How healthy is your pet’s skin and coat?

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Your pet’s skin and coat are good indicators of just how healthy they are.  If your dog’s skin appears to have changed colour, it could be an indication that he or she is getting sick. In addition, if your pet is sick, you’ll be able to know by their skin and coat. The skin is an organ and it helps to protect the body from infection, caustic substances, ultraviolet light, and dehydration. Healthy skin depends on the health and function of other organs in your pet’s body.

The skin of both dogs and cats are sensitive, and a skin disorder can be very unpleasant and painful for them.

Dogs do not sweat like humans.  Their hair follicles open up to release heat and close to conserve heat.   Any foreign particle has the ability to agitate the skin and cause inflammation and redness which is most commonly accompanied by itching, which can lead to lesions and open wounds.

Your pet’s diet and their environment are key factors for maintaining a healthy skin and coat.   Many pets suffer from chronic skin problems which can be attributed to genetics or allergens related to processed foods or other environmental allergens like pollen or weeds.

Do not ignore the following signs:

  • Persistent scratching
  • Excessive licking and grooming
  • Biting at the skin and coat
  • Swelling under the skin
  • Increased shedding/bald patches

If you see any of the above with your pets then they may be suffering from one of the common diseases and conditions noted below:

Allergies            Bacterial infections

Hot spots or acute moist dermatitis

Fungal infections        Food allergies

Contact dermatitis       Autoimmune diseases

Treatment of skin disease may include steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, topical drugs, anti-fungal drugs, special shampoos, dietary supplements, or even surgery.  Drugs such as steroids and antihistamines may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms of itchiness and inflammation in pets, however, these drugs can come with unwanted side effects and the long-term effects are not known.  A pet that is given steroids for a long period of time can result in infection, diabetes and other conditions because these drugs work by suppressing the immune system.

Avoiding the allergens, treating the symptoms or de-sensitizing your pet can control skin allergies.

To catch health issues early, we recommend that you check your pet’s skin regularly for bumps, rashes, scabs, flakes and foul odours.  Does your pet’s coat look dull or is some of their hair falling out?   If so, please understand that this is not normal and it’s time to investigate further as these are good indicators that your pet has skin problems.   Further, maintaining your pet’s skin and coat will not only make them feel and smell better, it will also help them stay healthier.  Regular skin and coat maintenance is critical to their longevity.

Skin Care for Dogs

There are many things that you can do that can contribute to the health of your dog’s skin and coat and the key ones are noted below.

Inspect:  After your dog has been outdoors and especially if he’s been in heavy brush, inspect his coat. Check for dandruff, which closely resembles human dandruff. Dog dander can be caused by parasites and skin infections that require veterinary care. Fleas, ticks, and other parasites are more common in warmer weather. For more information about treating pets with fleas, read this: https://myglobalpetfoods.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/spring-brings-warmer-weather-april-showers-flowersand-fleas/.

Brush: Brushing your dog’s coat removes dirt and dead hair. Brushing also helps to stimulate the skin and distribute natural oils throughout the coat, and can prevent skin irritation. Hair shed that is not removed can easily form mats which can be painful and in severe instances, affect your dog’s heart.

We recommend that you research how to care for your pet’s coat specific to their breed. For example, some dog breeds have a “double coat” (an outer or guard coat plus an undercoat). You may unintentionally neglect the undercoat, resulting in a painful mats condition that could require professional attention. Minimize potential coat problems by understanding your dog’s needs.  The Healthy Pet Care Specialists at Global Pet Foods stores can assist you with this.

Using the right brushes and combs for your dog’s hair type is also very important.  Brushes and combs that are appropriate for short-haired dogs are different for than those needed for dogs with medium and long coats.  Brushing times will vary as well.  For short- haired dogs, it’s recommended that you brush them at least once a week while daily brushing is recommended for long-haired dogs in order to prevent knotting and matting. If your dog is uncomfortable with brushing, gradually introduce the brush beforehand and let them get used to the brush by smelling it or playing with it.  Start slowly and be gentle.

De-matting is uncomfortable for dogs so we recommend that you visit your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods stores to learn more about this before you start.  Many Healthy Pet Care Specialists at Global Pet Foods stores are groomers or have groomers on-site who are  professionally trained and know how to minimize the impact of on your pet.

Bathing: Groom your dog prior to bathing.  Your dog’s skin is very sensitive and requires specific skin care products.  Please do NOT use products that are intended for humans. It’s important that you use products that are formulated for dogs as human products may irritate their skin further.  Do not scrub your dog to the point where their body oils are completely removed because these hair oils act as a protective barrier from disease and irritation.  We suggest that you use an eco-friendly dog shampoo.  Bathing your dog  at least once a month, especially if they play outside a lot, will help stave off many health problems and make your dog more pleasant to be around.

NOTE: Groom your dog prior to bathing in order to remove loose hair and mats that can trap shampoo against the skin and cause irritation.

Diet:  Building a healthy coat and skin for your dog begins from the inside out. Diet plays a substantial role in the health, look, and feel of your pet’s fur and skin.   It’s essential for your dog’s good health that you feed a food that is complete with quality protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.  A diet that contains essential fatty acids is imperative for your dog’s optimal health.  Both Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are required to help nourish the skin and coat.

Various dog breeds have different types of coats – including single hair coats or double fur coats – made up of multiple types of hair fibres.  Biotin is a natural health product for pets that can help to strengthen keratin in skin and fur.  It is part of the B-Complex vitamins that is essential for many body systems, but has also proven to  help grow healthy and luxurious fur.

We see the benefits and the health improvements firsthand when pets are transitioned to a healthier diet – whether it’s a more natural food,  a limited ingredient food, or freeze-dried and raw food – particularly if these animals suffer from allergies.

There are some other natural health products that will also contribute to a full, healthy, and naturally shiny skin and coat. Treats formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients are also a great way to reward dog and care for his coat at the same time.  TIP: Minimize treats to avoid weight gain!

Supplements or Herbal Remedies:  There are many safe and natural herbal and homeopathic remedies for dog suffering from skin problems.  Supplements are ideal in caring for a dog’s coat or other health problems, such as arthritis. Althaea officinalis root (marshmallow) is an excellent and well-known remedy for soothing the skin. Melaleuca alternifolia can be used externally for promoting good skin health and will also keep the skin clean.  Homeopathic remedies such as Ledum and Apis have excellent soothing properties and are particularly useful in soothing inflamed and irritated skin, or allergic reactions to triggers.  Please speak to our Healthy Pet Care Specialists at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store who can recommend and help you select the appropriate products for your pet.

Skin Care for Cats

Just like dogs, there are many factors that contribute to the health of your cat’s skin and coat. Cats are great at taking care of themselves in so many ways. But they still need your help to stay happy and healthy and we have highlighted some things below that you can do to benefit them:white and black cat

Inspect:  Check your cat’s skin and coat on a weekly basis for wounds, bumps and hidden tangles by running your hands along your cat’s body.  You should also check for ticks and flea dirt, and black specks of dried blood left behind by fleas. For more information about treating pets with fleas, read this: https://myglobalpetfoods.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/spring-brings-warmer-weather-april-showers-flowersand-fleas/.

Look under your cat’s tail to check for feces attached to the fur that may need to be snipped away with scissors. It’s also important to check around your cat’s anus for tan, rice-sized objects as these may indicate the presence of tapeworm.  If you suspect this, please schedule a visit with your veterinarian immediately.

Brush: Brushing your cat removes dirt, grease, and dead hair from her coat.  It also helps to remove skin flakes and stimulates blood circulation which will improve the overall condition of the skin.

Check the condition of your cat’s coat before your start brushing. If your cat is healthy, the hair will have a natural gloss and it will spring back under your hand when you touch it.  There shouldn’t be any bald patches or signs of fleas or ticks, and the skin should be free of wounds and unusual bumps.

One or two brushings each week will to keep your cat’s healthy glow.  As your cat ages and isn’t able to groom themselves as meticulously, they’ll really benefit from these grooming sessions.

If your cat is short-haired, work the brush through your cat’s fur from head to tail to remove dirt and debris. Make sure to work along the lie of your cat’s fur and brush it in the direction that the coat grows.  NOTE: If you brush a cat’s fur in the reverse direction, you’ll lift the hair up and back which is a very uncomfortable feeling for them.  Brush your entire cat’s body (including the chest and abdomen) but remember to brush one section at a time so that you effectively remove dead hair and tangles. A rubber brush is a great tool for removing dead hair on cats with short fur. Long-haired cats need grooming sessions every few days to remove dead hair and prevent tangles. Start with the abdomen and legs, and gently comb the fur upward toward your cat’s head. Comb the neck fur upward, too, toward the chin.  Make a part down the middle of the tail and gently brush out the fur on either side.  TIP: Sprinkle a little bit of talcum powder over the knots, and carefully de-tangle them. If the knots don’t come out by hand, try using a mat-splitter.

Neglecting to brush your cat’s coat can lead to painful tangles and hairballs.  Hairballs in cats are more likely to appear in long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons.  Cats that shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs, because they tend to swallow a lot of fur. If your cat coughs hairballs or expels them in their feces, and despite regular brushing your cat continues to suffer from hairballs, there are several remedies available.  Examples are Hairball formulated pet foods or a supplement specially geared towards eliminating hairballs. Please ask our Healthy Pet Care Specialists at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store to recommend a solution.

Healthy cats normally groom themselves and can be quite excessive about it. If your cat obsessively licks certain parts of his body and in turn gives himself bald spots and sores, please speak to our Healthy Pet Care Specialists.  The cause might be fleas, an allergy, or stress that can be resolved by recommending an appropriate product or suggesting a change in your cat’s environment.

Bathing: Most cats will dislike being bathed.  Since many cats, especially those with short coats, are good self-groomers, they rarely require bathing.  If your cat isn`t smelling as clean and fresh, as you’d like, you may want to bathe them.  Keep in mind that healthy cats require less bathing.  Your cat’s type of coat and the length, their self-grooming behaviour, activity level, environment, and their overall health (cats in good health do not require frequent baths) should dictate whether you bathe them and, if so, how often.  Keep in mind that excessive bathing, or use of harsh or drying products can dull your cat`s coat and cause their skin to become dry, flaky and itchy.  In seasons where cats shed a lot, a bath can wash away the dander and loose hair that won’t come out with brushing.  Sometimes bathing older cats is beneficial because as cats age, they find it difficult to reach certain places on their body (especially their behind), and cannot properly clean themselves (which means that they smell or their fur is dirty or matted).  Bathing your cat really depends on your cat’s situation but bathing them too frequently can lead to dry, itchy skin and an unhealthy looking coat.

Diet:  Your cat’s coat may be dull, or its skin is dry and flaky due to poor nutrition or being overweight.  Cats need a diet that provides a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, in order to maintain a healthy body, and healthy hair and skin.  Feeding your cat a low-quality food may result in them losing out on vital minerals and vitamins that are needed to keep them healthy and active.

Keep in mind that cats need much more protein than dogs, as well as complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to help them maintain a healthy body and shiny coat. Cats who are fed a low-fat diet or one that does not contain high quality ingredients generally have poor-quality coats.

If your cat has dandruff down the center of its back or around the base of its tail, this could be a sign that she can’t reach these spots because due to being overweight or obese.  Keep in mind that extra weight also puts your cat at risk for many of the same chronic health problems as an overweight human, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and cancer.

Visit your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store to have your cat weighed and checked.  If your cat is obese (and 1 in 4 cats are!) the Healthy Pet Care specialists can recommend a healthy, lower-calorie diet for your cat.  NOTE: Cats need to lose weight slowly and carefully.   A too-rapid weight loss for an overweight cat can lead to a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.  It is important that you give your cat time to lose weight to ensure that you don’t trigger other health problems.

We see the improvements and benefits firsthand in pets’ health when they are transitioned to a healthier diet – whether it’s a more natural food, a limited ingredient food, or freeze-dried and raw food – particularly if these animals suffer from allergies.

Supplements or Herbal Remedies:  If you are concerned about your cat’s health, you may want to supplement their food with fatty acids like those found in salmon or other fish oils. The result can be a healthier and shinier coat.  Please speak to our Healthy Pet Care Specialists at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store before giving your cats a supplement and following the directions on the package.  They will recommend and help you select the appropriate products for your cat and use them as intended.


Finally, noted below are some other tips to help maintain the health of your pet’s skin:

  1. Read all pet food labels carefully so that you avoid ingredients that your pet is allergic to.  This includes both food and treats as well as supplements.
  2. Check for fleas and implement preventative measures to avoid a reoccurrence of a flea infestation. This will help to keep your pet’s skin healthy.
  3. Do not bathe your pets too often.  Use a natural, gentle shampoo, formulated for pets.  Remember to always dry your pets off properly immediately after their bath.
  4. Never use human perfumes, moisturizers or talc on your pet’s skin.
  5. Visit your vet if you see a rash on your pet and follow through with the treatment.
  6. Avoid dressing your pet in clothing on a regular basis, particularly in the warmer months.  The skin needs to ‘breathe’ and in the case of dermatitis related to allergies, some detergents may be at fault for your pet’s irritated skin.
  7. Keep your pet’s nails short to avoid scratching or rubbing the itchy area.

We know that being a pet parent can be challenging when your furry child isn’t eating or experiencing health issues. Whether they suffer from allergies, dental issues, joint stiffness or a myriad of other health problems, we understand that you just want to help them. We pride ourselves on being pet nutrition and pet care specialists and we will use our knowledge and expertise to help you find the right solutions for your companion pets’ needs.  To find a Global Pet Foods store near you, visit www.globalpetfoods.com.

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