The skin, the largest organ in the body serves as the second barrier to outside antigens. Cracks in the skin may allow bacteria and toxins from the environment to enter the body. The health of both the skin and coat of dogs and cats is affected directly by the nutrition of the animal. Certain minerals are critical in maintaining skin and coat health.
The most notable nutrients involved in skin and coat health include protein, fatty acids and zinc, as well as select vitamins and trace minerals.
Adult skin is composed of three layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis or subcutis.
Zinc is a transition metal found throughout the body. It is present in most tissues in relatively low concentrations.
Common sources of zinc: Whole grain cereals and meat are rich natural sources of zinc. It can also be found in mineral salts such as zinc sulphate and zinc oxide.
Deficiency of zinc: Clinical signs are confined mainly to the skin, but may be accompanied by:
-Growth and other abnormalities in young animals.
-Depressed appetite due to a diminished sense of taste and smell.
-Weight loss, impaired wound healing, conjunctivitis, and keratitis.
-Generalised lymphadenopathy, particularly in young animals.
The body of dogs and cats contains a very small amount of copper. In 1984, Meyer reported a total body content of copper to be 7.3 mg per kg body weight in young dogs.
Role of copper in the body: Copper facilitates the intestinal absorption of iron and its incorporation into haemoglobin. Copper is also involved in the synthesis of collagen in the tendons and the myelin within the system.
Common sources of copper: Foods that have high copper content include meat (lamb, pork, duck) and protein-rich grains (peas, lentils, soy). Copper may also be added to pet food in the form of mineral salts, however, copper oxide is a poorly available form of this mineral.
Deficiency of copper: Copper deficiency can result in anaemia, loss of hair pigmentation and hyperextension of the lower limb. Copper is stored in the liver and although toxicity is rare, certain breeds are pre-disposed to copper storage disease, for example, Bedlington Terriers; involved in tissue, pigment and protein synthesis.
Other minerals, vitamins
Other minerals and several vitamins also may have an effect on skin and coat health. A deficiency in iodine, responsible for a normal functioning thyroid, will create skin lesions and poor hair coat.
Although rare, vitamin deficiencies can result in several skin and coat problems. Vitamin A is important in proper keratinisation of the skin. Deficiencies will result in hyperkeratinisation, poor hair coat, and alopecia. Vitamin B-complex vitamins, namely biotin, will manifest similar deficiency symptoms as vitamin A.
However, most lesions of the skin characteristically occur around the face and eyes. A deficiency is rare, although it may be caused in animals fed with raw eggs due to avidin, a protein that binds biotin, rendering it unavailable to the animal.
Banned food for cats
End of the article
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