Skin problems are one of the primary concerns of pet owners, with a range cited in the veterinary literature from 20% to 70% of animals seen in a typical veterinary practice. Some skin problems may be related to oxidative stress or the imbalance between pro-oxidants and the body's antioxidant defense system. This study examined the effect on serum and skin levels of vitamin E when it is added to the diet of healthy dogs and cats. The study involved two groups of 10 dogs and two groups of 10 cats. One group of dogs was fed a commercial product containing 217 IU vitamin E/kg of food, and the other group was fed a commercial product containing 654 IU vitamin E/kg of food.

One group of 10 cats was fed a commercial food containing 86 IU vitamin E/kg of food, and the other group was fed a commercial food containing 709 IU vitamin E/kg of food. All foods were fed for 8 weeks. When serum and skin samples were evaluated, vitamin concentrations increased significantly in the animals fed the high-vitamin E food. Increasing the vitamin E content in serum and skin may be beneficial to animals with skin disease, although the exact relationship between these increases and prevention, development, or treatment of skin disease has not been elucidated. Study sponsored by Hill's Science and Technology Center, Topeka, KS.

COMMENTARY: As an animal's barrier against external elements, the skin is uniquely challenged by oxidants. Air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, parasites, and oxidants released as a result of the animal's own normal metabolism are only some sources. Nutritional antioxidants such as vitamin E may be one of the answers to this ever-present challenge.

Effects of serum vitamin E levels on skin vitamin E levels in dogs and cats. Jewell DE, Yu S, Joshi DK. VET THER 3:235-243, 2002.