By Michelle Knowles
What supplements should be given to make the coat shinier, softer, thicker or better? There are so many blogs, vlogs, questions and answers, and opinions about nutrition that it can get very confusing!
Because of the permeability of the skin and the nature of its building blocks, we can nourish the skin, and in some circumstances, the body, by offering minerals, micronutrients and proteins topically. When a pet is experiencing a crisis or condition, such as metabolic disease, a long run of antibiotics, whelping or any other of a myriad of issues, it is very easy for the body to become depleted of these essential ingredients for skin and cellular health.
Among other things, the skin is made of many different kinds of proteins and amino acids that form the cell structure (keratin), glue them together (desmosomes), and other kinds of connective tissues (hemidesmosomes), lipids and mineral combinations. Many times, the body will pull “free” proteins and other ingredients meant for skin into the body to help heal the crisis which leaves the skin depleted and starved.
While internal nutrition and supplementation is very important, especially when the pet is experiencing disease, it is possible to topically feed the skin in order to improve the barrier functions, but it is also feasible to help ease the burden of the body by providing precious raw materials to the skin.
B vitamins, like biotin and B12, vitamin C, fat-soluble vitamins like A, E and K, minerals like zinc, iron, copper, magnesium and, of course, proteins and fatty acids, are just some of the raw materials that the skin uses to create more cells, regulate growth, and create the mantle of lipids that cover the skin and hair. We, as groomers, have so many choices available to nourish depleted skin these days, thanks to available research information, technologically advanced formulations, and plain and simple raw materials that can be used as additives in masks, shampoos, conditioners and sprays. It is always important to make sure that your clients understand the vital presence of current veterinary care baseline bloodwork, and that topical spa treatments are not intended to replace medications or other treatments that are recommended by the veterinarian.
Some of the things you should consider keeping on hand are protein-based cleanser, avocado oil, olive oil, fulvic minerals, Himalayan sea salt, epsom salt, green tea powder or leaf, marine collagen, seaweed powder, kelp powder and a variety of cosmetic clays. Many of these ingredients can be found in commercial preparations, shampoo and conditioner formulas, and sprays of all kinds. These ingredients can be added to masks, shampoos, conditioners, sprays and creams, depending on the needs of the pet and the choice of application for you, and possibly, the owner of the pet.
Clay masks can detoxify, but the skin may only need to be nourished with oils and minerals. Detoxification is best when there is something embedded in the skin, for example, infection, rashes, scale and crusts all benefit from the application of clay. There are times when none of these things are present, yet the skin remains dry and the hair is brittle. This is a good indicator that a hydrating mask is needed.
A hydrating mask starts with a conditioner to which minerals and oils are added. This can be a first step in giving the skin and hair some elasticity before washing. This same formula can be used as a mask after the cleansing portion of the bath. Wrapping the pet in a warm towel while soaking keeps heat and moisture in so that the deepest penetration of the mask is achieved.
Understanding the needs of the skin and a little bit of knowledge of the ingredients can help your pet friends achieve a greater level of health and comfort. ✂️
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