Just like humans, a dog’s skin stands as their largest organ.
As a result, the skin uses many resources from the body to maintain its health.
This is especially noteworthy when you consider that it is also responsible for growing and maintaining the health and condition of a dog’s silky, bright coat.
The good news is that a complete and balanced dog food suited to your dog will have the necessary ingredients to maintain their skin and fur. This article will explain what keeps a dog’s coat spick and span so your dog can shine bright.
How can I tell if my dog’s coat is unhealthy?
It’s important for pet parents to monitor their dog’s coat because when a dog is unhealthy, the skin and hair are often the first to suffer.
Here are some signs of an unhealthy coat:
- Dull coat
- Dry skin or fur
- Bumps in coat
- Matted fur
- Excessive shedding
- Bald spots
A healthy dog does not shed excessively and has a shiny coat free from dandruff or greasiness — think of it like your own hair. You might be tempted to reach for various shampoos and conditioners, but first, consider whether that lacklustre coat is telling you something else.
There can be many reasons for an unhealthy or dull coat, including allergies, infections, underlying health conditions, or micronutrient deficiencies.
What food is beneficial for my dog’s coat?
If your dog is eating a complete and balanced food suited to them, it will contain the essential nutrition to maintain a healthy coat.
Here are some of the ingredients most commercially made or homemade dog food contains that contribute to your dog’s healthy fur.
Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids in themselves can be helpful just to give a shine to the coat, add some lustre back, and help replace the oils in the skin.
Fatty acids are a reason why many raw feeders notice an improvement in their dog’s coat condition. This is because raw food tends to be higher in fat, which provides ample fatty acids to support skin and coat health.
N-3 fatty acids are a popular option for treating skin issues in dogs, particularly those with itching and inflammation problems. Such fatty acids can reduce inflammation by influencing the production of certain chemicals in the body.
Clinical evidence from a study involving dogs with skin issues showed that diets high in n-3 fatty acids led to significant improvements in itching, skin condition, and coat quality over a 6-week period.
N-3 fatty acids can be naturally found in fish, nuts, and seeds which are common in complete and balanced dog foods. However, for this study, it is worth noting that the dogs ate commercially dry dog food, and n-3 fatty acid supplements were the only addition to their diet.
Believe it or not, 95% of a dog’s hair structure is made of protein and so around 30% of your dog’s daily protein intake is used solely for skin and coat requirements.
The quality of protein intake can play a pivotal role in coat color. The synthesis of melanins, responsible for coat pigmentation, relies on an adequate supply of precursor amino acids. Inadequate intake of certain aromatic amino acids, like phenylalanine and tyrosine, can negatively impact eumelanin production, potentially altering coat color.
High animal protein diets provide essential sulfur-containing amino acids for skin and coat cell regeneration and help prevent deficiencies of tyrosine and other amino acids necessary for melanin synthesis.
A lack of protein can lead to various coat and skin issues, such as reduced hair diameter, brittle hair, dormant hair follicles, and skin problems like thinness, reduced flexibility, slow wound healing, sores, and a weakened immune system.
Maintaining a proper protein balance is vital for ensuring a dog’s coat and skin remain healthy and vibrant.
Zinc plays a crucial role in regulating several aspects of cellular metabolism, many of which are associated with the maintenance of healthy skin and coat.
Dogs don’t naturally produce zinc, therefore it’s an important mineral in a dog’s diet. Dry, flaky skin can be a sign of zinc deficiency. Adding zinc to a dog’s diet is also beneficial for their thyroid function and immune system.
It is recommended by the AAFCO that an adult dog should intake 120 mg of zinc per kg of dry-matter diet. This will differ for pregnant dogs, nursing mums, or puppies as they often require a higher level of zinc for growth and development.
Biotin is one of the complex B vitamins and is one of the vitamins responsible for breaking down fat and carbs from food which turns them into energy. But Biotin is also important for maintaining a healthy skin and coat.
A healthy dog eating a complete and balanced diet should have nothing to worry about. However, if your dog has been ill and is on antibiotics, you might need to keep an eye out for biotin deficiency. Drugs can often harm the biotin-producing bacteria in the gut which can then lead to such deficiencies.
Signs such as scaly skin, skin lesions, scruffy appearance and a dull, dry coat could be signs of biotin deficiency. It’s a good idea to check with the vet if you believe these signs are apparent and they may recommend a supplement.
Other factors that affect your dog’s coat
Although diet plays a significant role in determining the quality of your dog’s coat, there are various other factors that can influence the health of their fur and skin.
Ensuring your dog drinks an adequate amount of fresh water regularly is crucial to maintaining proper hydration, as dehydration can lead to a dull coat and skin issues. It’s also essential to manage any allergies your dog may have, as allergies can trigger itching, hot spots, sores, and hair loss.
Regular grooming through washing and brushing not only helps keep their coat in optimal condition but also promotes healthy skin. It’s also recommended to use high-quality grooming products suited to your dog’s fur type.
Moreover, encouraging your dog to engage in routine cardiovascular activities can contribute to overall well-being, which often reflects positively on the condition of their fur and skin.
Does my dog need supplements for their skin?
If your dog’s food is suitable for them, and they are eating a complete and balanced diet then dogs should have healthy skin and a glossy coat.
However, if this isn’t the case, you may consider changing their food or if you feel your dog’s skin and coat needs extra support, supplements are available. Supplements range from those that supply additional omega-3 fatty acids to zinc and biotin to support skin health, or herbal ingredients to help to reduce irritation.
There aren’t any major concerns with skin supplements, but it’s a good idea to chat with your vet in case they interact with any veterinary treatments.
While dogs aren’t concerned with a 10-step skincare routine to avoid wrinkles or anti-aging like many of us humans, it is important to care for their skin and fur.
Of course, a complete and balanced diet is essential for countless reasons, and one key reason is to maintain a shiny, glossy coat for your furry friend.