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Healthy Coat for Dogs: 8 Tips and Tricks to Try

Healthy dog coat with dog fur shining and smiling outside
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Many dog parents pride themselves on their dog’s gleaming and glossy coat. After all, the condition of your dog’s skin and coat are outward indicators of their overall health. First time dog parents, or dog owners who have noticed that their dog’s coat is dry, dull, or flakey, may be left wondering what the secret is. 

Fortunately, the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy coat for dogs is more simple than one might think. Read on for simple and straightforward healthy skin and coat tips for dogs. 

What Your Dog Needs for a Healthy, Shiny Coat 

Healthy happy dog sitting and laying outside in leaves

While grooming is perhaps the first thing you think of when it comes to reaching a healthy coat for dogs, it is important to realize that a shiny coat on the outside starts with a healthy dog on the inside. 

Dogs who are sick or stressed will conserve nutrients for essential bodily functions, and their coat will become lackluster. Similarly, dogs who are not receiving appropriate, adequate nutrition will be unable to produce a glossy coat. A dull, dry, or flakey coat could be the external indicator of an internal issue. 

Breed also plays a role in the look and feel of a dog’s coat, as well as how to manage their fur. Terrier breeds, for instance, naturally have a coarse coat, while other breeds, like Bernese Mountain Dogs, have softer, longer hairs. Some breeds, like Siberian Huskies, have a double coat consisting of a short, fluffy undercoat with longer, thicker hairs on top. 

The amount of time and technique needed for grooming will vary greatly depending on a dog’s coat length and texture, and the overall size of your dog. However, there are still some basic grooming principles that apply to all dogs (more on that to come). Developing a proper and consistent dog grooming schedule might be the simple fix needed to bring out the shine in your dog’s coat. 

Healthy Coat for Dogs: 8 Tips to Try

If you want to bring out the shine and ensure your dog’s skin and coat is healthy, follow these tips.

Feed a Complete and Balanced Diet

dog waiting for food

In order to maintain healthy skin and a glossy coat, your dog requires a complete and balanced diet. Your dog needs quality proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins, and it’s critical that they receive them in the proper “balanced” ratios. Constantly growing new hair and turning over skin cells requires energy, so it’s also important that dogs are taking in enough calories to meet that energy demand.

If your dog’s diet is poor quality or not easily digestible, your dog may not be able to extract necessary or sufficient nutrients from their food. It’s important to note that the ingredient list on a pet food bag does not indicate the quality of the ingredients nor how bioavailable the nutrients may be. Improperly balanced diets can cause dysfunction in certain body systems and result in impaired skin function. This is most commonly seen with improperly balanced home prepared meals or when vitamin and mineral supplements are added to diets inappropriately. 

Your dog should eat a diet specifically formulated for their life stage (i.e., puppy, adult, senior) and health status. Comparing diets can be confusing and overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian with any and all nutritional questions.

Provide Supplements for Coat Health

Pet store shelves are brimming with bottles, bags, and jars of supplements for a healthy coat. The majority of these are formulated with a source of omega-3 fatty acid combined with other ingredients. Omega-3 fatty acids have been repeatedly proven as the most beneficial supplement you can give your dog for skin and coat health, and most commercial dog foods for a healthy coat will include them. 

Not only are omega-3 fatty acids a natural and effective anti-inflammatory agent, but they also bulk up the skin’s natural fatty acid barrier and provide healthy fats to fortify and gloss your dog’s coat. Cold water fish such as anchovies, sardines, and salmon are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs. Dogs are not equipped with the many enzymes humans have to convert omega-3 fatty acids from plants into the biologically active forms EPA and DHA, therefore, hemp seed and flax seed are not as beneficial. 

Coconut oil is another source of healthy fats for dogs when fed in moderation. While it is not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, it does provide healthy fats that dogs can use to strengthen their skin barrier and nurture their coats. It can also be used topically to moisten dry skin, noses, and paw pads. 

Comparing supplements for coat and skin health can seem daunting. Asking your veterinarian for recommendations is a great way to ensure that your dog will benefit from the product or supplement you invest in. 

Make Bathtime Routine

dog getting a bath for a healthier coat

Bathing your dog will remove any dirt, debris, and odors from their coat and skin, and will also help to clear away any allergens that cause skin irritation. A good rule of thumb is to bathe dogs once monthly or less, depending on their individual needs, unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian. Bathing too frequently can dry out a dog’s coat and lead to flaky skin. 

Some pets require more frequent bathing if they tend to become dirty or perhaps if they suffer from allergies. In these cases, using a gentle shampoo formulated for dog coat and skin health or prescribed by your veterinarian is recommended. 

Using harsh soaps (like dish soap) can deplete a dog’s skin of its natural fatty barrier and leave their coat and skin dull and dry. In all cases, use a mild shampoo that is specifically formulated for dogs and following up with a nourishing conditioner for dogs to leave their coat soft, smooth, and shiny. 

Schedule Time for Brushing

Brushing your dog is essential to achieving that gleaming coat. Whether your dog has short or long hair, brushing will help remove debris from the coat and stimulate cell turnover. Additionally, it will pull out any of those dead, dull hairs, leaving behind the glistening, healthy hairs. The best part of regular brushing is that it will reduce the amount your dog sheds around the house or on your clothes, and it has shown to be a great way to strengthen the human-animal bond. 

Dogs with long hair and double coats will need brushing several times a week, if not daily. For double coated breeds, like German Shepherds, using a brush specifically formulated to reach their undercoat is ideal. Short-haired dogs will benefit from just one quick brushing session weekly. 

Provide Consistent Parasite Prevention

External parasites like fleas and ticks can irritate your dog’s skin causing them to scratch, bite, or chew at themselves. This self-inflicted trauma leads to microtears in the skin barrier and secondary skin infections, leaving your dog with red, crusty skin and a poor, thin coat. Furthermore, fleas and ticks carry a variety of illnesses, some of which can be life threatening. These very small insects are often missed by owners, so even if you aren’t seeing fleas or ticks, it’s best to keep your dogs protected year round. 

Internal parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms, survive by leaching nutrients from their hosts. Dogs with intestinal parasites will lose essential nutrients and the quality of their coat will diminish. Testing your dog’s stool annually for worms, as well as providing regular deworming as prescribed by your veterinarian, is important to ensure they aren’t losing nutrients to internal thieves. 

Manage Any Allergies 

Dogs who suffer from allergies experience an upregulation of inflammation in their skin causing redness and itchiness. The inflammation in the skin also alters their skin barrier and allows for opportunistic infections, which leads to more itching, infection, and irritation. Essentially, allergies lead to a snowball effect of worsening skin disease and poor coat health. 

Unfortunately, allergies cannot be cured, and must be managed long term. Identifying the allergens and working to avoid them is possible in some cases (such as food allergies), but in the more common cases of seasonal or environmental allergies, avoidance isn’t always feasible. If you suspect your dog has an allergy, work with your veterinarian to determine the cause of your dog’s allergy and how to address and manage them. 

Offer Your Dog Regular Exercise

Dog exercising outside for healthy coat

Activity gets your dog’s heart pumping and the blood flowing. Regular cardiovascular activity improves circulation even when pets are resting. This increase in circulation helps the blood carry necessary nutrients to the skin and other organs. Not only does this enhance overall health, but it improves the quality of your dog’s skin and coat. 

Exercise also prevents obesity, which is a major contributor to total body inflammation and decreased health, both of which can lead to a reduction in the quality of your dog’s fur. 

Maintain Overall Health

A happy and healthy dog who is eating appropriate amounts of a complete and balanced diet will be easily able to maintain a shiny coat. When your dog is in good health, the nutrients they ingest are used for normal body functions and maintenance, such as organ function, digestion, cell turnover, muscle repair, and more. After more essential bodily functions are satisfied, additional nutrients can be used for other tasks such as growing that luscious coat. 

Pets who are combating an illness such as an infection, organ dysfunction, parasites, stress, or endocrine disorders are forced to divert more resources and energy to fighting the illness and any associated inflammation. Therefore, they are not able to spare any nutrients for healthy skin and a shiny coat.  

When to Call Your Veterinarian

dog eating in vet clinic

If your dog’s coat remains lackluster after applying all the tips above, or if they develop any other signs of illness such as decreased energy or anorexia, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian. A dull, dry coat or flakey, crusty skin can be signs of an internal medical issue. Even if your dog seems normal, your veterinarian has a trained eye and hands, and may uncover something even the most dedicated pet parents can overlook. 

By feeding a high-quality complete and balanced diet, adding helpful supplements, establishing a regular grooming routine, and striving to keep your dog free from disease and in great health will reward you with a happy dog. Plus, their shiny coat will be turning heads on your next walk around the block.