Coat Check

When helping customers find the right products to care for their pets’ skin and coat, retailers should work from the inside out.



Coat care begins with the skin. You can’t have a healthy coat without healthy skin and hair follicles. Part of that is genetics, and nothing groomers, owners or retailers do will affect that. But the second most important aspect of coat and skin care is nutrition, which we can do something about. 

Julie Wilkins-Pantages, owner of Best In Show Pet Salon in Gloucester, Mass., is a breeder and professional handler who has shown many Poodles to their AKC Championships. Poodles absolutely must have excellent coats to succeed in the show ring. So what are her secrets for creating and maintaining good coat?

“Healthy skin and coat starts from the inside out,” Wilkins-Pantages says. “Make sure you feed a good high-quality diet, feeding or supplementing with raw [foods]. Preventative maintenance is best. Clean coats grow faster and are less likely to mat, so weekly to bi-weekly baths in a non-drying shampoo and conditioner will keep the coat protected and growing.” 

She also recommends avoiding using whiteners, clarifiers or bodifiers in these regular baths, as they can strip out and dry coats. These should be reserved for use before shows or contests. Using a light conditioning spray to tame unruly hair can also help, as static can cause matting, Wilkins-Pantages says.

Steven Shweky, president and CEO of Fetch…for Pets!, recommends the company’s Biosilk for Dogs products to help with coat maintenance. 

“Our Biosilk for Dogs formulas are made with silk proteins that are known for their moisture-binding properties that work to strengthen and repair hair,” Shweky says. “The proteins also work as a protective barrier while adding luster and body, so your pet’s coat can look great while also being healthy and manageable. Our Biosilk for Dogs Detangling and Shine Spray is perfect for long-haired dogs to help avoid knots and matting while keeping hair silky smooth.”

Fetch also offers the Burt’s Bees line, which includes natural moisturizers like avocado and coconut oil, as well as a Relieving Itch and Hot Spot Spray that uses chamomile and rosemary to soothe irritated skin and hot spots.

While most retailers are prepared to help pet owners find the best quality food for their particular pet, it’s also a good idea to carry and be familiar with a selection of supplements that are specifically geared toward healthy skin and coat. Some nutritional supplements are ingested and others are topically applied, so look for both forms when evaluating what to carry. 

A few popular ingredients to look for are omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, vitamins A, B6, E and C, biotin and zinc, which are known to help with general skin and coat health in dogs. Some ingredients are also thought to help reduce inflammation and itching, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, bromelain, boswellia, yucca and aloe vera. Lambert Kay’s Linatone liquid and Mirra-Coat powder have been good sellers for many years, as has IVS’s Lipiderm. Missing Link also has a popular supplement tailored to coat and skin needs. 

Coconut oil is another popular ingredient, as are salmon oil and flaxseed meal—anything that will deliver coat- and skin-specific vitamins, minerals or fatty acids. Make sure customers understand that fatty acids can take months to produce visible results, so it is worth committing to at least a 12-week course of their supplement choice. It’s also good to caution owners of overweight dogs that adding a supplement with fatty acids may require reducing the fats in the dog’s regular diet to avoid further weight gain. As always, pets should be checked by their veterinarians for any medical conditions that could be an underlying cause of a coat or skin condition.

A frequent request is a solution for pets’ itching issues. There are many possible causes, but the most likely is allergies. Along with working to identify and, if possible, remove the major allergens from the dog’s environment, supporting the skin to allow it to heal itself more readily can have a huge impact. No matter the origin of itchy skin or hot spots, pet professionals need to work to help alleviate the problem.

Sometimes the best and most immediate relief for skin conditions is a topically applied one, whether it is a shampoo and conditioner or a spray, cream or gel. Once scratching or chewing has opened the skin to possible infections that can make the original condition worse, it’s important to provide quick relief to stop the cycle. 

Vetericyn Animal Wellness works to provide retailers with everything they need to help pet owners solve these problems. Their FoamCare shampoos contain nutrients and conditioners, are anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory and are formulated to help the coat and skin retain essential oils. The shampoo foams as it is applied, ensuring good coverage and cleaning, and it is available in a medicated form aimed at itching and other skin ailments. Vetericyn’s Antimicrobial HydroGel is great for follow-up care of hot spots as it adheres to the area while reducing pain and itching, and Vetericyn Plus Wound and Skin Care liquid has long been popular to treat any sort of skin injury. Many groomers keep it on hand for immediate relief of possible clipper irritation. 

“Vetericyn features hypochlorous technology as part of its innovative wound management and treatment solution,” says Geoff Hamby, director of marketing for Vetericyn. “It’s non-toxic, non-stinging and does not harm healthy tissue the way some other wound treatment products can. It is also free of antibiotics and steroids and completely safe if licked or ingested.” 

An additional plus to offering Vetericyn products is that the company offers a variety of in-store marketing and training materials ranging from POP kits, brochures and product guides, to pre-made social media posts and store events. 

Pet King Brands is another company that understands the frustration pet owners experience with skin problems. “Pets with itchy, allergic skin are extremely challenging for most pet owners, especially when a skin condition has flared,” says Jeff Warner, national sales director for Pet King Brands, makers of ZYMOX and Oratene. “The dog or cat may become obsessive with grooming, licking or chewing the skin to the point of hair loss or wounds. The stress this produces on the pet in turn produces a great amount of stress on the pet owner.” 

According to Warner, allergies can weaken the immune response and create an environment for bacterial or fungal growth, which can make a simple itching problem worse. ZYMOX shampoo works for everyday maintenance bathing as often as weekly or bi-weekly and is also effective for allergic flare-ups when calming and soothing relief is needed.  

“The ZYMOX Conditioning Rinse with hydrating vitamin D can be applied after cleansing with the ZYMOX Shampoo to provide additional health benefits,” he says. “It can be easily applied full-strength as a lotion directly to irritated areas any time the pet is needing extra relief. The antibacterial and antifungal benefits of the enzymes are also available in a topical cream or spray for those active infections.” 

Whatever your customers’ challenges in maintaining or creating healthy skin and coat, make sure you have the products on hand to help. Allergy season is just about upon us for much of the country—help your customers have an easier time of it this year by stocking shampoos, conditioners, nutritional supplements and topically applied remedies that will keep their pets looking and feeling their best.

Carol Visser has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming at her small salon in rural Maine.


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