Why Nutrition Is Important for Healthy Skin and Coat
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Nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals are important players in the skin and coat health of dogs. To understand the role of these nutrients, it is necessary to start by understanding skin and hair.
The purpose of skin and hair is to block things from leaving (such as water or heat) or entering (such as viruses and bacteria) the body.
The hair coat is composed almost entirely of protein. If the animal's diet doesn't contain adequate protein quantity and quality, hair may fall out, or become dry, weak and brittle.
Skin is made up of squamous cells, flat cells tightly packed together. These cells have tough membranes that are composed of proteins and fats. Without proper amounts of these nutrients, cell membranes weaken, allowing water to escape and bacteria and viruses to enter more easily.
Essential Amino Acids and Fatty Acids for Dogs
Proteins are found in both animal-based and plant-based ingredients. Animal-based proteins contain all the essential amino acids dogs need, whereas plant-based proteins may contain only some essential amino acids. Animal-based proteins help dogs achieve optimal health.
Fats can also be found in both animal-based and plant-based ingredients. They are incorporated into skin cells as fatty acids. There are two essential fatty acids for skin and coat health. Linoleic acid maintains skin and coat condition in dogs. Without enough linoleic acid dogs may experience dull, dry coat, hair loss, greasy skin and increased susceptibility to skin inflammation.
Both of these essential fatty acids are omega-6 fatty acids and are found in animal tissues like chicken fat. Linoleic acid is also found in some vegetable oils, such as corn and soybean oils.
Most commercial dog diets contain more than adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Because these fatty acids can be converted to compounds that increase susceptibility to skin inflammation, it is important to balance the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce susceptibility to inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oils from fish and some plants (canola and flax).
IAMS research has found that combining fat sources in the diet at a ratio of 5-10 omega-6 fatty acids to 1 omega-3 fatty acid results in excellent skin and coat health.
Vitamins and Minerals That Dogs Need
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the development of healthy skin and hair coat. The best way to provide these nutrients is through a complete and balanced diet containing appropriate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals rather than through supplements.
|Vitamin or Mineral||Importance to Skin and Coat Health|
|Vitamin A||Necessary for growth and repair of skin|
|Vitamin E||Protects skin cells from oxidant damage|
|Biotin||Aids in the utilization of protein|
|Riboflavin (B2)||Necessary for fat and protein metabolism|
|Zinc||Necessary for fat and protein metabolism|
|Copper||Involved in tissue pigment and protein synthesis|
Changes in Coat Condition
Diet is often believed to be a factor when changes in skin and coat condition are noticed. The most common causes of these changes, however, are season and life stage.
As cold weather approaches, most dogs grow a thick coat to help keep heat in and cold air out. As the weather begins to warm up, they shed the thick, heavy coat.
Most puppies are born with soft fuzzy hair, but as they age, a coarser coat grows. Pregnant or lactating dogs also may experience a change in coat condition or hair loss. And, as with humans, the hair on dogs may thin out and become coarser and white as they reach their senior years.
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- adp_description_block455Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs
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Healthy joints and proper weight are especially important for dogs that grow to be more than 50 pounds. But not all large- and giant-breed adult dogs have the same nutritional needs. Is your dog getting proper exercise? Is she about to have puppies? Special conditions can dramatically affect your dog’s nutritional demands. Giving her a food specially formulated for her large size, life stage and activity level is the easiest way to make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs.
Choosing a Food for Overall Health
To address the special needs of your large- or giant-breed dog, look for these features:
- Less fat to help maintain an ideal body condition for less joint stress
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for healthy skin, shiny coat and overall health
- Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help maintain good health
- High-quality animal-based protein sources to help maintain muscle tone
- A moderately fermentable fiber source, such as beet pulp, to maintain intestinal health, enhance your dog's ability to absorb nutrients, and reduce backyard cleanup
- A carbohydrate blend to help sustain energy by maintaining normal blood sugar levels
These components are key to good nutrition. Look for them in treats, wet dog food, or dry dog food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Large Breed.
Maintaining Healthy Joints and Cartilage
Joint health is a big concern for owners of large- and giant-breed dogs. A large- or giant-breed formula that contains high-quality protein can help nourish healthy joints. Vitamins and minerals help promote the production of cartilage. Also, keeping your dog at a healthy weight will help minimize joint stress.
Guarding Against Weight Gain
Dogs with lower activity levels and dogs that have been neutered or spayed are all prone to weight gain. Controlling your dog’s weight is an important step toward protecting against the health effects of excess weight, such as diabetes or joint health problems. If you use a weight-management food, look for these characteristics:
- A reduced fat level that still offers essential nutrients for skin and coat health
- L-carnitine, a key nutrient that helps burn fat and maintain muscle mass during weight loss
- Special carbohydrate blends that help maintain energy while managing weight
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for overall health
Providing Nutrition During Pregnancy
Pregnant dogs have substantial nutrition requirements. Starting in the seventh week of her pregnancy, a mother dog will need to increase her energy intake up to 50% by the time she gives birth and increase it even more when she starts nursing her puppies. Because she may lose her appetite at times, it's important that she eats a nutrient-dense food. A complete, balanced puppy formula can give her the extra nutrients she needs. But avoid puppy food created for large and giant breeds; these formulas contain specially adjusted levels of energy and minerals that may not be sufficient for a pregnant or nursing dog.
Switching to a Mature Diet
Dogs who grow to be more than 50 pounds are considered mature or senior at age 5 or 6, which is earlier than small-breed dogs. So, it’s critical to make a proactive transition to a specially formulated mature diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Mature Adult Large Breed, to help keep your dog healthy and active as she ages.
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