The condition of a dog’s coat and skin is an important indicator of their health. Because brittle fur and changes in the skin can often indicate diseases in the dog or nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, the health and appearance of skin and coat in dogs are directly related to their diet.
Skin and coat need a lot of high-quality protein for their constant renewal process: around a third of a dog’s daily protein requirement is used to keep the skin and coat healthy. However, more important than the amount of protein supplied is its quality. In addition to high digestibility, which ensures that the dog can utilize the protein well, the amino acid pattern is particularly interesting here.
Of the 20 different natural building blocks of protein (the amino acids), ten are essential for the dog. That means that he cannot form them himself, but is dependent on a supply with food. If the replenishment does not work out here, this affects the quality of the coat within a few weeks: The coat becomes dull, loses its color intensity and the hair breaks off easily, so that the coat can appear thinned.
Itching is a typical accompanying symptom of skin diseases, regardless of their cause. Dry skin is also often itchy and can be the result of a fatty acid deficiency. Unsaturated fats are particularly valuable helpers here. Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid from vegetable oils, deserves a special mention here. It is essential for the dog. Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. EPA and DHA) can also help the skin by limiting inflammation and thus reducing itching. They are mainly found in fish oil and fish products.
Basically: If you want to give your dog a supplement for skin and coat, you should consult a veterinarian beforehand!
Itching can indicate a fatty acid deficiency. © klaus-stock.adobe.com
The trace element zinc is important for skin renewal and wound healing. Together with vitamin C, it ensures the firmness of the connective tissue. This works through both feeding and local application. That is why many ointments contain a combination of zinc and vitamin A, which is known as the “epithelial protection vitamin”.
The following substances are important for the dog so that the coat shines nicely and its color comes into its own:
Certain fabrics make dog fur shine. © drwweber-stock.adobe.com
An intact skin barrier is an effective protection against the penetration of pathogens and pollutants from the outside. At the same time, it limits water loss and protects the skin from drying out. Signs of a disrupted skin barrier are:
In such a case, nutrients can help to “seal” the barrier: Essential fatty acids improve the quality of the skin’s oils. A combination of B vitamins with the amino acid histidine was able to stimulate the formation of skin lipids in studies on cell cultures as well as on dogs. Until this effect becomes visible on the dog’s coat, it must be fed for around eight weeks.
Thanks to the large range of high-quality, balanced ready-to-eat foods, nutrient deficiencies as the cause of skin problems continue to take a back seat. When feeding a balanced complete feed, no additional food supplements are necessary.
In the case of poorly balanced (home-made) rations or ready-made foods that do not meet the requirements of a complete feed, however, a deficient supply of individual nutrients can occur and lead to poor skin and coat quality. This is especially true for zinc, copper, vitamin A, essential fatty acids and high quality proteins.
A study was able to show that self-compiled diets to clarify a feed allergy could cause deficiency symptoms in the skin and coat after just four weeks (i.e. half the recommended duration of an exclusion diet) if they are not designed to meet the needs of all nutrients.
Substance deficiencies in dogs can often be recognized by the condition of the fur. © Elvira-stock.adobe.com
Obesity in dogs is also related to skin health. Overweight animals have a particularly thick layer of subcutaneous fatty tissue and, as a result, form additional skin folds. An unhealthy microclimate prevails in these folds, which promotes skin inflammation.
In addition, subcutaneous fat is poorly supplied with blood, which hinders the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Since the skin has a particularly intensive metabolism, it does not tolerate such an unfavorable supply situation and reacts with dryness, excessive sebum, dull coat or flaking.
The skin is a large organ with an intense metabolism. The most important substances for them are:
In addition, certain nutrients can also have a positive, cosmetic effect beyond what is required: The combination of linoleic acid and zinc ensures a special coat shine. The amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine bring out the natural coat color particularly beautifully. A high-quality diet “for the skin” is not only useful and important from the point of view of beauty: a strong skin barrier makes the dog more resistant to harmful environmental influences and thus makes an important contribution to the general health and wellbeing of the dog.