When a dog walks by with the most shiny, full, and luscious coat you’ve ever seen, you may catch yourself wondering, how do they do it? What can you add to your dog’s regimen to help that coat shine?
While regular grooming is an integral part of keeping a dog’s coat healthy and shiny, nutrition and overall health status also play an important role. Let’s explore some of the factors that can help achieve a healthy coat for dogs.
6 Ways to Ensure a Healthy Coat
Feed a Complete and Balanced Diet
Everything starts with good nutrition. Many pet parents ask for recommendations when it comes to dog foods for a healthy coat. There are a couple of different considerations regarding diet and coat, including digestibility of the food, individual pet food allergies, and proper oils in the diet (more on all this to come).
Feeding a complete and balanced diet is incredibly important because it ensures your dog has the correct protein, fat, and carbohydrate levels and proper quantities of vitamins and minerals (all in the correct proportions) to support optimum body function. If a food does not have proper vitamin and mineral levels, then certain body functions would not work properly. Deficiencies in vitamins A and E, zinc, or copper can all contribute to abnormal skin and coat conditions in dogs.
Some breeds are more prone to abnormally low levels of vitamins A and E, zinc, and copper, therefore they are more prone to inheriting skin conditions. Indicators of a deficiency may include dry coat, loss of hair (alopecia), inflammation or ulceration of the skin, loss of normal color of the fur, less dense fur, blackheads, acne, greasiness of the skin, or skin color change. These conditions need to be diagnosed by your pet’s veterinarian to ensure the proper supplement is given. Supplementing extra vitamins and minerals without a diagnosis can result in other, potentially harmful medical conditions.
Manage Adverse Food Reactions
If your pet has adverse reactions to food, he may exhibit signs such as itchiness, redness, loss of fur, and skin infections of the feet, armpits, groin region, area around the anus, and in/around the ears. It is also possible that an adverse food reaction can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset.
The skin clinical signs are very similar to those seen with environmental allergies or flea allergies, so an appointment with your veterinarian will be important to determine if certain food ingredients should be avoided or something else is causing the problem. Sometimes a food trial using a novel protein diet or hydrolyzed diet is fed to determine if a skin condition is caused by certain foods.
The bottom line is that sometimes certain foods (usually proteins) can cause skin conditions and can therefore prevent your pet from reaching his optimum coat health.
Add Dog Supplements for Healthy Coat
You will likely find many dog supplements on the market designed specifically for coat health or to help with itchy skin. Generally, these products will contain a source of omega-3 fatty acids, plus a few other ingredients. Omega-3 fatty acids are of most importance when it comes to food and supplements that promote skin and coat health. They act as anti-inflammatories in the body and skin and ensure the skin barrier functions correctly.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found most prevalently in fish and fish oils, but can also be found in flax seeds, flax seed oils, and a few other sources as well. Most commercially produced, complete and balanced dog foods will contain a source of omega-3 fatty acids. In pet foods specifically formulated to address skin and coat conditions, a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids is typically used compared to a regular maintenance pet food.
Maintain Overall Health
When your pet is happy and healthy, the food he consumes is transformed into molecules that help normal body processes and energy. Normal processes include enzyme reactions, cell reproduction, minimizing low levels of inflammation or injury in healthy organs, and keeping appropriate levels of calcium in the bloodstream.
If your pet is suffering from an infectious disease, organ disease, metabolic disease, cancer, or inflammatory condition, much of the body’s nutrition and energy are diverted from normal body processes to trying to remedy that medical condition. The illness diversion of resources means that not as many nutrients or energy will be used to maintain your dog’s skin and fur.
Regular Bathing and Brushing
Dogs need our help to stay clean. Frequency of bathing and grooming depends on the individual dog. However, once you find the correct interval between baths and brushing, your pet’s skin and coat will thank you.
When performed at regular intervals, bathing will help remove dirt, bacteria, and odor and leave your pet’s coat shiny, soft, and smelling good. If you bathe your pet too often, you will likely find that dry skin (flakes) will start showing up on your pet’s coat. To start, try bathing your pet once monthly and adjust the frequency based on your pet’s needs and how his skin reacts to bathing. If your pet likes to play in the mud, swim in the lake or otherwise gets dirty easily, make sure to use a soothing oatmeal shampoo to keep the skin as hydrated as possible during more frequent bathing.
If your dog has short fur, brushing likely isn’t necessary. Medium or long-haired dogs will need bushing several times per week or even daily brushing to remove debris, detangle, and help prevent matting.
Administer Year-Round Parasite Protection
One other simple and straightforward step you can take to ensure your pet has a healthy coat is to keep him on year-round parasite protection. A monthly chew like Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) protects dogs against heartworm disease as well as hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm infections. It might seem less obvious, but consider that parasites like these feed on your pet’s body and blood to survive. Infestations of any of these parasites can rob your pet’s body of enough nutrients to cause skin and coat issues, in addition to other health concerns.
See important safety information below for Interceptor® Plus.
It’s also important to practice good flea control. Fleas are a common cause of itching in dogs, and hot spots can also occur as a result of a severe flea bite allergy or flea allergy dermatitis. Year-round flea control with a product like Credelio® (lotilaner) kills fleas on your dog while helping prevent future infestations.
Through a balanced diet, helpful supplements, a solid grooming schedule, and other steps to maintain overall health, your dog could be the next to turn heads on neighborhood walks and trips to the dog park.
Credelio kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, treatment and control of tick infestations (lone star tick, American dog tick, black-legged tick, and brown dog tick) for one month in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and 4.4 pounds or greater.
Credelio Important Safety Information
Lotilaner is a member of the isoxazoline class of drugs. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, incoordination, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving this class of drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. The safe use of Credelio in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions are weight loss, elevated blood urea nitrogen, increased urination, and diarrhea. For complete safety information, please see Credelio product label or ask your veterinarian.
Interceptor Plus Indications
Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.
Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus and Credelio, for her services in writing this article.
Credelio and Interceptor are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.
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