Nutrition And The Skin: The Scientific Correlation

By Dr. Cliff Faver

There are four basic requirements for all living organisms, and nutrition is one of them.

  • Food
  • Water
  • Oxygen
  • Protection

Food provides the building blocks that, in turn, provide the energy for the cells processes: reproduction, growth, and maintenance. We assume if we feed our pets “healthy food” then all these processes will occur without any problems. However, there is a lot more to good nutrition and there are things that affect this process (or cell metabolism):

• Ingredients

There are a lot of marketing terms and ideas out there, most of which that are geared at selling pet food, not at the health of the pet. Just because an ingredient is present in a food doesn’t mean that it can be broken down and is bioavailable to the cells.

• Having a balanced diet

Many of the vitamins, fats, proteins, etc. in pet food today may be good, but in order to produce good results they have to be present in the correct ratios. If they are not, they can create bi–products that are toxic to the body or cause the kidneys and liver to work overtime to clean out the body of the things it can’t use.

• Internal factors

Nutrition provides the ingredients that cause a chemical reaction in the cell. But if there are other things going on in the body, then this reaction may not occur the same as it would in a healthy cell. Some things that can affect the normal processes of cells are disease, hormonal imbalance, liver problem, kidney problems and dehydration.

Therefore, the most important part of good nutrition is what makes it to the cell and how the cell processes what it receives.

Hydration, or water, is another very important part of metabolism because it is a necessary compound in all of these chemical reactions. The more dehydrated the cells become, the slower the chemical reactions become to the point it can even lead to cell death or death of the animal. Water is also the mechanism to remove toxins from the cells and body.

So how does this work with the health of the skin?

In theory, everyone wants to make it simple and say if we provide a good diet then our pets will have healthy skin. In reality, you can feed the best diet on the market and still have skin issues. How can this be?

In order to answer this we need to look at how the hair and skin get their nutrients and discuss the “skin barrier” (sebum layer). Skin is the largest organ in the body and its main function is to keep good things in (organs, water, bones, etc.) and keep bad things out (toxins, pollutants, allergens, etc.). In order to accomplish this function, the skin forms a barrier of fatty acids and oils, connective tissue, and cells. The skin cells form in the basal layer which is fed directly by the blood. As the cells mature and move to the surface of the skin, the cells are dependent on the sebum layer that they are surrounded by, and float in, to get their nutrition. The sebum is produced in the sebaceous glands and migrates from the hair follicle to the surface of the skin and coats the surface of the skin and the hair. This all plays a major part in creating and maintaining the “skin barrier”.

Therefore a major consideration for the health of the skin, or “skin barrier”, relies on the nutrition that is available to these cells floating in the sebum.

So with that in mind we need to address factors that take away nutrients to this area: shampoos. When we bathe a pet we use a product that is either a detergent or an alcohol to remove dirt by removing a part of the sebum layer where the dirt gets trapped. The harsher the product, the more of the sebaceous layer will be removed. This leaves the cells lacking in water and with decreased nutrients available to feed the cells.

The pet hair and skin may look clean and beautiful but we have left it in a compromised, or poor nutritional, state. If left in this condition you will see the pet begin to show signs of dehydration of the skin. This will typically manifest itself in the form of itchy skin. As things progress, the irritation will then lead to bacterial or fungal infections, sores, bumps, etc. Long term, this problem can often lead to growths and tumors as the pet ages.

These problems can be prevented by correctly addressing the source of the issue:

1) Try to use the most mild shampoo products you can: cheap products may make the dog look clean but rarely are they good for the health of the skin and hair. The more bubbles a product produces, usually means the harsher the product. If a product is drying to your hands it is 6–8 times worse on pets.

2) Use a conditioner that hydrates and provides nutrients to the skin and hair: the conditioner is critical here. If you are going to feed the skin and leave it healthy, you have to do it in the last step and with a product designed to feed and hydrate the skin. You cannot feed the skin in the same step you are stripping the skin with shampoo.

Like diets, not all conditioners provide good nutrients to the cells. They may sound good and smell good but what are the results? If they leave the hair heavy, or the hair is hard to dry, then you probably don’t have the right conditioners. These conditioners are usually made of fats and oils that sit on the surface of the skin and hair versus penetrating into the sebum layer to enhance it.

When we think of nutrition, we need to consider what aspects create healthy hair and skin; proper cell metabolism and hydration. Don’t get so focused on ingredients of pet foods that you overlook the many things that go into producing and maintaining a healthy cell. Don’t forget to have a veterinarian involved if there are skin problems. There is no way for you to evaluate the internal factors that may be affecting the metabolism (hormones, disease, liver, kidney issues, etc.).

Unfortunately, many clients will not listen to our food recommendations, but we can make sure to use the correct grooming products so we control what we are directly responsible for. ✂

Iv San Bernard is an exclusive line of pet spa grooming products imported from Italy. Founded in 1995, it is the leading European manufacturer of animal care products. ISB produces an array of products designed for various types of coats and proper skin management, with all products based on natural ingredients. Dr. Cliff Faver DVM, a licensed veterinarian, is Iv San Bernard USA’s managing partner. We also have a Certified Pet Aesthetician, Master Groomer, Certified Veterinary Technicians, and Business Sales & Marketing Director with experience in the grooming industry. Cruelty Free: ISB supports the humane and ethical treatment of all animals.