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Protect your pet naturally: the secret to having a healthy dog or cat starts with their skin.

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Your pet's skin health is a key indicator of its overall health. All dogs and cats scratch occasionally, lout if you notice excessive scratching, licking or biting, it could be the sign of something more serious. How do you prevent you pet from developing a chronic skin or coat condition? One of the best ways is to protect your dog or cat from the foods and substances that cause such issues.

The Right Diet

Most veterinarians will tell you that skin and coat health starts with proper nutrition. To ensure that your dog or cat is getting the right diet and eating the right ingredients, first select a pet food that is as close to all natural as possible. Ideally, the food you choose should have limited amounts of wheat and corn, as these can cause allergic reactions in some pets. And, the food should, to the extent possible, be free of artificial coloring and preservatives, as these-additives can be excreted through the skin and cause odor or irritation, even in non-allergic animals.

There are many pet foods on the market that use words such as "complete" or "balanced" when describing their nutritional content. Whatever the claims on the package, check the ingredients carefully. Make sure the food consists primarily of beef, poultry, lamb or fish. Secondary ingredients should include vegetables. Be wary of artificial ingredients or chemicals with unrecognizable names.

Some animal nutritionists believe feeding a raw diet is best for pets. However, it may not be appropriate for every dog or cat, and it may be impractical for you. It's advisable to check with your veterinarian before starting your pet on a raw diet.

Regardless of the food you feed your dog or eat, your veterinarian may recommend supplements that contain omega fatty acids. These supplements help protect against dry skin and increase the luster of the coat.

The Right Grooming

Bathing a dog regularly is beneficial, but the pH level of their skin is different from humans, so it's important to use a shampoo formulated especially for dogs. Choose biodegradable shampoos with natural ingredients.

Your veterinarian or groomer may recommend a therapeutic shampoo to help maintain the health of your dog's skin and coat. Examples include oatmeal and aloe, designed to soothe sensitive, dry or irritated skin; sulfur and tar, formulated to fight itching and flaking; and chlorhexidine, which targets extra tough skin conditions associated with bacteria and a wide range of microorganisms.

Cats generally don't need to be Bathed; however, a cat with a skin condition may require a bath. Be sure to use a medicated shampoo made just for cats, though, as some dog shampoos can Be toxic to felines.

One of the Best ways to help maintain a healthy skin and coat is through regular combing and brushing. Combing and brushing your dog or cat distributes oils throughout their coat, reduces shedding, prevents matting, and helps in identifying a flea problem (more about that in a moment). Even short-haired pets benefit from regular brushing. It's always a good idea to have a dog with a medium or long coat, or a long-haired cat, professionally groomed periodically.

The Right Flea Control

Not unlike humans, animals can exhibit allergic reactions to food, chemicals, insect bites, and natural allergens such as grass and weeds. These allergic reactions can lead to skin conditions. A very common allergic reaction in dogs and cats is to flea saliva. Flea allergy dermatitis is a skin condition that results from flea bites, as animals constantly scratch the bites and they become infected.

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Because fleas are a major source of skin irritation, it's worth spending a few moments talking about flea control. Ironically, the most commonly recommended flea prevention and control products can Be toxic and harmful to pets and sometimes humans. The National Resource Defense Council's website for pet owners, www.greenpaws.org, offers a comprehensive list of commercial flea and tick products, their ingredients and safety information. You'll Be surprised to learn that most of them contain harmful chemicals.

That's why you may want to consider natural substances and methods to prevent and control fleas. When it comes to diet, adding brewer's yeast can often be effective in fighting off fleas. Adding about five teaspoons of organic white vinegar to your pet's drinking water can also be effective. While garlic is known to fight fleas as well, use it with caution: in large quantities, it can destroy blood cells.

A natural remedy for flea bites, which soothes and heals the flea bites themselves and helps prevent fleas from returning, is neem oil. When diluted with water and mixed with vinegar, neem oil can be applied directly to an animal's skin. Cedar oil is effective as a general-purpose outdoor and indoor flea repellent; it can be used directly on animals if diluted, but some animals are sensitive to it. Certain herbal and citrus oils may be less irritating and just as effective in keeping fleas at bay. For example, a rinse made by boiling a whole sliced lemon, including the peel, can be applied to your pet as often as daily,

Healthy Skin=Healthy Pets

Through a combination of the right diet and the right grooming, along with natural flea control, you can keep your pet's skin healthy. And that will go a long way to improving the overall health of your pet!

Barry Silverstein is a professional writer and author of the recently published eBook FLEA CONTROL: How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally available at www.fleacontrolbook.com. He has written for DOG FANCY magazine and is a volunteer marketing consultant/writer for the Asheville Humane Society. Barry has written six non-fiction books and is a frequent contributing writer to marketing and business websites.
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Author:Silverstein, Barry
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:958
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