It is mentally relaxing to pet a dog, especially when it is one with healthy skin and lustrous fur. But not all dogs are blessed with it, some unfortunately are plagued with itchy, flaking skin. The skin and coat appearance are good indicators of a dog’s health. A healthy coat is shiny and smooth, and healthy skin should be supple and clear. A brittle or coarse coat and greasy, flaky, or bumpy skin mean there is something wrong. Health and nutrition are the top influencers as they affect the shine and texture of the coat from the inside. Besides, regular grooming and skincare can work wonders when keeping your dog’s coat clean and tangle-free, irrespective of the type of hair coat it has.
The role of regular grooming in healthy coat maintenance.
Regular grooming is beneficial for all dogs as it removes loose hairs and dead skin cells making the coat free of dirt, debris, and all external parasites. Moreover, regular coat maintenance distributes natural skin oils equally along the hair shafts. Dogs with long, silky, or curly coats especially require daily brushing as their hair is prone to tangling and matting. Logically, dogs with short hair coats require less frequent brushing and even lesser maintenance. A dog that tends to shed hair must be brushed daily as it will cut down the amount of loose hair dropping and floating around the home significantly.
As the caregiver, it is your responsibility to inspect your dog’s coat every day and make sure there are no clumps, mats, or tangles under the armpits, in the groin, or behind the ears as they are the most troublesome areas. Regularly checking your dog’s coat and skin gives you a better chance of detecting any unusual lumps and bumps, any skin condition, parasites such as fleas and ticks, infections.
What is the key to a Healthy Coat?
Healthy fats are essential for healthy skin and coat. Fats are responsible for the smooth and shiny skin and coat of a dog. A few dogs end up with a dull coat, and mostly the reason is nutritional deficiency. Even then, the possibility of this is quite rare. Most dogs are on readymade food and the quality pet food comprises of all the nutrients a dog needs in appropriate amounts. It is very rare to find a dog on quality pet food with a nutritional deficiency as these foods are manufactured to be a wholesome diet inclusive of the essential fatty acids that are primary to maintain healthy skin and shiny coat.
On the other hand, the dogs that are on low-quality dog food or improperly balanced homemade diet are likely to develop one deficiency or the other. For example, a dog who only eats chicken on most days will lack necessary nutrients that don’t come from a chicken. Some diet-conscious pet owners put their dogs on low-fat diets, and that is risky too, as fat is the essential component for a healthy coat. The obvious coat problems arise from deficiencies like an omega-6 deficit (low-fat diet) leads to a dandruff dull coat and coarse, dry hair. A low-fat diet makes a dog prone to infections.
Other reasons that can cause irritated skin and dull coats are excessive scratching and frequent bathing as they lose oil from their skin. For such dogs, even though they don’t have a dietary deficiency, supplements can curb the problem.
Omega-6 fatty acids
Most dog foods contain enough amount of omega-6 fatty acids that it doesn’t cause a deficiency. Such quality food are themselves enough to give a shine to the coat, restore some luster, and help replace the lost oils in the skin. Some vegetable oils are also a known good source of omega-6 fatty acids. There are many omega-6 supplements available in pet stores, but sunflower oil or safflower oil beats them all. For a small dog, one teaspoon of oil stirred in every meal is enough. For a bigger dog, a slightly bigger dose, that is, one tablespoon of oil; per meal, will work. The oil you feed must be fresh because some people ignore the fact that oil can go rancid and become less effective if kept too long. The essential fatty acids in dog food can oxidize when exposed to air.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are very useful in treating skin disorders. These have substantial anti-inflammatory properties that help treat skin conditions. These are used on dogs that have allergies or other inflammatory skin diseases.
Flaxseed oil and fish oil are well-known rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Pet parents should look for supplements that contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to relieve itching or inflamed skin in dogs. Supplements are available in both liquid and capsule form, although the liquid form is preferred more as it is more dosage flexible and easy to feed. Capsules have their advantage as they protect the essential oils from oxidation which may happen during exposure to air.
Too many fatty acids are harmful too. Excessive amounts of fatty acids and oils can be too rich for the little guy and cause upset stomachs and vomiting. The average tie duration of visible improvement in a dog’s skin and coat is about six weeks after starting omega-3 supplementation.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are not the only supplements that can give your dog a healthy coat. Pet stores are full of other supplements that can improve skin and coat health.
Overdoing any supplement, natural or chemical, can cause ill effects. Pet owners try to over-do the vitamins supplement to make their dogs extra healthy, but that is not how it works. Besides, you will only end up making your dog sick. Only if the dog has a particular deficiency, the supplements should be used. That too, after a proper vet consultation.