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Ways to Help Your Dog's Coat Stay Healthy and Shiny

The health of your dog's skin and coat goes paw-in-paw with the shine of their fur.  Understanding the whys and hows of keeping your pet's coat healthy inside and out will ensure they look and feel their best. 

Ways to Help Your Dog's Coat Stay Healthy and Shiny

The health of your dog's skin and coat goes paw-in-paw with the shine of their fur.  Understanding the whys and hows of keeping your pet's coat healthy inside and out will ensure they look and feel their best. 

By: Dr. Juli, DVM

If the eyes are a window to your dog's soul, their skin and coat are a window to their overall health. Like people, your dog's hair is unique in color, texture, length, and style, and many pet parents are diligent about taking their pup for a standing appointment with the groomer to keep their quaff pristine. However, too much of a good thing can harm your pup's skin and coat health. Your dog's skin is their largest organ; a less-than-shiny or healthy coat can indicate a more serious underlying health problem. Understanding the whys and hows of keeping your pet's coat healthy inside and out will ensure they look and feel their best. 

Common Illnesses Affecting Skin and Coat Health in Dogs

The health of your dog's skin and coat goes paw-in-paw with the shine of their fur. In fact, skin and coat issues are a common reason pet owners bring their dogs for a veterinary examination. If you notice your dog's fur is dull; if your pup is experiencing hair loss; or if they are chronically itching or licking their skin, they may have an underlying health issue, such as: 

  • Seasonal Allergies – If your dog's coat appears less shiny during the warmer months, they may be allergic to certain blooming plants, flowers, or grasses. Other signs may include watery eyes, sneezing, and itchy skin.
  • Parasites –  Infestations with internal parasites, like tapeworms or roundworms, and external parasites, like fleas and mites, can cause your dog's coat to appear dull and unkempt. 
  • Skin infections (bacteria and yeast) – Inflammation of your dog's skin due to bacterial overgrowth or yeast infection can cause them to lose fur and have an overall dull appearance. Dogs who suffer from allergies, poor grooming habits, or other underlying health issues are at risk for skin infections. Other signs may include red, inflamed skin, green or yellow discharge, excessive licking, hair loss at the infection site, and thickened skin. 
  • Seborrhea – Some dogs may produce excess oil or sebum that can lead to dry, flaking skin and a dull fur coat. This can be genetically driven in some breeds like cocker spaniels or West Highland white terriers.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders –  Dogs who suffer from chronic diarrhea due to irritable bowel disease, food sensitivities, intestinal parasites, or other underlying GI issues will likely have dull, dry, or unhealthy skin and coat. 
  • Hormonal imbalances – Diseases, including hypothyroidism and diabetes, may cause hair loss and a dull coat
  • Immune-mediated diseases – Your dog's skin and coat health depend on a strong immune system to fight infections and remain healthy. 
  • ObesityOverweight and obese dogs are at risk for various underlying health issues, including cancer, painful arthritis, and diabetes. Underlying diseases can compromise their skin and fur health and affect overall shine because they cannot properly groom.
  • Nutritional deficiency – Dogs not receiving an AAFCO-approved, high-quality diet for their age and breed may lack adequate nutrition to keep their coat and skin healthy. Some underlying GI issues may also affect nutrient absorption, leading to a dull coat

Pembroke Welsh Corgi sitting on owner's lap is being brushed while smiling

How to Tell if Your Dog’s Coat is Healthy

Your dog's fur type and appearance depends on their breed, genetics, nutrition, and overall health. Dogs with wire hair or shorter fur may naturally have a less soft, shiny coat than longer-haired breeds. However, regardless of your dog's fur type, their hair should have some shine and not appear brittle or coarse. Additionally, their skin and coat should be flake-free, well-hydrated, hydrated, and supple. Their fur should not easily break or fall out.

Bring your dog for a veterinary examination if your dog shows any of the following disease signs:

  • Fur that pulls out easily
  • Broken hair follicles
  • Excessive shedding
  • Flakey, dry skin or dandruff
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Scabbing on the skin
  • Patches of missing hair anywhere on the bod
  • Areas of dark or discolored skin or fur
  • Greasy/oily fur coat
  • Matted fur
  • Constant scratching or licking
  • Increased urination and/or thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Chronic vomiting or diarrhea

How to Make Your Dog’s Coat Shiny

Although there are various factors, the level of coat shine depends on your dog's natural skin oils, hair type, and how light reflects on those oils. Like human hair options, endless shampoos, supplements, and pills claim to cure dull fur and add shine. However, your dog's skin and coat health depends on the care your pup receives internally for their organs and externally on their skin and coat.

To achieve optimal fur shine, follow these tips:

Feed a quality dog diet.

Beauty is more than skin deep, which means your dog’s diet is an important factor in their skin and coat health. Dogs fed homemade or poor-quality commercial diets may not receive proper nutrients to maintain a healthy coat and are more likely to have dry skin and shed excessively. Poor-quality dog food is difficult for your dog to digest, making excess work for the liver and kidneys to eliminate waste products. Feeding your dog an AAFCO-approved, balanced diet for their age and breed will ensure they are healthy from the inside out. 

Incorporate veterinary-formulated skin-supporting supplements.

Essential fatty acids, like Omega Oil, can support your dog's skin and coat health and help decrease inflammation and itching. Dogs can not produce Omega-3 fatty acids on their own, so they must get this from their diet. While most commercial diets contain fish oil, pets with underlying skin and coat issues may benefit from the additional supplementation. Additionally, supporting your pet's immune system is especially critical for allergy-suffering pups. A supplement, like an Allergy Chew, can support your allergy-prone furry friend and help improve coat shine. 

Establish a balanced bath time routine.

Most dogs need the occasional bath to remove dirt, debris, and odors. In general, if you bathe your dog once or twice a month, you can help keep your pup clean without stripping their natural oils from overbathing. Overbathing can cause your pet's coat to become dull and dry. Ensure to use a dog-specific shampoo because human shampoos can contain harmful ingredients that adversely affect your dog's skin's pH (acidity). Hypoallergenic or soothing shampoos, like oatmeal or aloe-based, are generally well tolerated by most dogs. Avoid any shampoos with added scents or perfumes.

Regularly brush your pup.

Frequent brushing and at-home grooming for your dog will help release loose hair follicles and remove dead skin cells that can cause your pup’s coat to appear dull. Dogs with longer, double-fur coats or curly fur may require daily brushing with a de-shedding brush to prevent excess tangles and mats. Regular brushing is also a great way to bond with your dog while checking for lumps, bumps, parasites, or skin infections.

Tips for Supporting Your Dog’s Skin and Coat Year-Round

Dogs suffering from seasonal allergies may require medications or supplements to keep them healthy and itch-free during the warmer months. Similararilly, dogs who live in cold or dry climates may require tailored skin treatments, like fewer baths or moisturizing conditioners, to maintain healthy skin and coat. Ways to support your dog's skin and overall health year-round include:

  • Veterinary examinations –Taking your dog for yearly or more frequent veterinary visits will ensure they remain healthy and protected from common dog diseases and parasites.
  • Physical exercise – Daily exercise will support a healthy weight and improve circulation, directly affecting skin and coat health
  • Mental exercise – Provide regular playtime, and brain games, like puzzle toys. Stressed dogs often shed excessively or lick, making them prone to skin infections. A calming supplement can also help decrease anxiety before a stressful event like a veterinary visit. 
  • Healthy treats – Treats are an essential part of bonding with your pup. Ensure your dog's daily treat allotment does not comprise more than 10% of their daily calories to prevent weight gain. Fresh vegetables, like cucumbers, are a healthy treat alternative. During the hot summer, make frozen pupsicles with Bone Broth, which provides added nutrition, hydration, and overall immune support. 

For more tips on your pet's health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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