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Ceramides for dogs: A complete guide

Dog itching its skin

Skin conditions can plague our fur friends just the way they can bother us. Allergies, dry skin, and other irritants can make your dog itchy and uncomfortable. If your dog seems to be generally itchy, taking every opportunity to have a good scrub on the ground, scratch themselves, or is constantly seeking you out for a nice scratch, they may benefit from the use of ceramides to soothe and heal their skin.   

Certain breeds such as golden and Labrador retrievers, shar-peis, boxers, and French bulldogs are known to be susceptible to allergies, but any dog can find himself with dry, itchy skin. In fact, 10% of dogs worldwide suffer from a skin condition called canine atopic dermatitis. Canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) is a common inflammatory condition that has a hereditary component and a link to environmental allergens. Dogs have a thin outer layer of skin, the epidermis, and it is important for maintaining the correct moisture level of the skin. This outermost layer is disrupted in dogs with CAD, which leads to drying, cracking, and itching (called pruritus in the veterinary world) that can allow allergens and bacteria to pass the skin barrier. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for skin infections, but the overuse of these drugs can often be prevented by treating the skin with ceramides. Ceramides can help to repair your dog’s skin barrier and seal in moisture while preventing harmful bacteria from entering. 

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What are ceramides? 

In humans and dogs, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and it serves a vital role in maintaining good health. The top layer of skin, called the epidermis, is tasked with the role of forming a sturdy barrier to protect the body, the regeneration of skin cells, as well as with keeping the body properly hydrated. A dog’s epidermis is several layers of cells thinner than a human’s, making dog skin more sensitive and susceptible to injury or infection from itching and cracking. The very top layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum, which is a thin layer of tough protective cells. The cells are ‘cemented’ together with a lipid-rich matrix that helps regulate hydration and excludes toxins. Ceramides are a type of lipid molecule that is naturally found in the stratum corneum. This oily, waxy layer plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin and coat in dogs. Ceramides help keep your dog’s skin hydrated and prevent moisture loss in addition to protecting against environmental stressors such as UV rays and allergens.  

Benefits of ceramides for dogs

Dogs with CAD have been shown to be ceramide deficient, and these lower ceramide levels are linked to a range of skin conditions, including inflammation and pruritus. The anti-inflammatory properties of ceramides have a soothing effect on irritated skin, and they can provide relief to dogs suffering from conditions such as hotspots and CAD. Ceramides also play a role in the skin’s natural healing process. By supporting the regeneration of healthy skin cells, they can promote faster wound healing and lessen the chance of scarring. 

How to give your dog ceramides

There are easy ways to replenish the ceramides on your dog’s skin, which can contribute to their overall well-being. One is to approach it from an ‘inside-out’ perspective and work to heal your dog’s skin from the inside through dietary changes and supplements. A proper diet is the first defense against many skin problems. Foods such as sweet potatoes, eggs, and fatty fish such as salmon boost ceramide production in the body and can help to maintain the moisture needs of your pup’s skin. A healthy diet is vital for your dog, and research has shown that starting puppies on a diet designed to boost the level of ceramides on the skin led to reduced incidence of pruritus. This research is ongoing, and it is always important to check with your veterinarian when making any changes to your dog’s diet. 

There are also benefits to using a more direct topical application of ceramides on your dog’s skin. There are many creams, rinses, and moisturizing lotions available for dogs that are designed to soothe and heal skin irritations. Look for moisturizing products formulated for dogs that contain ceramides and essential fatty acids. A cool bath has the benefit of removing allergens such as pollen from your dog’s fur and skin, and it will give relief by easing inflammation and replenishing the skin barrier.   

Ceramides can also be applied in cream form directly to the skin. Ointments or thick creams are preferred over watery lotions, but they might be difficult to spread through fur onto your dog’s skin. Be sure to choose a product that does not contain any harmful ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, which can be toxic for your dog. Test a small amount on your dog’s skin and wait 24 hours to make sure there is no redness or irritation signaling and allergic reaction. Avoid getting the product in your dog’s eyes or mouth, and you may have to use a cone to prevent your pup from licking the ointment off and potentially irritating their skin even more.  

The bottom line 

Ceramides are naturally occurring elements of your dog’s skin. In dogs with certain skin problems, such as canine atopic dermatitis, it has been shown that they have reduced levels of ceramides in their skin. Supplementing either through diet or by applying a ceramide-containing cream or shampoo can help to replenish these important lipid molecules and offer soothing relief for our seriously itchy pups. Then they can get back to the business of having serious fun.