked foods, so we thank you for your patience! Please check our Facebook page for periodic updates on this exciting new product offering at

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