Healthy Skin and Coat in Dogs
Did you know the condition of your dog’s skin and coat says a lot about their overall health? Healthy dogs that eat a nutritionally complete and balanced formula will often have soft, supple skin, as well as a shiny coat. Conversely, dogs that lack essential nutrients might have scaly, dry and itchy skin; their fur might also be dull or oily.
If you notice that your dog’s skin looks scaly or lacks elasticity, and you and your veterinarian have ruled out a food allergy or sensitivity, it could be that their diet is missing key vitamins and minerals. Keep reading to learn how to feed your dog for better-looking skin and fur.
Skin and Coat Health Starts on the Inside
As a dog parent, you know that good pet health starts from within. That’s why it’s important to fill their dog food bowl with the right balance of proteins, fats and other essential nutrients for skin that not only looks great, but also feels healthy.
So, what nutrients does your dog need for soft skin and shiny fur?
Essential Amino Acids and Fatty Acids
Amino acids, either from animal-based proteins or plant-based proteins, help dogs achieve optimal health, and also nourish their skin and coat. Complete and balanced dog foods contain all the essential amino acids your companion needs. Your veterinarian might also recommend a dry dog food made with high-quality animal proteins, such as chicken or salmon.
For good skin and coat health, dogs also need excellent sources of omega-6 and omega 3-fatty acids. These essential fatty acids can help prevent your dog’s fur from matting, which is difficult to brush, as well as prevent dry, itchy skin. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in animal-based ingredients, such as chicken fat, and plant-based ingredients.
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Fortunately, most dog foods feature more than enough omega-6 fatty acids, especially if their kibble or wet dog food is made with a good source of animal proteins and animal fats. This essential fatty acid, also known as linoleic acid (LA), is responsible for healthy cell function, including the regeneration of skin cells. Without linoleic acid in their diet, dogs are more likely to experience hair loss, greasy skin and a dull coat.
When selecting a dog food formula, look at the ingredients list for high-quality, animal-based proteins, such as chicken, and vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Alpha linoleic acid (ALA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA} are omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s why veterinarians will often recommend an omega-3 supplement for dogs with osteoarthritis to help nourish joints. In addition to managing skin inflammation in dogs, other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include immune system benefits and a soft, shiny coat.
If you notice that your dog has rough, patchy skin or dandruff in their fur, it could be that they aren’t getting enough of this essential fatty acid from their diet. Check the ingredients panel on the back of their kibble or canned dog food for ingredients such as salmon, fish oils and plant oil sources, like flaxseed.
B Vitamins and Zinc
You’re probably familiar with B vitamins and their benefits. For healthier skin and nails, you might take a biotin supplement. In the same way, thiamin (B1) biotin (B7), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) help give dogs soft, supple skin and a lustrous coat. Combined with good sources of zinc, which helps hydrate their skin and cell replication, these essential nutrients promote healthy-looking skin and fur.
To help your dog look their best, make sure they’re getting enough B vitamins in their diet. You can find good sources of this nutrient in high-quality, animal-based proteins, fish and cereal grains, such as barley or wheat. Even if their diet features these ingredients, talk with your veterinarian about a B vitamin supplement if their skin and fur doesn’t look or feel as healthy as it could be.
Dog Vitamins or Supplements
While dogs eat the same food every day, most humans do not. We take multivitamins and supplements to fill nutritional gaps, helping make up for the days we don’t get all the recommended vitamins and minerals.
Complete and balanced dog foods are formulated to give them the proper amounts of essential nutrients. Therefore, your dog if your dog is eating a store-bought food they probably do not require supplements. In fact, too much of a single nutrient can be harmful to your pet. For example, too much omega 6-fatty acid can increase your dog’s risk for skin inflammation. That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult a veterinarian before starting your dog on a vitamin or supplement. He or she can recommend a specialized dog food formula if you suspect they are experiencing a nutrient deficiency.
Dog Nutrition and Shedding
Depending on your dog’s breed, shedding ¬– and even excessive shedding ¬– is normal. Too, some dog breeds develop a thicker coat in the winter and then shed it come spring. However, if your dog usually does not shed very much, and you’re finding more hair coming off their body as you pet them, food allergies or a nutrient deficiency could be to blame.
Contact your veterinarian if you notice a sudden change in the texture of your dog’s fur or shedding. He or she will be able to recommend a dog food that addresses nutritional gaps, or excludes ingredients that irritate their skin.
At-home Dog Bathing and Dog Grooming
Dogs do not need baths as often as humans. In fact, bathing your dog too often can cause skin irritation; moreover, if your dog already has healthy skin and fur, there shouldn’t be much of an odor. Many dog parents will bathe their dog no more than once a week, or a couple times a month.
Just as the occasional bath promotes good pet hygiene, frequent brushing and coat inspecting is an excellent pet health practice. Paying close attention to your dog’s skin and coat can help you know if they are getting the proper nutrition and hygiene care.