Although your pet can’t hold a conversation with you about his health, the state of his coat may be telling you that something is wrong. A shiny, lustrous coat is a sign of good health and vitality. Conversely, if your pet’s coat looks dry, flaky, and unkempt, this means something is not right. In fact, when you take your dog or cat to the vet, one of the first things your vet will look at in order to assess your pet’s health is the condition of his skin and fur. Read about common skin problems in dogs here. And, in cats here.
What are the Functions of my Pet’s Skin and Coat?
Protection – The skin and the coat together form a barrier to protect a pet’s internal organs from external threats such as sharp objects, environmental stressors, and chemicals. The skin is also the site of nerve endings that assist a pet in sensing pain, pressure, heat, and cold.
Immunity – The skin forms an integral part of a pet’s immune system. If the skin’s resistance to harmful bacteria is compromised, infections and potentially serious diseases can occur.
Thermoregulation – A thick, healthy coat provides an insulating layer of fur and helps keep a pet’s temperature properly regulated.
Hydration – A pet’s skin is critical to maintaining good hydration. Dogs and cats are not equipped with sweat glands, so too much water loss caused by unhealthy skin can cause health issues.
Nutrient storage – A pet’s skin also serves as a storage site for essential nutrients.
What’s the Best Way to Keep my Pet’s Skin and Coat in Good Condition?
Absolutely nothing affects the condition of your pet’s skin and coat more than what you feed him. A good diet rich in the right nutrients plays an essential part in keeping your pet’s skin and coat in top condition. These nutrients include:
Omega-3 – This fatty acid is essential to keep the skin and coat looking healthy, decrease inflammation, and lessen the amount of shedding.
Linoleic Acid – This is a key nutrient for maintaining a healthy coat. A deficiency in linoleic acid shows itself in dry, flaky skin, thin and discolored hair, dandruff, increased shedding, and poor healing.
Biotin and B vitamins – These play a critical role in aiding linoleic acid function in the epidermis and dermis.
Zinc – This mineral is especially important in maintaining healthy cells in the skin and coat. In addition, zinc helps lessen the amount of water loss through the skin. Pets with low levels of zinc have a coat with a dull appearance and are prone to hair loss and skin infections.
When to Take Your Pet with a Skin Problem to the Vet
If you notice that something doesn’t look right with your pet’s skin or you’re concerned about the way your pet’s coat looks, take him to your vet. Skin conditions that won’t go away are usually indicative of something else going on in another part of the body such as an immune system weakness, thyroid problem, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or a hormone imbalance. The earlier the issue is diagnosed and treated, the sooner you will notice the difference in your pet’s skin and coat.
Emergency Skin Problems
Of course, if your pet somehow has an accident resulting in a serious skin wound, seek emergency treatment immediately. Another common reason for a visit to a pet emergency center is an allergic reaction, symptoms of which show up as redness and hives on the skin. If you live in or near Columbia, South Carolina, bring your pet to CVETS. We have emergency equipment at the ready to deal with your pet’s problem.