By Karen Rhoads
Regular grooming goes a long way to help achieve that “healthy shine” pet parents like to see on their beloved pets, but grooming is just the beginning. Diet is actually the single most important factor affecting coat health. Protein, hydration, and vitamins are the building blocks of a strong, lustrous coat. If extra soothing conditioning treatments don’t seem to be doing enough, it may be time to suggest dietary changes with your clients. A few simple changes can make a tremendous difference in the appearance of a coat.
Increase Water Intake
Just like humans, pet cells are made up mostly of water, requiring continuous hydration throughout the day. Water aids in the proper function of organ cells, including the skin, the body’s largest organ. The hair shaft is also made up of about one quarter water. This paints a fairly clear connection between hydration and coat health. Aside from providing clean, fresh water in an easily accessible pet dish, you really can’t force a pet to drink more water. What pet parents can do to increase hydration is provide hydrated food.
Encourage pet parents to add moisture to their pet’s meals. Kibble contains very little water and actually draws moisture from the body to aid in digestion. High-quality canned foods, on the other hand, are chock full of hydrating meats and vegetables. Replacing either some or all of a pet’s kibble diet with canned food can help naturally increase water intake and significantly contribute to skin and coat health.
Boost High Quality Proteins
Hair is made of protein. Without sufficient protein in the diet, hair may become brittle or dry and eventually fall out, leaving pets unprotected from the elements and unable to regulate body temperature efficiently. Quality matters. Encourage pet parents to look for real meat as the first ingredient—not “meals,” which are low-quality, dehydrated proteins, often stripped of many nutrients. Quality ingredients contain nutrients that are easily digestible and able to put those nutrients to work. Pure, single-ingredient proteins, such as canned pheasant or canned wild salmon, are an excellent way to supplement high-quality protein into any existing diet.
Add Coat-Supporting Nutrients
If proteins are the building blocks, vitamins are the engineers dedicated to supporting the processes that build strong, shiny coats. Biotin and the complex B vitamins found in beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, and spinach work with the body to grow hair. Iron, found in liver, helps circulation throughout the skin, supporting strong hair shafts. Vitamin A, found in carrots, kale, and squash, works with fat synthesis in hair follicles to help create a “shiny” appearance. Omega 3 is another excellent coat-supporting nutrient found mostly in fresh fish such as wild salmon and sardines. Because the body absorbs vitamins and minerals most efficiently through food, encourage pet parents to include high-quality foods rich in these coat-supporting nutrients.
Building and maintaining a healthy, shiny coat is a team effort. Many factors contribute to the complex process of strong, vibrant hair. The right nutritional foundation provides an optimal canvas on which groomers can best create their art.
Karen Rhoads is a Certified Nutrition Consultant for pets and has been instrumental in the optimal nutritional formulation of Evanger’s Pet Foods for over 10 years. Evanger’s USA-made pet foods are created with only fresh ingredients, 90% of which are collected within 50 miles of the company’s Illinois-based facility, and used within 24 hours.