From Itchy to All Clear
Achieving healthy skin and a lustrous coat requires attention to both diet and grooming products.
A smooth and vibrant canine coat, coupled with supple, clear skin—minus flakes, bumps, grease and odor—often is the result of optimal grooming and a high-quality diet. However, factor drying winter conditions or springtime pollens from trees, plants, and grass into the equation and the skin and coat might be the first indicator of a health problem.
Itching and hair loss are common complaints, said Melinda J. Mayfield, DVM, technical services veterinarian for Rialto, Calif.-based Vetericyn Animal Wellness.
“I’ve also noticed an increase in allergy-related skin issues recently,” Dr. Mayfield said. “And during summer, I see a lot of hot spots or moist dermatitis cases. Vetericyn products work great for hot spots, and they have some antihistamine activity, which helps with the itching.”
“The skin is an excellent signaler of imbalance, and skin and coat issues are always a result of an outside influence,” said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif. “The skin is the largest organ, which also makes it a considerable area of detoxification.”
Dogs can develop allergies or sensitivities to ingredients found in food, leading to itchy skin, sores and rashes, said Michelle Drnek, co-founder of aTobiko in Hampstead, N.H. Yet dog owners have become more aware of the types of foods, such as grains, that should be avoided to improve canine skin and coat health, Drnek said.
Grooming can remove dirt and debris and promote airflow within the coat; however, synthetic chemicals in grooming and flea and tick control products also can lead to negative skin reactions, said Jeff Werner, national sales director for Pet King Brands, the Westmont, Ill.-based maker of Zymox and Oratene brand products.
“A pet owner dealing with an itchy or allergic pet can attest to difficulties in providing relief, particularly if the pet is obsessively licking, chewing or scratching,” Werner said. “If not managed, those trouble spots can become infected.”
These owners are determined to provide relief to their pets by seeking safe, easy-to-use options that will work, without the side effects of antibiotics, Werner said.
Sensitive skin and a dry coat might be the result of the many unnecessary and harsh ingredients in today’s grooming products, said Jill Taft, founder of BarkLogic, a brand of New York-based Logic Products.
“Sulfates can be incredibly drying to a dog’s skin, along with other harsh chemicals in the grooming products being used, and, once [they are] eliminated, pet parents realize their dog was experiencing a reaction to those ingredients,” Taft said.
Many consumers are demanding natural and organic options for their own personal care and, in turn, are seeking the same for their pets, said Janine Ling, owner of Kin+Kind in New York.
“Consumers shopping for skin and coat products tend to be sophisticated and discerning,” Ling said. “They look for the same types of ingredients for their pups that are available in their own skin and hair care products. Some popular ingredients for skin and hair are active charcoal, argan, jojoba and coconut oil.”
These consumers will scour labels to ensure products contain the simplest and purest ingredients, Ling added.
“Buzzwords include sulfate- and paraben-free soaps and preservative- and GMO-free supplements,” she said.
At Loyal Biscuit Co., which has stores in Maine, co-owner Heidi Neal noted that oils and functional treats are in demand.
“We carry coconut, pollock and salmon oils, and the Zymox line of shampoos and topical treatments,” she said. “My favorite shampoo line, in terms of overall skin and coat care, is from a Maine company, Mutt Nose Best. I love their products.”
Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, said that for hot spots, Wondercide’s Skin Tonic Spray or Skin Tonic Oil are popular selections.
“It’s very healing and smells good, too,” she said. “I also love Vetericyn. It helps heal wounds and irritations, and disinfects.”
Shopping Skin & Coat Care
“Increasingly savvy pet parents are reading the fine print on labels and researching ingredients for the attributes they want to find in a product, as well as those they don’t,” said Jill Taft, founder of BarkLogic, a brand of New York-based Logic Products.
Manufacturers are heeding that call.
The Raw Organic Coconut Oil supplement, recently released by Kin+Kind, offers antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties to help fight off invisible pests that might damage a dog’s skin and coat, said Janine Ling, owner of the New York-based company.
“Our product is 100 percent organic, virgin and cold-pressed to preserve the maximum nutrients from this amazing superfood,” Ling said.
The company’s new Argan Oil Restoring Dog Shampoo contains essential oils to aid in the repair of damaged coats and draw more moisture to a dog’s skin.
“As with each Kin+Kind shampoo, argan oil is all natural,” Ling said. “We use organic oils instead of drying chemicals and add natural glycerin for extra moisture.”
Last year, Vetericyn Animal Wellness launched the FoamCare pet shampoo line. The spray-on, instant-foaming shampoo is available in different formulations according to the thickness of an animal’s coat, said Melinda J. Mayfield, DVM, technical services veterinarian for the Rialto, Calif.-based company.
“We have low-density for fine coats, medium-density for moderate coats and high-density for thick coats,” she said. “The reason we did this is to make rinsing as easy and fast as possible.”
She added that the product “enhances an animal’s natural immune system against dermatological disorders” and also is available in a medicated formula for more serious skin problems.
BarkLogic announced a line extension at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March, featuring four sulfate-free, plant- and mineral-based grooming and cleanup solutions sets.
The USA-made, human-grade formulations provide pure and gentle grooming and cleanup products for the eco-conscious dog owner, Taft said.
Each hypoallergenic set consists of a shampoo, a conditioner, a two-in-one shampoo, a leave-in conditioning spray, biodegradable wipes, an odor-eliminating spray, a urine and stain spray, and a kennel and coat spray. The formulas include Sensitive Skin, Calming, Clean and Clear, and Revitalizing Spa Replenishing.
A summer release is planned for aTobiko’s new Skin and Coat Supplement. Rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9 to maintain healthy skin and coat, the product has been developed to improve the health of a dog from the inside out and features organic hempseed, plus other vegan and nonfish derived organic oils, said Michelle Drnek, co-founder of the Hampstead, N.H.-based company.
“The liquid supplement is easy to give to a dog—simply drizzle a bit over the food bowl,” Drnek said. “It has a neutral taste and odor, can be used with any dry, cooked or raw food, and pet owners should see noticeable improvement within weeks.”
Nutri-Vet Grain Free Skin and Coat Soft Biscuits for dogs were created to support skin and coat health, said Michele Rohrig, brand manager, companion animal, for Manna Pro Products in Chesterfield, Mo.
“In addition to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, each soft biscuit contains high-quality ingredients such as peanut butter, Yucca schidigera, biotin and coconut oil with no wheat, corn or soy,” Rohrig said.
Offer Well-Placed Solutions
Jeff Werner, national sales director for Pet King Brands, the Westmont, Ill.-based maker of Zymox and Oratene brand products, recommends creating a pharmacylike environment with floor and counter displays featuring a selection of products focused on relief and general skin and coat care. These can be easily placed in any area of a store, Werner said.
“Retailers creating a remedy section within the shampoo/cleanser aisle have seen the best sales results,” Werner added.
At Odyssey Pets in Dallas, skin and coat products are displayed in the supplement section on a large, wooden bookcase, said co-owner Sherry Redwine.
Products are shelved by category at Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., and include yeast control, hot spots, allergies, skin and itch solutions, and flea and tick control, said owner Lorin Grow.
Establishing a natural section will draw pet owners seeking eco-friendly and nontoxic products. For example, placement of a green leaf on signage can indicate plant-based or low-petroleum products, said Jill Taft, founder of BarkLogic, a brand of New York-based Logic Products.
“A skin care section that is divided into routine care and treatment areas makes it easier for customers to locate products indicated for what they are looking for,” said Melinda J. Mayfield, DVM, technical services veterinarian for Rialto, Calif.-based Vetericyn Animal Wellness products.
She also noted that displaying testimonials could be helpful for consumers who are not quite sure what they need.
“Vetericyn is helping educate, too,” Dr. Mayfield said. “We’re now producing how-to videos and blog articles to help pet owners and retailers learn about our products and the different ways they can be used.”
“Many consumers want to give their dogs products that are good for them, without any synthetic or toxic ingredients,” said Michelle Drnek, co-founder of aTobiko in Hampstead, N.H. “Just as a large banner or fun display will point customers to organic dog food, that same idea can be implemented in other areas of the store, such as organic grooming products, natural and organic pet toys, or local goods.”
Offering an interactive experience will attract consumers to new product lines and create engagement with sales associates, said Janine Ling, owner of Kin+Kind in New York.
“Compare this to shopping malls, where stores have associates at the entrance providing fragrance samples,” Ling said.
The scent of room candles burning near the counter or deodorizing body sprays, with testers to sample, will further generate interest, she added.
“The smell generally triggers a sale, or at least an interest in grooming lines, even for customers who are shopping for staples such as kibble,” Ling said.
The Skin & Coat Learning Curve
The ability to educate and guide consumers through the selection process will distinguish independent retailers from online and big-box retailers, where competition is based on price and specialized sales associates are rare, said Janine Ling, owner of Kin+Kind in New York.
“This is where the independent retailer can be most beneficial to the consumer,” said Michelle Drnek, co-founder of aTobiko in Hampstead, N.H.
When assisting customers in finding solutions to skin or coat issues, it is key that employees ask plenty of questions in order to determine the appropriate product and ensure success, said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.
“It is important to identify the symptoms, the specific areas that are problematic, to determine whether it’s yeast, food or environment related, or an allergy or sensitivity specific to fleas, food, contact, chemical cleaners, pollens, if it is acute or chronic, how and when it began, and the duration of presence,” Grow said.
Retailers can talk to pet owners about keeping their pets’ skin healthy, which includes maintaining pH balance, avoiding over-drying and making sure their pet gets proper nutrition, which provides needed vitamins, minerals and amino acids (fatty acids/omegas), said Melinda J. Mayfield, DVM, technical services veterinarian for Rialto, Calif.-based Vetericyn Animal Wellness.
When skin issues come up, owners should address them quickly to decrease the pet’s discomfort and the cost of treatment—and to prevent a small skin problem from turning into a big one, she said.
If a customer comes in with a pet experiencing skin or coat problems, the first line of inquiry is diet for Odyssey Pets in Dallas.
“Nine times out of 10, it’s the diet, whether it’s a grain allergy, or a particular protein, or just horrible food,” said Sherry Redwine, co-owner. “If the customer is adamant that it is not the food, then we suggest possible alternatives.”
Consumers armed with an understanding of the reasons why their pet might be suffering from repeat skin and coat issues, along with ways to prevent them easily and naturally, can prevent these problems from occurring, thereby reducing veterinary bills, Drnek said.