Our pets skin is their largest organ and its overall condition can tell you a lot about the rest of their health.
Besides being fun to pet and pretty to look at, your pet's skin and coat play vital roles in their health. Skin serves a very important function of the immune system. That’s why the condition of our pet’s skin and fur is one of our first clues that something is going on with them.
Many veterinarians can take a quick look at your pet's skin and coat and immediately know which diagnostic path they should wander down.
For example, poor skin and fur condition can indicate:
- Parasites, especially ticks, fleas, mites, and worms
- Hormonal imbalances (especially thyroid disease and Cushing's disease)
- Environmental issues, including humidity and time spent indoors or out.
- Dietary issues, especially obesity and malnutrition
- Musculoskeletal conditions (common when dogs are unable to properly groom themselves due to pain)
- Fungal infections (especially yeast, also known as Malassezia).
Did you know that your pet’s skin makes up about 10-15% of your pet’s body weight? It's true!
Parts of your pet’s skin
The dermis is a complex organ that is consists of the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis.
Source: Diamond Pet
The dermis is the largest part of the skin and is largely made up of collagen. Not only does it serve to protect the inner layers of skin, it is a “metabolically active” organ.
As the dermis contains the sebaceous glands and hair follicles, it creates and distributes sebum (the oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands). This helps keep the coat lubricated with important oils and acts as a lubricant to prevent friction.
The dermis also protects our pets from harmful bacteria and disease as well as environmental factors such as harmful UV light, chemicals, weather, and other stressors.
The skin also helps our pets regulate body temperature and protect against extreme temperatures.
One other thing our pet’s skin can do is prevent water loss. In fact, it’s key to maintaining proper hydration. Since dogs and cats don’t have sweat glands, they must regulate their intake and outflow. Unhealthy skin can result in excess water loss (known as transepidermal water loss) which can further stress the kidneys and impact your pet’s metabolism.
The enzymes needed to create vitamin D are also present in the skin - needing only exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun.
The epidermis contains specialized skin cells called keratinocytes which produce keratin - a waxy substance that covers the epidermis to prevent the loss of water through the skin.
Other important acids (like Linoleic acid and more) are stored in the skin and present in the phospholipid bilayer to provide flexibility and fluidity to the skin. These fatty acids are important for protecting pets against inflammation.
Fat-soluble vitamins A and E may also be stored in the skin. Vitamin A is necessary for cell production and maintenance, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin. B vitamins are found in the skin but are not stored there because they are water soluble.
Minerals such as zinc, copper, selenium, and manganese are found in relatively high concentrations in the skin because of their role as cofactors and coenzymes in several biological reactions that occur in your pet’s body.
What Can You Tell From A Pet’s Fur?
A pet’s beautiful, shiny coat generally indicates a healthy and happy pet. Does a beautiful healthy coat immediately indicate that nothing is wrong with your pet? Not by a long shot. But, for some conditions it’s an excellent indicator.
Dry, Flaky Skin: This is often an early indication of thyroid disease. Many pets with thyroid disease or hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) tend to develop flaky skin (which looks a lot like dandruff in humans). This may also indicate potential issues in the liver or kidneys as these conditions can impact all of your pet’s systems.
Oily Skin: The sebaceous glands are associated with the hair follicles and produce an oily secretion called sebum, which can make your dog's skin appear oily. Sebum's main function is to make the hairs waterproof and keep skin soft and supple. Sometimes, that misfires and results in too much sebum.
Yeast: Canine seborrhea (or seborrheic dermatitis) is a common skin condition that affects dogs and relates to the sebaceous glands in their skin. There are two types of seborrhea, called seborrhea sicca (meaning dry seborrhea), and seborrhea oleosa (meaning oily seborrhea)
Hair Loss: This is perhaps the most common reason people look at our problems.
Need for Frequent Bathing: If you find yourself subjecting your dog to frequent baths, it’s a good indication that there is an underlying problem. Just as overgrooming by a pet is an indication of a problem, so is bathing too frequently by a human.
While some pet owners simply prefer a freshly groomed dog, it’s very possible they are creating additional issues or ignoring current ones. Frequent bathing can dry the coat, harm the hair follicle, and remove important oils that your pets need.
Your healthy dog doesn’t need a lot of baths. In fact, most dogs and cats can go their whole life without a bath.
Your pet’s coat and skin is one of the best ways to identify nutritional deficiencies.
How is Your Pet’s Diet? Check their Coat
Your pet's skin is a storage site for nutrients. Your dog and cat's fur is made up primarily of protein, while your pet's skin stores protein and amino acids in the form of collagen fibers and enzymes.
Did you know that nearly 35% of your pet’s daily food intake is used to maintain their skin and coat?
We’ve discussed the importance of your pet’s diet before (see, How Diet Impacts Your Dog's Recovery from Alopecia X and BSD).
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish and algal oils and flaxseed)
These proteins, vitamins, and minerals all play an essential role in your pet’s skin and coat. DHA and EPA help protect skin and keep it shiny, while combatting inflammation.
Omega-6 (Linoleic acid)
This acid is found in corn, soy, flaxseed, and types of nuts. When we see excessive shedding, loss of fur, delayed healing times, and discolored or missing fur, we can identify low linoleic acid levels. One reason our shampoo bars are so popular is due to the high levels of linoleic acids. While pets need to increase these levels through a healthy diet, we do find that the shampoo bars can assist with the fur and skin.
B-vitamins and biotin are very important in maintaining skin health. They are cofactors in many metabolic processes, including the metabolism of fat. B-vitamins also aid in routing linoleic acid to the epidermis and dermis.
Zinc is also important to the skin as it helps reduce water loss. Low levels of zinc are often indicated by fur loss, a dull appearance, and ongoing skin conditions.
Research has shown that adding omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, and zinc in combination increases coat gloss and decreases dry, flaky skin (dander).
Why DERMagic Works
DERMagic works because it gets to the root of the yeast. It penetrates the dermis and epidermis to remove unhealthy accumulations of yeast and sebum, and improves your pet's cell function and communication to other parts of the body.
If DERMagic didn’t work for your pet, there is a good chance your pet is experiencing other health conditions. This may include a nutritional deficiency, issues with the kidneys or liver or even a dietary issue.
Your pet’s coat and skin is your best indicator of a problem. Don’t risk their lives by ignoring the symptoms.