Home » dog » Food for a dog / cat with skin problems: skin allergy and atopic dermatitis

Food for a dog / cat with skin problems: skin allergy and atopic dermatitis

Food for a dog / cat with skin problems: skin allergy and atopic dermatitis

Every owner of a dog or cat undoubtedly wants his pet to be healthy, active and at the same time dignified and nice looking.

It is the aesthetic experience that often determines what kind of animal we choose and whether it will be a source of delight for everyone else.

Many diseases may not be noticed in the first stage, and their non-specific symptoms may be overlooked or simply ignored, considering them to be of little importance, but the changes on the skin will always be noticeable.

They are what everyone, not only the owner, will notice in the first place and with which they will undoubtedly go to the nearest veterinary office looking for the necessary help.

We should also remember that the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the greater the chances of its cure.

The time of therapy is also important, and therefore indirectly and the costs associated with it.

So it is generally advisable to intervene as soon as possible, and not wait until the complete picture of the disease with all its symptoms develops.

We can also often encounter a situation where the problem manifests itself in a different place than the disease process.

Many systemic diseases can manifest themselves on the skin, although it is actually in other, often distant organs and organs.

Finally, many symptoms may be non-specific and it is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis on the basis of them.

Finally, many diseases can present similar symptoms, which makes diagnosis even more difficult. All these situations are perfectly suited to skin diseases.

Hence, it is sometimes really difficult, despite numerous additional tests, to make an accurate diagnosis and implement effective causal treatment.

We should also remember that the success of treatment often depends not only on properly prescribed medications, but may depend on proper nutrition.

So how to help a pet with a skin disease and whether we should treat each case the same, this is what I will try to write a little about in the article.

  • Skin and skin diseases
    • Epidermis
    • Dermis
    • Subcutaneous tissue
  • Protein in animal feed
  • Fat in dog and cat food
  • Vitamins and minerals in the diet
    • Zinc
    • Selenium
    • The influence of vitamins on the appearance of the skin
  • Elimination diet for food allergies
  • Atopy in dogs and cats
  • Food storage

Skin and skin diseases

A dog with a skin allergy

Leather (lat. cutis, gr. derma), as we can read in a popular internet search engine, is the largest common shell organ of all vertebrates with a complex structure and multiple functions.

The area of ​​human skin is approx. 1.5 - 2 square meters, and in animals largely depends on the size of the individual, i.e. the breed of the dog or the breed of cat, but in general, along with the hair and subcutaneous tissue, it is about 12% of the total weight of the animal.

What is worth emphasizing is the largest organ in the body.

It performs various and extremely important functions, constituting a barrier (border) between the external environment and the interior of the system.

Thanks to its flexibility, it provides smooth movements to its owners.

It protects every living organism against harmful environmental factors, and therefore protects against all physical, microbiological and chemical substances or microorganisms lurking in the animal's environment.

Some of them have sensitizing and allergenic properties and thus cause serious and extremely unpleasant systemic diseases.

Not everyone is aware that by acting as a barrier, it determines the maintenance of the homeostasis of the system.

The subcutaneous tissue and the products of the skin, which are hair, determine the maintenance of the proper internal temperature, playing a role thermal insulation.

We also cannot forget to participate in the process perception of stimuli if feeling pain and other external signals.

There are sweat glands in the skin involved in the thermoregulation process or the synthesis of certain vitamins (vitamin D) under the influence of solar radiation.

Being the outer shell, it contains the cells of the immune system that are important for the body, thus playing an important role in ensuring health, interacting with the immune system, of which it is part of.

These are just some of the main functions of the skin, making you realize how important an organ is essential for life.

The skin, generally speaking, is made of three layers:

  • cuticle,
  • dermis,
  • subcutaneous tissue.


The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin that helps protect against harmful environmental factors (bacteria, viruses and fungi), consisting of the following layers:

  • basal,
  • spinous,
  • granular,
  • bright,
  • horny.

It consists of cells called keratinocytes but also melanocytes (pigment cells) or cells of the immune system - Langerhans cells.

The spaces between the cells are filled with the so-called skin film which is a secretion of sweat and sebaceous glands.

The whole thing is an ordinary physical barrier supplemented, of course:

  • antibodies,
  • immune proteins,
  • glycoproteins,
  • interferon,
  • unsaturated fatty acids.

The epidermis is inhabited by numerous saprophytic bacteria, which are a component of the natural skin layer and thus protect the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria.


The dermis, which is under the epidermis, is mainly composed of collagen fibers, reticular if elastin, base substance and numerous pigment cells and immune system cells completed blood vessels.

The tiny blood-transporting veins thus participate in the thermoregulation process and the nerves present here in the perception of stimuli coming from the external environment.

There are also products of leather hair growing out of hair follicles.

Subcutaneous tissue

The vast majority of the subcutaneous tissue consists of fat (approx 90%), so it plays the role of:

  • storage for energetic substances,
  • protects against heat loss,
  • absorbs falls and injuries.

These three mentioned layers, although different, constitute an integral whole that determines the possibility of life of each organism (existence without skin is impossible and always ends in death, as evidenced by, for example, cases of severe multi-surface burns).

It is a beautiful, shiny coat that is a sign of health, proper condition and proper functioning of the whole organism.

Proper, balanced nutrition in every respect is one of the most important factors determining the appearance of the skin and what we see in the first place, i.e. hair, claws in our dogs and cats. Remember that not only deficiencies but also excessive amounts of individual components of the diet will be harmful.

Sometimes the owners wanting to do well may unknowingly harm their pet by overdosing on some otherwise very healthy products.

Hence, we must know exactly what to use and what to avoid in the context of skin health.

Protein in animal feed

Dog food: protein

The essential nutrient without which healthy skin and its products cannot function properly protein and that's about him at the beginning.

Gentle estimates say that the cells of the skin and hair even use up to function properly 25-30% of the protein of the food ration.

It is a huge amount, hence its quality and qualitative composition, i.e. the right content, are extremely important amino acids.

Hair is made of a protein called keratin containing a lot sulfur amino acids.

It would be optimal if they were a permanent component of the diet and were constantly supplied to the body.

We should remember that the proteins of the skin or hair are successively and irretrievably lost when the animals lose their hair or when taking care of the daily toilet they lick themselves intensively.

Cats, on the other hand, need larger amounts tyrosine and its precursor phenylalanine.

This is because it is tyrosine that is needed to synthesize black-brown hair dye (eumelanin). A deficient diet will also lead to a color change to rusty brown also in the offspring of pregnant cats.

Some dietary proteins can even cause generalized diseases, an example of which is food allergy or erythema multiforme.

Fortunately, the latter disease is quite rare and is not a big problem in veterinary dermatology.

The reader will probably be interested in what protein has to do with food allergy and why it is referred to in the context of skin diseases.

Well, food allergy caused by protein will be visible within the skin, hence it seems logical to bring closer the problem of food allergy and elimination diet.

We can classify food allergy as abnormal reaction to food, constituting several percent of skin dermatoses and even half of allergic diseases in dogs and cats.

It is usually a hypersensitivity reaction type I (immediate) or type IV (late) and takes the form of a skin or a food.

It will be manifested significantly itching consequently leading to:

  • skin self-damage,
  • hair loss,
  • secondary bacterial infections.

Food allergens here are the most common proteins of two classes: 1 and 2.

  1. Class 1 allergens contain large, water-soluble glycoproteins, resistant to high temperature and the action of acids and enzymes.
  2. Down class 2 allergens and they belong thermolabile (sensitive to high temperature), sensitive to the action of protein enzymes.

We are not always aware of how many commonly available proteins can cause allergic reactions.

These are, for example, milk proteins (casein) or whey proteins present in almost every dairy product (whole milk, powdered milk or other dairy products).

They are also found in other, seemingly "safe" products, being part of their composition, improving the palatability or texture of the product. For example, who would expect milk proteins in canned fish where they appear as "hidden allergens ".

We can find a lot of allergenic proteins in fish and their products (cod, herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna), animal meat (beef, pork, poultry).

They can also be strong allergens food additives, synthetic dyes (E102 if E110), preservatives (common sodium benzoate) or substances that improve the taste of food (monosodium glutamate).

Fat in dog and cat food

Cat food: fat

However, the animal does not live by meat alone (maybe with the exception of cats that are typical carnivores).

Fat also plays an extremely important role.

Research has shown that increasing the amount of fat in your diet (from 9% to 13%) resulted a significant improvement in the quality of animal hair.

The products of the skin which are hair, as a result of such nutrition, became shinier, softer and shinier, which means that even for a layman they looked more healthy.

Let's not forget that it is healthy hair that is covered with sebum produced by the glands present in the skin.

Increasing the amount of fat in your diet results in the proper production of sebum covering each hair.

By feeding fatty foods, we can modify the composition of the secretion itself, thus affecting the condition of the hair coat.

In addition, the hair becomes more firmly embedded in the hair bulb and thus creates less problems when cleaning households, because they fall out less often.

Lipid compounds determine the functioning of the epidermal barrier that protects the skin against excessive water loss and thus against the harmful effects of environmental factors.

Iconic nutrients with a documented effect on the condition of the skin and hair are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids from the n-3 and n-6.

He represents the first family α - linolenic acid (ALA, 18: 3n-3) from which they arise eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

To the group of acids n-6 and belongs to linolenic acid (LA, 18: 2n-6) and its main derivative in the form arachidonic acid.

These compounds are extremely important in the nutrition of our pupils, because often the foods are not complete in terms of their content.

Some of these acids are showing antipruritic effect they are especially popular among doctors and nutritionists.

This is because they allow the use of other antipruritic drugs (e.g. steroids) limiting too adverse side effects.

Nature is rich in fatty acids from the n-3 and n-6 ​​families, present in large amounts in fat obtained from marine fish.

Recently, preparations containing a mixture of vegetable oils obtained from borage and flax, black currant if evening primrose.

If we notice dry and easily brittle hair, dull hair or popular dandruff, we can boldly use a dietary supplement containing these vegetable oils.

Possible improvement may even appear in the period 2 weeks, which is sometimes extremely short when it comes to the beneficial effects of supplementation.

Remember, however, that the improvement depends on the individual metabolism of fatty acids and may be different in animals, even within the same species.

Long-chain fatty acids exert a beneficial effect in veterinary dermatology by inhibiting the production and release of inflammatory factors and the process of lymphocyte proliferation.

They're limiting production prostaglandins and release histamine.

So let's enrich the diet of our pupils, even with a small amount of fatty acids, taking full handfuls of the good offered to us by nature itself.

Vitamins and minerals in the diet

Not only organic ingredients affect the appearance and metabolism of the skin, but also numerous minerals and vitamins.


The key element that determines the healthy appearance of the body shell is undoubtedly zinc.

It is he who, being an activator of enzymes participating in the synthesis of proteins or nucleic acids, determines the proper course of numerous metabolic processes.

Influencing changes vitamin A conditions efficient functioning of the immune system.

The absorption of each of the elements depends not only on their content in the diet, but also results from their absorption in the digestive tract.

The best available form of zinc seems to be amino acid chelates, which also perfectly accumulate in the hair. Zinc deficiency in the body will manifest itself in the form of zinc-dependent dermatosis.

The disease occurs mainly in large, fast growing puppies improperly fed or receiving large amounts of dietary supplements containing calcium.

This common mistake of owners who think that a giant breed puppy may suffer from calcium deficiency and need more calcium due to vigorous growth may result in difficulties in zinc absorption and dermatological symptoms.

Fortunately, we can correct this state as opposed to genetically conditioned zinc-dependent dermatosis and always ending in the death of the puppies.

Relief of clinical symptoms in the case of the use of zinc preparations can be observed within a draft 3-6 weeks.

The problem of zinc deficiency may also affect cats that are fed soy-based feed.

We will observe in them:

  • hair growth disorders,
  • loss of gloss,
  • local hair loss or thinning,
  • changes in the area of ​​the nose or lips, i.e. the face.

With the elements, it is often the case that not only the deficiency but also the excess may adversely affect the condition of the hair coat, an example of which is an excessive amount of zinc leading to a copper deficiency.

Both elements compete with each other during the process of absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.

It will manifest itself in kittens change in the natural color of the coat but also worse neurological symptoms in the form of pelvic limb incoherence.

In puppies, copper deficiency will appear after approx 3 months to the use of a deficiency feed and will follow the symptoms of hair discoloration.


Another extremely important element influencing the quality of the coat is selenium.

Its shortage will result slowing down the hair growth processes.

It must be clearly stated that the excess of this element also causes the deterioration of the hair coat.

The influence of vitamins on the appearance of the skin

How vitamins / minerals affect the appearance of the skin and coat?

It undoubtedly plays an important role here Vitamin A, regulating the growth and differentiation of cells, and therefore responsible for the proper condition of the epidermis.

It is also used in greater amounts for uncommon treatments Vitamin A-responsive dermatosis.

As a result of disturbed keratinization of the epidermis, typical dermatological symptoms develop, however, they disappear after a few weeks of vitamin A supplementation.

It should also be remembered that vitamin A, being a fat-soluble compound, may accumulate in the body with long-term use, which will be manifested by symptoms of overdose.

Therefore, it is important to use any supplements wisely, and it is best to consult them with your veterinarian each time.

The use of fatty acids from families n-3 and n-6,in a practically similar proportion, may in turn result in a reduction in quantity alpha-tocopherol in the body.

So we should give an additional amount whenever possible vitamin E which is one of the most important substances of nature antioxidant.

It is vitamin E that reduces the harmful effects oxygen free radicals, thus improving the quality of the coat.

Another vitamin that cannot be forgotten in the context of skin diseases is biotin (vitamin H or B7) which is a component of numerous nutritional supplements.

From a practical point of view, its shortages can happen in a situation feeding animals raw eggs, in which it occurs avidin.

This substance has a high affinity for biotin, binding up to four of its molecules each time and quickly leading to a deficiency.

Deficiency biotin it can also be caused by long-term use antibiotics, especially in oral form. They cause disturbances in the naturally occurring intestinal bacterial flora.

The symptoms of deficiency will be of various degrees baldness if loss of hair color.

Elimination diet for food allergies

Elimination diet

In a situation of suspicion of food allergy, when we suspect an allergy to some component of the diet, we must absolutely introduce it elimination diet to determine the cause of an allergy.

A home-prepared diet based on a different, previously unused source of protein remains the standard.

More and more often, however, owners choose a ready, balanced one commercial feed, although it may be more expensive than regular feed, it nevertheless saves time and guarantees a constant composition of nutrition.

Such diets must contain a new source of protein that has not been used so far, and in the case of dogs a new source of carbohydrates.

Common sources of carbohydrates and proteins are often present in the available foods, so you have to reach for the more expensive ones:

  • horse meat,
  • rabbit meat,
  • venison,
  • ostrich tissue.

We supplement carbohydrates by selecting:

  • sweet potatoes,
  • Jerusalem artichoke,
  • tapioca.

Commercial feeds can also be based on hydrolyzed protein, thus containing small protein particles of 3000-10000 kDa size.

Such a technological procedure does not affect the palatability of the food, and at the same time does not cause an allergic reaction.

An elimination diet is a kind of incomplete diet, recommended solely for the purpose of eliminating an allergen.

The duration of the diet is important, it should be 6-8 weeks in dogs and 10-12 weeks in cats.

During this period, the animal should eat only this diet and have constant access to drinking water.

The introduction of each new diet should be carried out gradually over the course of several days, as a sudden change of food, even if it is allergenic, may cause gastrointestinal disturbances.

In order to confirm the allergy to a given food, after the period of the recommended elimination diet, we can introduce individual components of the previous diet.

The appearance of itching, skin reactions or gastrointestinal symptoms will indicate an allergy to the ingredient.

Atopy in dogs and cats

Atopic disease in dogs and cats

And finally, when writing about the nutrition of dogs and cats in skin diseases, it is impossible to ignore the problem atopic disease.

Exactly that atopic dermatitis, due to the progressive pollution of the natural environment, life in population centers, cities has become one of the most common diseases of civilization.

Proper nutrition can be extremely helpful in treating this important and frequent disease.

A special role is played here polyunsaturated fatty acids of the n-3 and n-6 ​​families, thanks to which it is possible to reduce doses glucocorticosteroids and thereby reducing the symptoms of itching.

Many owners are afraid of the use of this group of drugs, especially for a long time, because of numerous side effects.

The use of fatty acids, especially in the early stages of the disease, allows you to control the course of the disease.

So let's choose these proven ingredients:

  • evening primrose oil,
  • linseed oil,
  • black currant oil,
  • sea ​​fish oil,
  • borage oil.

Let's avoid olive oil, which may worsen symptoms!

Food storage

Not everyone is aware that improperly stored, even the best commercial food may turn out to be not very healthy for our pets and cause skin changes.

This is due to the dampness of dry food kept in improperly secured containers or open bags.

Mites can multiply in such food (e.g. house dust, Acaro siro) whether the fat present there can be transformed.

So it is better from a practical point of view to buy smaller packages of food and use them faster, although on the other hand it may turn out to be a bit more expensive

Each food should be stored in appropriate conditions, protecting it against moisture or house dust.

It is best to use sealed metal containers for this purpose, always kept clean.

It should also not mix the remains of old pet food with the newly bought one, nor should it be stored in containers in a garage or a damp basement.

If possible, we should also avoid food bought by weight, but rather choose those in factory-sealed packages.


Food for a dog / cat with skin problems: skin allergy and atopic dermatitis

Summing up the very extensive topic of animal nutrition in skin diseases, it is worth realizing once again that there is no one universal diet intended for all dermatological patients.

Each dog and cat should be treated individually and not only use common patterns or algorithms.

Nutrition is one of the most important factors in determining the appearance of skin and its products in animals and thus reflects overall health.

So let's reach for decades-proven ways to improve the appearance of the body shell, the more that many of them are based on natural ingredients created by nature itself.

We should also remember not to include any additional ones dietary supplements, so easily available on the market and common, do not use alone due to the risk of overdosing.

It is better to consult a veterinarian or a nutritionist taking care of animals each time and agree with them the exact way of feeding a dog or cat, than to cause symptoms caused by excess.

And it's best to enjoy good health at all, which I sincerely wish you ?

If you want to know more about dog and cat nutrition in dermatological diseases, post a comment under the article - I will reply as soon as possible.

Sources used >>

Leave Your Comment