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A cat's skin and coat are among the most visible signs of health and vitality. The skin and coat are of vital importance to the body's protective mechanisms against environmental assaults of all kinds: from infectious agents to temperature gradients. In addition, hair is of great aesthetic importance to owners and a source of great concern when it is not normal.

Good nutrition is essential to normal skin health. Normal keratinization requires an adequate supply of several nutrients, including protein, fatty acids, zinc, copper, vitamin A and B vitamins. Deficiencies in numerous essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins or minerals can cause various skin conditions. Suboptimal nutrition may also increase susceptibility to parasites, such as mange mites, fleas and lice, as well as skin infections.

Protein

Skin contains a significant amount of protein and serves as a major source of protein reserves when intake is inadequate. The hair shaft is composed primarily of alpha-keratin protein. Protein deficiency can cause red, flaky skin, loss of hair color, and hair breakage. This may be seen as crusty skin lesions with patchy spots and dry, brittle hair coats.

Fat and Fatty Acids

Flaky scales, coarse, lusterless coats or hair loss, and itchy skin are among the changes seen with essential fatty acid deficiency. Essential fatty acids may be oxidized and de-natured in poor quality foods, foods stored too long or at high temperatures, or those inadequately preserved with antioxidants. Animals fed these foods may show evidence of essential fatty acid deficiency. Such signs also may be observed in pets fed low-fat diets over extended periods, pets with fat malabsorption syndromes, or those with unusually high requirements for these nutrients.

Vitamins

Riboflavin deficiency can cause a dry, flaky skin with reddening of the skin and hair loss. Biotin deficiency can cause the hair to become thin or lose pigment and the skin to become dry and flaky or greasy. Pantothenic acid deficiency can lead to loss of hair pigment and hair loss. Such deficiencies of B-vitamins are rare among pets fed quality commercial pet foods. However, since table scraps, treats, and other foods can make up a large portion of the diet for many pets, deficiencies may occur.

Vitamin A deficiency can appear like an essential fatty acid deficiency and lead to dry, scaly skin. Excessive vitamin A also causes skin lesions that appear similar to those of vitamin A deficiency, including dry skin, hair loss, and itchiness.

MINERALS

Zinc is critical for normal skin development, and deficiency leads to dry, scaly, red skin. Zinc-responsive dermatitis generally is reported in puppies or zinc-sensitive breeds (primarily Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes), although it can occur in other breeds. A similar condition reported in dogs fed generic or low-cost commercial dog foods was presumed to be zinc deficiency. Some older dogs with poor haircoats and scaly skin also may improve with zinc supplementation.

All dry and wet cat food formulas from Purina® Pro Plan® are complete and balanced. Take a moment and explore our nutrition to find the food that will help your cat live an extraordinary life.