Every dog owner wants their pet to be active and healthy, and look that way too. A dog’s skin plays an extremely important role in maintaining their overall health – it’s responsible for protection against injuries and infections as well as helping to regulate body temperature. A dog’s hair, on the other hand, insulates the body and protects the skin from damage caused by heat, sunlight, and other irritants. For all these reasons, we need to make sure that our pup’s skin is in good condition. You can do this by making sure the food you feed your dog has enough nutrients for a healthy skin and coat. Here’s what you should be focusing on when choosing the best dog food for your pups.
Not all dogs are the same
A healthy, shiny coat and skin are signs of a dog’s general well-being. Many dog owners spend a lot of time caring for their pet’s coat, combing it or visiting grooming salons on a regular basis. While that’s a good practice to have, dog beauty treatments aren’t the only way you can help your pups look healthy. The main thing you should be focusing on is feeding them a healthy, properly balanced diet. Making sure your dog is getting the right proportions of nutrients and minerals in their dog food ensures that there is an adequate supply of blood to the skin, reflected in a strong and shiny coat.
It’s important to remember that every dog is different, and each breed can have different needs depending on the type of their coat. The easiest way to describe a dog’s coat type is long-haired or short-haired, but our four legged friends can also have a coat with straight hair, curly, rough hair, or flat hair. There are also single layers and double layers of hair. Different breeds will have different coat types. For example, many hunting dogs – like pointers or terriers – have short and thick coats that help to protect them from thorns and spikes in the bush. Breeds that come from colder parts of the world, like Siberian Huskies, have short double coats that protect them from cold winter temperatures.
For that reason, making sure you provide all the needed nutrients and knowing the best treatments will depend on the breed of your dog.
A diet for a healthy skin and coat
The condition of a dog’s coat depends on the condition of their skin. You can keep your dog’s skin in healthy condition by offering them dog food that contains proper nutrients. A dog’s menu should be balanced and provide proteins, fats, unsaturated fatty acids in the right proportions, as well as vitamins and minerals.
=> Learn more about how to choose the best dog food.
What elements should be present in a dog’s meal to make sure their skin and coat stays healthy?
This element performs many important functions that are the pillar of a body’s growth and development. If your dog’s diet lacks proteins, the epithelium has no way to regenerate and can’t be an effective barrier for microorganisms and bacteria. Their skin will become dry and weak, as water evaporates easily through leaky cell membranes. As a result, the skin will be unable to nourish the hair, which is why the coat becomes brittle and dull.
When considering protein in your pet’s diet, you should focus not only on the quantity, but also the quality, which is related to the type of protein in the food served. Protein of animal origin is the most suitable for dogs, and compared to vegetable protein it is up to six times better absorbed by their bodies. Each type of meat has a different protein content, however, so you should focus on finding the best quality meats and also keeping some variety in your dog’s diet.
Vitamins A and E
These vitamins are very important for skin health, as they help cells to regenerate by stimulating the replacement of old cells with new ones. Vitamin A regulates the production of collagen and elastin fibers, which make the skin supple. If your dog lacks Vitamin A in their diet, their skin might become very dry. Remember that Vitamin A helps animal fats to be better absorbed by your dog’s body, so you should be combining the meat that they eat with a source of Vitamin A.
Vitamin E is one of the strongest antioxidants known to science. Amongst many benefits, it also helps to moisturise the skin. When a dog does not get enough Vitamin E, the epidermis becomes rough and their coat structure will deteriorate.
This microelement is a great antioxidant. It has strong anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and inhibits the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. This makes it an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy coat and skin for your dog. Zinc stimulates the synthesis of proteins that build claws, helping to make them more flexible. If your dog doesn’t have enough zinc in their diet, their need for vitamin E increases and they may be exposed to a number of dermatological problems like dermatitis, impaired wound healing, and hair loss.
In common opinion, this mineral primarily affects the quality of blood, which in turn nourishes the entire body. Iron deficiency causes anaemia, which has a negative effect on the appearance of a dog’s coat. Additionally, iron ions are a component of the enzymes directly involved in the synthesis of hair-building proteins. When there aren’t enough of them in the body, a dog’s coat becomes weak. So when you’re looking for dog food for a healthy skin and coat, choose products that have iron, like meat-based meals.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 unsaturated fatty acids
These substances are extremely important in preventing skin diseases like allergies and dermatoses. In the right proportions, these fatty acids can also inhibit the inflammatory processes which take place in the skin. Insufficient amounts of unsaturated fatty acids in a dog’s diet can cause dry skin and dandruff, as well as oily coat.
If you’d like more information about the nutrients needed in a dog’s diet, check out the Pet Food Industry Association Australia.
Dog food for a healthy skin and coat
When buying dog food, it’s worth checking the labels on each product. You want to be looking for dog food that contains ingredients which are naturally rich in the nutrients that benefit a dog’s skin and give them a beautiful coat.
The best dog food for a healthy skin and coat should include ingredients like:
- Salmon oil or vegetable oils – These are sources of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E,
- Beef or pork – Both of which are rich in iron,
- Liver or carrots – Both rich in vitamin A.
When preparing meals for your dog at home, remember to include enough of these ingredients in their diet.
What if my dog doesn’t get enough nutrients?
A pet’s diet should be balanced and provide all the necessary nutrients in the correct proportions. A lack of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, excess potassium and calcium, or zinc deficiency in a dog’s diet can contribute to excessive hair loss and weakening of the hair structure. These changes usually affect the entire hair of a dog.
What if my dog is allergic?
Hair loss may be caused by hypersensitivity to certain allergens. Allergic changes on the skin can occur suddenly – the dog will feel very itchy, gnaw at their fur, and lick the place where they feel discomfort. The result is a wound that often requires the intervention of a veterinarian. Treating a dog’s allergies is primarily about eliminating the allergens that sensitise the dog and trigger symptoms.
Proper nutrition of dogs with food allergies consists mainly of eliminating the allergenic component from the diet. Many dogs can be allergic to cereal protein. Their immune system will be mainly triggered by wheat, which is unfortunately commonly added to low-quality dog food. This is why it’s worth feeding your dog safe, grain-free dog food from the beginning of their life. You can find many options of both dry and wet grain-free dog food meals.
Other dog food ingredients that many dogs can have an allergic reaction to are soybeans, beef, poultry, milk, tomatoes, and eggs.
If your dog experiences food allergy, you should limit the sources of protein in their diet – both plant and animal, especially in the first stages of allergic reaction. Of course, their diet must include products that the dog doesn’t show any allergic reaction to. Usually these would include brown rice, lamb, fish, and game, which are not allergenic enough to cause a reaction. In the production of hypoallergenic foods, hydrolysed protein is also used, which has lower allergenic properties.
The most important recommendation in cases of food allergy in dogs is strict adherence to a healthy diet. Under no circumstances is the dog allowed to be fed anything other than the agreed foods, and this applies not only to meals but also treats. For this reason, it’s always best to reach for premium quality dog food made of the best ingredients. In this way you can be guaranteed consistency in the composition.
Top rules for healthy skin and coat
Choosing the right, balanced diet for your dog is very important for their health and the condition of their skin and coat. To keep your dog healthy and well looked after, remember the rules for taking care of your pet’s coat. Below are a few simple tips to keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy and in good condition.
- Beware of the sun. Too much sun can burn and irritate your dog’s skin. It is recommended to use sunscreen or lotion on the sensitive parts of their body. Remember that flooring must also be suitable to prevent burns on your dog’s paws.
Don’t forget to keep your dog hydrated. High temperatures can dehydrate your dog, so make sure they have constant access to water.
- Check dog food labels. Once you know what kind of dog food ingredients are best for keeping their skin and coat healthy, make sure that the products you buy in supermarkets contain these ingredients. When cooking dog food at home, prepare meals full of good proteins, Vitamin A and E, zinc, and iron.
- Check your dog’s skin and coat. Healthy dog’s skin should be pink or black, depending on the pigmentation of the breed or your dog’s genetic makeup. When checking your dog for skin problems, use your fingers to separate their fur and see for scabs, scratches, scaly patches, black or white spots, and skin that is infected or inflamed. The dog’s coat should be thick (depending on the breed), shiny, with no broken hair, bald patches, dandruff, or fleas.
- Brush your dog’s coat regularly. Taking care of your dog’s coat and brushing it regularly is very important. A coat that isn’t groomed and brushed can be a great place for all kinds of insects and parasites, including ticks, which can hide in tufts of hair. Additionally, a large amount of old hair can lead to the formation of knots that are difficult to detangle.
It’s good to brush your dog several times a week. This is especially true for longhaired dogs, which should in principle be brushed daily. You can brush short-haired dogs less frequently, for example once a week, as their hair is much shorter and in some cases coarser. These breeds also don’t develop as much undercoat as long-haired dogs.
- Don’t wash your dog too often. A dog’s skin is a bit different to a human’s. When washing your dog, you are actually removing a natural protective layer from their skin which can in turn reduce their immunity. How often should you wash your dog? Two to four baths a year are enough. You can do it more often but you shouldn’t exceed the limit of one bath per month. Again, this will depend on the breed of your dog and its lifestyle.
Note that this doesn’t mean you should avoid washing your dog after they’ve had a swim in the ocean or river. Water from lakes and rivers can be unhealthy for a dog’s skin, so you can give your dog a quick shower without using any detergents. This can help you avoid any skin problems in the future.