September 12, 2012
|Dog Skin & Coat - Facts by Kesler's Korner
SKIN AND HAIRCOAT FACTS
When you think of the major organs that dogs have most of us think of the Liver, Heart and their brains. It may surprise you to know that their largest organ is the skin that covers their bodies. It is that soft protective outer covering that encases the other organs of the body. It has many functions that include preventing dehydration, sensing pain and temperature, helps prevent trauma and contains the hair coat. Actually the list of its functions would be very long indeed.
The haircoat of the dog is found on the outermost layer of the skin. Besides giving each breed and dog a distinctive look it also plays a role in the dog's health. The haircoat provides insulation for the dog, keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. As you know the type and length of the haircoat in dogs varies a great deal. The haircoat also can act as a warning to others as we see when two dogs approach each other and their "Hair rises" on their backs.
The hair is basically dead material consisting of protein. It is produced in hair follicles that determine the shape of the hair. Curly follicles produce curly hair and straight follicles produce straight hair. Part of the hair follicle produces sebum, an oily like substance that gives the hair a sheen. The hair of dogs grows in cycles and this cycle has four phases. The duration of these phases determine the length of the hair coat and the thickness of the haircoat. When the hair reaches a certain length the genetics of the dog then determines when the growth stops. The final phase that we encounter is when the haircoat sheds. The length of this phase is determined by the seasons. Not all hair follicle are in sync thankfully or shedding would result in compete baldness and then start over from scratch. Different breeds have differing phases and that is why we have very long haircoats and dogs with almost complete baldness. Dog breeds vary in haircoats: some have double coats consisting of a top coat and undercoat, some are hairless and some have a topcoat with little or no undercoats.
Many owners of dogs are concerned about shedding and so I will give a few generalizations on dog and the cycle of shedding. Shedding is related to seasonal cycles, that is the daylight to nighttime seasonal changes. An increase in the amount of daylight stimulates the growth of hair and usually coincides with spring. The shedding we encounter in spring is heavier due to the winter coat being heavier and being replaced by a lighter summer coat. Those dogs that have double coats usually shed their undercoats two times per year and their topcoats once a year. When these dogs shed both top and undercoats at once it is referred to as "blowing a coat". Some dogs shed throughout the year or once a year. The process of shedding usually lasts anywhere from three weeks to two months while indoor dogs seem to shed lightly all year round. Other factors that influence haircoats and shedding are nutrition, hormones, stress, temperature and the sex of the dog.
The skin and haircoats of dogs are not only attractive but a very complicated organ that is vital to the health of the dog. Diseases of the skin and haircoats are one of the most common reasons for veterinary visits. Keeping your dogs' skin and haircoat healthy involves proper bathing and brushing, proper nutrition and using well formulated supplements designed for skin and hair health.
For more interesting facts about your dog and their hair coat visit Lambert Vet Supply at Kesler's Korner at www.LambertVetSupply.com
or call 1800-344-6337