The Skinny on your Pet's Skin and Coat Collectively, your pet’s skin and hair provide an important barometer of his or her overall health. From areas of baldness and varying levels of skin irritation to matted fur, several skin and coat issues will likely need to be addressed throughout your pet’s lifetime. By implementing a regular brushing, bathing and general examination routine, you are more likely to notice any problems before they become a more substantial threat to your pet’s health. Traits of a Healthy Skin and Coat Before you examine your pet’s skin and coat, take into account the following information to determine what is normal and what is of concern. In both dogs and cats, the coat should be free of odors, abnormal hair loss, excessive grease or residue and should encompass mainly blemish-free skin underneath. The coat varies among cats and dogs, as well as across breeds, however in general, your pet’s coat should appear shiny, clean and odor-free. While your pet’s coat might undergo normal changes with age, such as graying around the face, your pet’s coat should, in general, remain fairly consistent throughout its lifetime. Note what is normal for your pet, in terms of the look, smell and feel of his/her skin and coat. Pay attention to any changes or irregularities and consult your veterinarian if you notice an abnormality. Common Skin and Coat Issues Daily interaction with your pet poses a variety of opportunities to assess his or her overall skin and coat health. When performing regular brushing, petting and bathing, be cognizant of anything that seems out of the ordinary. The following are causes of concern and need to be addressed by your veterinarian: Patchy spots of baldness, or sudden, exorbitant hair loss outside the parameters of typical shedding. Excessive odors out-of-the ordinary for your pet. Consistent or aggressive scratching, rubbing, licking, or biting of a particular area. Matted fur, which can result in irritation of the skin underneath. The visible presence of fleas or flea dirt. Flea dirt can be viewed as black or reddish-colored dust that gathers on your pet’s coat and skin. According to Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD, Banfield’s dermatology specialist, use a moist, white tissue or paper towel to examine suspicious material gathered with a comb or brush. Flea dirt (partially digested blood), will turn the tissue reddish brown, indicating the presence of fleas. Even with careful examination, it is easy to overlook a small number of fleas, which can quickly infest your environment. Therefore, it is safest to consult with your veterinarian for recommended routine flea preventive and control products. If you have any questions about your pet’s skin and coat, or overall health, call your Banfield veterinarian.