FAQs on the role of nutrients for Skin health

Here are FAQs on the role of nutrients for your pooch’s healthy skin…

Skin, body’s largest organ, is a natural protector against toxic substances, dehydration, infection and ultraviolet light. Skin health is reflective of overall health status of pets. Healthy skin is flexible, without scabs, white flakes or any red areas. Skin of dogs and cats is sensitive and is vulnerable to multiple infections.

What are the important nutrients for good skin health in pets?
Good nutrition can have a positive effect on an animal’s skin and coat. Proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are important nutrients required for healthy skin and coat in dogs and cats. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) play a major role in the maintenance of healthy coat and skin of dogs and cats, and are called essential fatty acids as they cannot be synthesised in the body. Thus, EFAs must be obtained through diet or supplementation.
What causes dull skin and poor coat in pets?
Deficiency of nutrients especially fatty acids, vitamins and minerals causes dullness in skin and loss of shine in the coat of pets.
What are the two important EFAs for pets?
The two most important EFAs commonly required by pets are Omega 3 and Omega 6. Omega 3 fatty acids include EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docohexaenoic Acid), and Omega 6 fatty acids include Linoleic Acid (LA) and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).

What is the role of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in pets?  
Fatty acids play many important roles in pet’s body, of which few important ones are:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids are necessary structural components of cell membranes and maintain cell membrane permeability, thereby protecting loss of nutrients and entry of infectious agents into the skin.
  • Omega 6 fatty acids help in maintaining skin and coat in good condition.
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are precursors for eicosanoids, such as prostaglandins that prevent inflammation.
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids regulate epidermal (outer most layer of skin) proliferation, thus promotes keratinisation leading to rapid wound healing.
  • Omega fatty acids help in improving the heart health, improve the memory and trainability

What are the common conditions in pets where fatty acid supplementation is required?
Omega 3 fatty acids supplementation is important in pets suffering with allergic dermatitis, poor immune system, and inflammatory disorders like arthritis, etc.
Omega 6 fatty acids help in maintaining the integrity of skin and are responsible for the lusture and sheen in the healthy hair coat.

What is the role of vitamins and minerals in pet skin health?
Vitamins and minerals are important in maintaining various metabolic pathways in the body and healthy skin in pets. Deficiency or excess of either leads to skin problems.

  • Vitamin A is involved in the regulation of cellular growth and differentiation and is important in keratinisation process and either excess or deficiency leads to hyperkeratinisation, scaly skin, loss of hair, and increased susceptibility to microbial infections in pets.
  • Vitamin E as it is involved in fatty acid utilisation.
  • Zinc and Selenium are two important minerals that promote wound healing and act as antioxidants respectively.

(Dr Ritesh Sood is Product Manager, Animal Health Division, The Himalaya Drug Company, Bengaluru).

feactures fun and frolic

Skin: mirror of your pet’s health

Skin…the lifeguard

The skin is the largest and one of the most important organs of the body. It forms a barrier to protect thefeactures fun and frolic body from infections, infestations and other harmful elements. It also maintains body’s internal environment, prevents loss of moisture and other body constituents. Its daily exposure to outside environment makes it susceptible to injury and diseases, which are very easily visible on proper skin examination.

The basic facts…

Skin cells: The skin is made up of layers of cells, lubricating (sebaceous) glands, blood vessels, nerve endings, and hair follicles which produce hair. The skin cells form layers, namely the tough outer covering called the ‘epidermis’ and the deeper layer called the ‘dermis’. The epidermis is composed of older cells that form a tough, almost impervious, protective outer barrier. While, the deeper layer (dermis) contains hair follicles, blood vessels, nerves and sebaceous (oil) glands. Hair follicles and sebaceous glands are more prevalent on the back than on the belly. Hair and nails are made of a hard substance called keratin.

Types of coat: Dogs have short fluffy hair called secondary hair. Other names for secondary hair include underfur and undercoat. The second type of hair is the longer and stiffer outer hair called primary hair. Primary hair is also referred to as guard hair, outer hair, or outer coat. They also have a third type of hair: the whisker. Whiskers are called tactile hair because they help the dog sense his surroundings.

Puppy’s skin is covered by a short, soft, and sometimes wool-like hair. Sometimes the puppy hair, or fur as it is sometimes referred to, is a similar color to what is expected as an adult. Sometimes the puppy fur is slightly lighter when first born. For instance, Dalmatian puppies are born with few or no black spots. The coat is pure white with the black spots developing as the puppy grows.

Hair facts: Each hair grows from a simple opening within the skin called a hair follicle. A puppy is born with all of the hair follicles it will ever possess. Any future differences or changes of the hair coat will be due to changes within the follicle. Each hair shaft produced by a hair follicle will eventually die and be removed (shed) and replaced by a new hair shaft produced by that hair follicle. All dogs of every breed continually shed old dead hair from the follicle and replace it with a new live and growing hair. The extent or rapidity to which an individual sheds is, however, governed by factors such as age, amount of sunlight, outside temperature, breed, sex, hormones, allergies, nutrition, etc.

Skin care tips for your pooch

It is important to take good care of your pooch’s diet and grooming needs to ensure he has a healthy skin.

The nutritional advice

  • Maintain proper amount of essential fatty acid supplementation in diet for better hair growth and lustrous coat.
  • In dermatitis dietary provision of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids can be used as skin and coat rejuvenators because of its anti-inflammatory efficacy.
  • Maintain proper balance of essential nutrients in diet, multivitamin and multi-mineral supplements can be used to rule out any dietary deficiency.

Bathing and grooming advice

  • Bathing should be done with lukewarm water.
  • Do not bath puppies under three months of age, instead sponging can be done.
  • Female dogs should not be given bath after four weeks of pregnancy.
  • Put cotton plugs in both ears to avoid entry of water while bathing.
  • After bath, skin should be dried thoroughly with the help of towels; care should be taken to drain out maximum possible water.
  • Grooming with suitable brush should be done at least once in a day.

(Dr Mandar Deshpande (Business Manager) & Dr Vishal Surve (Product Manager), Companion Animal Products, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd).

Skin care regimen for your K9

Skin is the largest organ of the body representing 15-25% of body weight. Rightly called “first line of defence,” it protects other body parts from weather extremities, ultra violet radiations and injuries, which makes skin care regimen all the more important. Here’s a piece of advice on the same.

A healthy skin truly represents dog’s good health condition. Cleanliness is one of the important factors to keep your dog’s skin healthy and intact, besides making him look good. Here are a few tips for dog skin care:

    • Feed proper diet as per dog’s requirement. Add vitamins- A, B, C, E and Brewers yeast in diet.
    • For dogs having dry skin, essential fatty acids should be fed additionally.
    • Avoid bathing frequently as it removes the natural oils present on the coat, which act as weather proofing agent.

Dogs sweat very less as they don’t have sufficient sweat glands. The dog’s dermal skin layer has two types of glands that produce fluids. The apocrine glands have two other functions in dogs – they help to seal the outer layer of the epidermis and they secrete pheromones that give dogs a distinctive body odour. The eccrine glands in the pads of the paws produce a watery secretion similar to human sweat.

Skin diseases

Skin problems arise from external as well as internal reasons like injury from foreign objects, nibbling teeth, scratching, external parasites, and internal infections or autoimmune diseases. The most common reasons for skin irritation are contact and inhalant allergies, which lead to serious problems like hot spots, hair loss and crusty lesions. Allergy is caused by release of histamines by body in its effort to protect from foreign agents. These histamines produce the itching sensation. Whenever you find your dog itching, contact your vet immediately.

Skin parasites

Mites, fleas and ticks are most common parasites of the skin. Mange is of two types, based on the causative agent – demodectic and sarcoptic. Mange mites live under the skin and cause irritation and hair loss. Some people believe that susceptibility to demodectic mange is inherited because the disease manifests in puppies also. But it’s not true because the mites never go to the foetus. It is only the physical transmission of the mites to new-born pups. Sarcoptic mange (also called scabies) causes severe itching and can infect dogs of all breeds. This mite lays eggs under the skin. Itching occurs commonly on the elbows, ears, armpits, chest and belly region. If red colour small pustules develop along with yellow crust on the skin, consult your vet immediately.

Similarly, ticks and fleas also cause severe problem to dogs. Some dogs become allergic to flea bites and fleas also act as vectors for tapeworms. Ticks are more difficult to tackle than fleas. They suck blood and also act as vector for various diseases.


Shampoos and sprays are the most commonly used topical treatments. Shampoos are mainly of three types – cleansing, antiparasitic, and medicated. Cleansing shampoos remove dirt and excess oils from the coat. Antiparasitic shampoos are mostly used for ticks and fleas. Medicated shampoos include antimicrobial and antiseborrheic products. The most widely used antibacterial shampoos contain chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide. Ketocnazole and Miconazole shampoos are usual therapy for the treatment of Malassezia infections. Antiseborrheic shampoos mostly contain sulphur which is keratolytic and also have antiseptic properties. Sulphur is also recommended for scaly seborrhoea.

Before using a medicated shampoo, the pet should be washed properly with a cleansing shampoo and rinsed well. The medicated shampoo should be applied evenly to the hair coat after diluting it in water. The medicated shampoo should be left on the skin for 10 minutes and then rinsed thoroughly from the coat as shampoo residue is a common cause of irritant reactions.

In a nutshell, the skin of your pet requires continuous care, right from grooming to good nutrition and prevention to treatment. Don’t take skin problems lightly, consult your vet before the problem aggravates.

(Dr. Avinash Srivastava, M.V.Sc. (IVRI), PGDPM (Symbiosis) is Technical Manager (Livestock and Canine) at Vetnex. He can be contacted at 09350506830 or

Healthy skin from deep within

An easy, regular routine can ensure that your dog has a beautiful coat and a healthy skin. The most common complaint that veterinarians face in their daily practice is skin trouble! Dry, itchy skin, redness, sores, little bumps, pustules, falling hair, typical ‘doggy’ odour are some of the usual signs. Owners tend to give a lot of importance to their pets’ skin and coat condition mainly because skin rashes and falling hair affect the appearance of the dog. What few people realise is that the skin often shows the first signs of ill-health. This, the first article of this series, will focus on internal problems that manifest as skin disorders.

Diet for good health:

Your dog’s diet affects every aspect of his health including alertness, skeletal and muscular development and general vitality, but the first and most common sign of nutritional deficiency is a dry, itchy skin. Unfortunately, Indian dog owners are yet to wake up to the fact that feeding a good commercial pre-formulated dog food is best for the dogs. Only when your dog is on a 100% diet of a good pre-formulated dog food (without any addition of home-cooked food) can you be certain that he is getting all his nutritional requirements in the correct amount and proportion. It is important to understand that feeding an imbalanced diet will lead to serious health problems, some of which may become evident much later in the dog’s life, and are often difficult to treat, like joint disease. Consult your vet on a regular basis to determine the most suitable dog food formulation according to his growth and life stage. How does diet affect the dog’s skin and coat? Simply put, certain nutrients in the daily diet are essential for maintaining a healthy skin and coat, mainly essential fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid), vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, calcium and biotin. Certain amino acids, the basic ‘building blocks’ of proteins, also play an important role in skin health.

Your next question may be that if your dog is on dog food alone, does he need additional supplementation? I usually do not recommend popularly prescribed supplementation of calcium + phosphorous + vitamin D. There is always a tendency to over supplement these minerals, resulting in some very serious, irreversible bone and joint defects. If you are feeding your dog on 100% dog food, your dog’s coat may still benefit from correct supplementation. Research done at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, UK, concluded that even dogs fed with 100% dog food show further improvement in skin and coat health when their diet is supplemented with certain nutrients. A good supplement enhances the coat softness and feel, increases coat gloss and helps in better coat scale.

Apart from diet, other internal factors also affect the condition of the dog’s skin and coat, which have been summarised in the form of a table.

Deworming do’s and don’ts:

A dog who is not dewormed regularly also suffers the same problems as a dog with nutritional deficiencies. Internal parasites ‘eat away’ certain nutrients from the dog’s digestive system. The deworming schedule that I recommend is once a month for pups up to the age of 7 months, every two months for pups between 7?and?12 months and thereafter, every three months. Dogs fed home-cooked food, especially meat, will need to be dewormed more frequently. It is best that you consult your vet for a deworming schedule specifically designed for your dog.

The ‘itch-scratch’ cycle:

The reason why skin conditions take so painfully long to treat, is because of the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. Any of these conditions can make a dog feel ‘itchy’ dry skin, allergy, the presence of loose hair, ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, mange, etc). Every time the dog scratches, he causes mild to severe abrasions or scratches on his skin and also introduces infection-causing organisms into the layers of the skin. As these abrasions and scratches on the skin begin to heal by the process of granulation, it causes an intense itching sensation, which starts the whole vicious cycle all over again. Therefore, when treating any such skin condition, it often becomes essential to give the dog a good anti-histamine for a few days, only to break the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle and give the treatment enough time to start acting. It may become necessary to give an antibiotic. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your dog. A beautiful skin and healthy coat starts from inside. No amount of external applications with the best products can give a healthy lustre to an unhealthy dog.

Next issue: Maintaining the lustre, which focuses on bathing and grooming the correct way.

(Dr. Freya Javeri, BVSc & AH (Bombay Veterinary College), MVS (University of Melbourne, Australia) is a member of the prestigious Dog Writers’ Association of America. She was the former editor of Canine Review, the official publication of the Indian National Kennel Club. She is a qualified judge, with a diploma in dog judging from the Animal Care College, UK. She has been judging all-breed championship dog shows since ’98. She is currently practicing as a veterinary surgeon and animal behaviour consultant, specialising in small animals (dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets) with two clinics of her own in Ahmedabad. She can be contacted at 9824433227, email:

Monsoon blues Help your dog fight skin diseases.

Lustrous fur and skin free from any problem is the dream of every dog owner. But, this dream is invariably shattered during monsoon months. Most of the times, the owners do not know the reason why it happens. Inspite of the best of care, dog owners are often worried by numerous skin and coat problems that crop up during monsoon. It would thus be important to understand the root cause of these problems and find out the ways and means to keep such problems at bay.

Why majority of skin and coat problems crop up during monsoon?

High humidity and moderate to high temperature during monsoon is a very good environment for the growth of ectoparasites and other infectious agents that are responsible for skin diseases. The ectoparasites include ticks, fleas, lice and mites while infectious agents consist of bacteria and fungi. Moreover, the environmental conditions are excellent for fungal infections. Mange is another skin problem that can happen in rainy season. This is because Mange is associated with poor skin condition and the stress to the animal. Both these conditions are present during this season. All of these skin problems are responsible for itching, excess fall of hair, rough hair coat, lesions over the skin, etc. Further, small lesions can turn into serious infectious wounds because of scratching and licking by the dog.

Common skin infections encountered in monsoon :

Ectoparasite infestation- Ticks, fleas and lice have high incidence during monsoon. These ectoparasites can cause itching, loss of hair, bite spots and lesions that can further catch infection. Ticks are blood-sucking and can transmit a disease called Babesisosis. Flea bite cause irritation and inflammation and can transmit tapeworm infestation. Lice are a cause of irritation; leading to scratching, itching and biting. Fungal infection- Ring worm and other fungal infections are very common due to high humidity and moderate temperature conditions. The problem can be in a small area (localised) or the infection may cover whole body (generalised). The infection may be dry or moist. Irrespective of the type of fungus involved, the skin bears lesions, fall of hair, redness, itching. Dry form can be associated with dandruff and excess fall of hair.

Bacterial infection- Commonly this happens as a secondary infection due to contamination of any skin lesion or wound. A variety of bacteria may be involved. Bacterial wounds can further be contaminated by other infectious agents. Mange- It comes as an opportunistic infection if the skin health is compromised and the dog is under stress. Mange can be of various types. The mange lesions are often contaminated with the other infectious agents. Certain type of Mange is very difficult to treat. Mange often shows relapse after treatment.

Maggot wounds- This happens when any open wound is contaminated with fly eggs. The maggots formed eat the animal tissue and as a result can cause deep wounds.

How to prevent the skin problems during monsoon?

Dog owners are often unaware about how to prevent these problems. The DO’S & DONT’S would be helpful in the prevention of skin infections during monsoon.

( is Marketing Manager with Ayurvet Limited. Post Graduate in Veterinary Medicine from GB Pant University, he is an ardent dog lover. He believes proper management could avoid majority of the diseases. He can be seen giving tips on proper management and dog breed behavior in the late evenings or weekends at Doggy World- the pet’s paradise run by his wife Dr. Aradhana at Rohini. He can be contacted at 9811299055, 011- 27942285.)