Nutrition For Healthy Pet Skin and Coats

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There are plenty of pet food brands that advertise their brand of cat or dog food for a healthy coat, but how do you really know which will provide the right nutrition for your pet? As a responsible pet parent, you want to feed your dog or cat food that helps them thrive. Looking for a few key items on a pet food label might help you know if the food you choose promises a certain benefit, but choosing a dog or cat food for a healthy coat isn't the only way to make sure your pet's skin and coat are in top shape. Learn how nutrition, environmental factors and grooming can all help keep your pet looking sleek and feeling perky.

Orange kitten scratching ear with bag leg.

Itching to Find the Perfect Food?

Maybe your dog or cat has already shown signs of sensitive or itchy skin, or maybe you are looking to change to a food that promotes all-around good health, skin and fur included. Whatever the reason, be careful not to focus on just one or two key ingredients or needs. Some pet parents look for high levels of fat in a cat or dog food for a healthy coat. Although ingredients like fish oil are common in marketing cat food for a healthy coat, for example, your furry friend still needs a good balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates. The truth is, well-rounded meals will already protect most cats and dogs from skin and coat troubles. Beauty really does start on the inside.

If you do make a habit of looking at the ingredients and nutrients profiles on your bag or cans of food, here are some of the more common nutrients that help promote healthy skin and coats in pets:

  • Omega-6: This nutrient is a fatty acid that helps give shine to your pet's coat, as well as help replace essential oils in their skin.
  • Omega-3: This nutrient, typically found in ingredients like fish oil can help relieve itchy or inflamed skin as it has an anti-inflammatory effect to it. This ingredient is common in pet foods formulated for dogs with allergies.
  • Biotin: This B-complex vitamin helps promote healthy tissue growth.
  • Copper: This nutrient helps maintain hair color and prevent hair lost as well as keep the coat soft and shiny.
  • Vitamin E: This vitamin is a natural antioxidant that helps protect your pet's skin against free radicals that could be damaging to skin cells.

However, if you've been feeding your pet a quality food with a good balance of nutrients and you still notice drier skin, dandruff flakes or dull-looking fur, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian. Your pet might need a change in food or ingredients. However, never make any changes without first talking to your vet.foo

The first thing to look for in a pet food to promote healthy skin and coat is looking for food that is of high quality made with high-quality ingredients. This alone can help promote a more luxurious and luster-filled coat. Another thing to consider is whether or not your pet has sensitive skin. This could be caused by things like food or environmental allergies, so it's a good idea to talk to your vet to determine if this could be one of the reasons why your dog or cat is scratching a lot. Your vet can help you find the right food that is formulated for sensitive skin or even prescribe a therapeutic food specially formulated to help promote healthier skin and coats.

What Does a Healthy Coat Look Like?

What signs should you look for in a healthy coat? For starters, you should get to know your pet's unique characteristics. Be sure to do a head-to-paws check daily for both cats and dogs, and brush your pet at least once a week. For dogs, brushing more often (even daily) helps spread natural oils throughout the coat and untangle mats. Cats (and your carpet) also benefit from reduced hairballs and the cuddle time they get from being groomed.

Cats are devoted self-groomers, so an unkempt coat may be a sign your kitty isn't feeling her best. Arthritis or dental problems could be preventing her from reaching certain places, and a dull, greasy or matted coat can also point to diabetes or a lack of essential nutrients. A stressed cat can also over-groom and end up pulling out tufts of her own fur.

Your dog doesn't bathe as often and may need a little more help to look his best. The American Kennel Club has a great dog breed descriptor that can help you determine coat characteristics and clarify the maintenance needed for your dog's fur. What's normal for one breed may not be for another; a husky might need daily brushing, while your dachshund could be happy with a quick bath. Dogs with thinner, light-colored skin, like pit bull mixes, can also be more susceptible to skin irritations like sunburn, insect bites and seasonal allergies, notes Cuteness. If you have a lovable mutt, reading some guidelines for caring for short and long hair can help establish a baseline.

When brushing your cat or dog, keep an eye out for:

  • Clumps of fur falling out or bald patches
  • Dry, red or irritated skin
  • Sores or rough areas
  • Greasiness
  • Little black or white specks, which could be ticks or flea eggs

If none of these things appear, your pet likely has a healthy coat. However, if you do notice any of those symptoms, it's time to look deeper to determine if your pet's coat issues are nutritional or environmental.

Orange and white long-haired dog being brushed.

Still a Head-Scratcher? Talk to Your Vet

If you notice your cat scratching her ears or your dog constantly licking himself, it's possible something in their surroundings is causing the irritation. Fleas and ticks are a common reason for an itchy pet, as are seasonal allergies and food intolerance. As soon as the itching starts, you should also take an inventory of any new cleaning products, air fresheners, colognes or soaps that you've introduced into your house and could be irritating your pet.

Your vet will be able to look at the condition of your pet's coat and skin and identify whether any problems are coming from allergies or another environmental cause. According to the Banfield Pet Hospital, they may even do a light skin scraping and inspect the sample under a microscope to look for bacterial infections, fungus and mites. Any skin issues caused by a fungus or an infection could take a few months to clear up and may require antibiotics or special shampoos.

If your vet rules out all outside factors, they may recommend reviewing the contents of the current food you are using. They might suggest ruling out an allergen, or supplementing your pet's nutrition with a missing vitamin, antioxidant or fatty acid. Since nutrition plays a key role in skin and coat health, it is important to keep your dog or cat on any special meals your vet recommends. Even if the condition improves, do not go back to other food without first discussing it with your vet. Don't spend months or years searching for a dog food for a healthy coat; get your pet to the vet early and often to manage any skin and coat issues.

You are the start of a healthy future for your pet, inside and out. Through good nutrition, proper grooming and regular vet checkups, you can keep your dog or cat's coat and skin healthy and vibrant for years.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

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