A regular grooming routine is a great way to give your pup some extra love and attention, but it also helps to keep their coat and skin healthy.
Brushing and bathing loosen dead skin cells and external parasites, as well as distributes their natural skin oils along the hair shafts.
But a shiny coat and healthy skin require more than regular grooming. In fact, the condition of your dog’s outside appearance is often a reflection of what’s going on inside their body.
Dr Laura Duclos from personalised nutrition company, Puppo, shares her 16 years of experience in pet health and food to explain how everything from nutrition to environmental influences could be affecting your pup’s coat and skin.
Ways Health Can Impact Your Pup’s Skin and Coat
A change of season can often leads to a flare-up of skin and coat issues; the arrival of fleas, heightened levels of pollen, and a change in humidity are all factors.
When a dog is stressed, whether due to environmental triggers or chronic health concerns, it can affect the shine and texture of their coat—even causing excessive shedding.
Look Out for Skin Issues
Sometimes skin problems such as excessive dandruff, doggy odor, a greasy or dull coat, and excessive shedding can indicate a more serious, health-related problem.
One issue affecting a dog’s skin and coat, known as seborrhea, has two types: seborrhea sicca (meaning dry seborrhea) and seborrhea oleosa (meaning oily seborrhea).
Most dogs with seborrheic dermatitis have a combination of dry and oily seborrhea.
Some causes for this issue include:
- Hormonal Imbalances: (e.g., thyroid disease, Cushing’s disease)
- Allergies: Food and environmental
- Parasites (internal and external): Fleas, ticks, mange mites
- Fungal Infections: Especially yeast skin infections (Malassezia)
- Environmental Factors: Temperature, humidity changes
- Obesity and Musculoskeletal Disease or Pain: Dogs are unable to groom themselves
Use the Correct Dog Bathing Products
In addition, using the wrong products on your pup can quickly lead to skin irritation. Dogs should only be bathed with a shampoo formulated for them.
Their skin has a different thickness and pH (acidity) than human skin. Human shampoo, including baby shampoo, is far too harsh for their skin.
For regular bathing, a hypoallergenic shampoo without any added perfumes is best. Apply a pup-friendly conditioner afterward to help restore moisture and minimize dandruff.
Consider any Physical Restrictions
Another thing to keep in mind is physical restrictions like arthritis or obesity. When a pup is unable to groom themselves properly, it can result in problems such as dandruff or matting of the fur.
Nutrition Can Impact Your Pup’s Appearance
A healthy dog food that contains the proper balance of high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and supplements plays an essential role in the condition of your dog’s skin and coat.
Nutritional deficiencies, internal disruption, and health issues usually reveal themselves in your pup’s appearance. A dull coat, itchy and dry skin, and bald spots are a few of the symptoms that show up when your dog’s system is out of balance.
If the nutrients in their diet are low quality and overprocessed, it won’t provide the fuel your dog needs. Additionally, their liver and kidneys will need to work harder to eliminate anything your pup is unable to digest properly.
Consider Food Allergies
Another issue some pups experience is food-related allergies or intolerance. While ‘true’ dog food allergies are uncommon, it can happen.
If your pup is chewing or scratching excessively (commonly the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits, and anus), rubbing their face with their paws or against furniture, or licking and chewing their paws till they’re swollen, they may be reacting to something in their diet.
However, a far more common food-related issue is intolerance, in which your pup is unable to digest certain foods—specifically the protein in some foods.
If your dog’s itchy skin doesn’t respond to steroid treatment, or they have skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued, work with your vet to uncover the root cause. It might be something in their diet.
How to Choose the Best Food for a Healthy Coat
The level of specific ingredients dogs require for optimal health will vary from dog to dog. The proper balance depends on many factors, including age, breed, size, activity level, and health issues.
When choosing the best dog food for your pup, you should consult your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist for guidance. Some ingredients that are very beneficial for most pups can be problematic for others.
Ensuring that your pup’s diet includes the proper levels of omega oils, fats, grains, proteins, nutrients, and other ingredients is essential.
Nutritious meals are the most important thing you can provide to support the way your dog looks and feels throughout their life.
So be sure to consult your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist when making changes to your dog’s diet.
Omega-3 v Grain Food
Fatty acids are an essential part of healthy dog food, but the correct balance is critical in supporting your dog’s health.
At the appropriate levels, the fatty acids in omega-3 can help improve dry, brittle, itchy skin, and a dull coat.
But, in some cases, dogs can develop a condition known as seborrhea if fed an improper balance of omega-3.
For instance, adding too much of this fatty acid can lead to oily coats and large flakes of dander.
It’s not uncommon for a pet parent to turn to grain-free dog food when their pup has symptoms associated with allergies, such as excessive chewing, scratching, and dry skin.
But grains are rarely the culprit, and very few dogs develop true food allergies. In fact, grains possess a variety of beneficial properties that support a healthy bowel and gut.
High-quality grains are low fat and supportive in the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, as well as being a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.