Functional petfoods continue to gain popularity with pet parents because of a simple fact: Food and treats that promise improved health for their animals appeal to consumers. Skin and coat health seem to be particularly important to dog and cat owners. Coat care treats and petfoods fortified with healthy skin-boosting ingredients that relieve itchy, dry skin caused by allergies are popular perhaps because they are a long-term and more cost-efficient solution to what can sometimes be a lifelong health problem for some breeds.

What kind of skin and coat products are available on the market and what benefits do they promote to potential consumers?  

One example is Dr. Foster and Smith's Premium Plus Bites. These liver-flavored treats are meant to provide an extra boost for dogs already using skin and coat supplements or to help maintain an already healthy coat. The Bites contain a high concentration of biotin along with vitamin C, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. This particular blend of ingredients is meant to support the proper function of the skin's oil glands, prevent water loss from the skin and help the hair and coat look shiny and healthy.

Another carefully selected blend of ingredients, Hilton Herb's Seaweed & Rosehip supplement mix relies on its simplicity to aid in canine coat health. Made of nothing but kelp seaweed and rosehip shells, the herb blend supports dogs' digestive, nervous and circulatory systems, ensuring strong nails and great coat and skin condition, says the company. Hilton Herb's Top Coat blend contains a more complicated mix of marigold flowers, chamomile flowers, nettle leaf, cleaver herb, burdock root, dandelion root and kelp. These plants support and maintain depth of coat color and skin pigmentation, help the dogs natural resistance to allergens and cool, soothe and cleanse, according to Hilton Herb.

Available in the UK, Hills Science Plan has also released a line of treats targeting skin and coat problems in dogs. The line includes Puppy Skin & Coat Dog Treats, Adult Skin & Coat Dog Treats and Skin & Coat Jerky -- all of which promise to help keep skin and coats smooth and flake free.

What ingredients are being touted as the best boosts for pet skin and coat health? 

1. Salmon.  Along with other fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed, salmon is high in fatty acids that are key to achieving healthy skin. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s help keep cell membranes healthy by keeping out harmful substances as well as allowing nutrients to enter cells and exit with waste products. Omega-3s also reduce the animal's production of inflammatory agents that can damage the skin.

2. Blueberries.  Considered by sources like to be the highest food source of antioxidants, blueberries target free radicals that can wreak havoc on a pet's skin cells. The antioxidants and phytochemicals in blueberries neutralize DNA-damaging free radicals, reducing cell damage.

3. Oatmeal.  Oatmeal may be relatively new to the petfood industry as a whole, but is a nutritious and effective, natural and holistic ingredient for both dogs and cats, according to petfood companies like Holistic Select. "Many vets feel that the protein in oatmeal is very hypoallergenic (less likely to cause an allergic reaction) and therefore an ideal nutrient to be included in a diet formulated for pets suspected of having a food sensitivity or skin allergies," states the Holistic Select website.

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