Your cat’s skin and coat reflect its internal health. A skin or coat problem often originates from a nutrient deficiency or an inability to properly digest and assimilate nutrients. A balanced diet, preferably from whole natural sources, can prevent defects from occurring.
Under adverse conditions – unsuitable environment or diet – the skin often reacts with dryness, redness, itching, cracking, thickening, and scaling or flaking. This can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infection and hair loss. Your cat’s skin and coat rely on the proper balance of protein, vitamin A, B complex vitamins, vitamin E, the mineral zinc, essential fatty acids and sufficient water.
Skin Care For Cats
Cats need protein for health maintenance, growth, development, reproduction, and resistance to infection. Protein builds hair, skin, nails, muscles and blood. Meat is the best natural source of protein for your cat.
The B complex vitamins work as a team to provide healthy skin and coat. Provide these vitamins from foods whenever possible. The best natural sources are meat, Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, egg yolks, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
Zinc helps skin and hair by increasing vitamin A absorption. Food sources include meats, peas, legumes, nuts, leafy vegetables, seeds (sesame/sunflower/pumpkin), egg yolks, and whole grains (sprouted).
Skin And Coat Supplements
Many supplements intended for the skin have considerable amounts of vitamin A, an important skin vitamin. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include allergies, sinus trouble, sneezing, susceptibility to infection, and dry skin.
Vitamin A aids the growth and repair of body tissues and helps maintain smooth disease-free skin and a healthy coat. One of the richest sources of vitamin A is fish liver oil, which also contains Omega 3 fatty acids needed for healing and the construction of new skin. Cats cannot convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, so they require this nutrient must be supplied in the retinol form.
Vitamin E assists in greater storage of vitamin A and appears to have a significant effect on the skin. Veterinary health and nutrition books recommend vitamin E for chronic skin disorders as an anti-inflammatory. Wheat germ oil is a rich source of vitamin E.
Essential Fatty Acids
Cats need arachidonic acid and linoleic acid, which they get from meat and dairy (yogurt and cottage cheese) and EFA supplements.
Flaxseed oil is rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid (essential fatty acids), vitamin A (beta-carotene source), and vitamin E. It promotes a healthy coat, skin, bones, and nails. Refrigerate flaxseed oil and all extra oils to retain their value; exposure to light, heat or air will render it useless and harmful (carcinogenic) if rancid.
Evening primrose oil can supplement your cat’s essential fatty acids intake. It is the best source of gamma-linolenic acid (fatty acid) and contains linoleic acid. The primrose plant is popular as a healing herb, and the whole-plant extract is used externally to heal wounds and soothe skin inflammations. If your cat has a medical problem such as pancreatitis, liver malfunction or a malabsorption disorder, use caution when using supplemental fatty acids.
Herbs To The Rescue
Many herbal shampoos and conditioners for cats can improve skin and coat quality and heal the infection. Do not over bathe your cat, as this will deplete the skin’s natural oils and aggravate sensitive skin. Beneficial herbs include calendula (which aids in the healing of dry skin, sores, scabs and rashes and offers pain relief), chamomile (soothes and softens skin, reduces inflammation and swelling and helps aid healing) and elder (softens skin).
You can make a healing infusion from extracts of these herbs. Use one-half teaspoon of the herb in a cup of hot distilled or filtered water, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Cool to a comfortable temperature and apply to affected areas with a cotton ball or sponge. Later, apply calendula ointment to the skin for further healing.
Healthy skin and hair require moisture. Always provide fresh, clean water; without it, your cat will rapidly dehydrate. You can add mineral water to your cat’s drinking water. I recommend a “sugar-free” formula containing the following minerals: potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and chromium. When a cat experiences stress (extreme heat or cold, for instance), it quickly uses up minerals and other nutrients in its body. Providing mineral water can replace these lost minerals.