A dog's skin and coat equate to approximately 12% of their body weight and can be significantly impacted by their nutrition and diet. Here, our Echo Park vets explain how nutrition can affect your dog's skin and coat.
A Dog's Skin & Coat
It has been understood by veterinarians for a long time that your dog's daily nutrition can impact the condition and health of their skin and coat - for better or for worse. In fact, up to 25% of all dogs have some kind of skin or coat issue that may be affected by their daily nutrition.
How Nutrition Affects a Dog's Skin & Coat
Your dog's skin is their largest organ and as a result, uses a lot of resources from their body to maintain - especially when you consider that it is also responsible for growing and maintaining the health and condition of their coat too!
So, it only stands to reason that the quality and nutritional contents of your dog's diet each day will have an impact on the kinds of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that your pooch will have access to maintain the health of their skin.
Because of this, dogs that have all of their dietary needs met and aren't suffering from an unrelated skin condition are much more likely to have a healthy, glossy, and full coat as well as skin that is free of dryness and irritation.
On the flip side, dogs that aren't getting all of their nutritional needs met aren't able to supply their skin with the building blocks it needs to maintain its health and the condition of their coat. In cases like this, the coat may look dull, their skin may have lots of dryness or areas of irritation or discomfort and they may scratch or groom more than is normal or healthy for their body.
How Poor Nutrition Affects a Dog's Skin
Any deficits in your dog's nutrition - whether that be them not eating enough or not getting enough of a particular nutritional ingredient - will impact the health of their skin.
One of the most common ways that your dog's diet can affect their skin health negatively is the degradation or destruction of a 'biofilm' that naturally sits on the outside of your dog's skin.
A healthy dog's skin naturally secretes a substance called 'sebum" (people's skin secretes this as well!). This substance creates a protective layer overtop of your dog's skin, protecting it from external irritants, helping to keep it moisturized, and providing a physical barrier against harmful bacteria that would otherwise build up on the skin.
When your dog's skin doesn't get the nutritional ingredients it needs to maintain their biofilm, their skin can become home to bacteria and become irritated, infected, uncomfortable, and, if it goes long enough, dangerous to their overall health.
Some breeds of dogs (such as bulldogs or pugs) are more susceptible to skin infections because of folds in their skin that may become home to bacteria. Maintaining a proper diet to allow them to naturally defend themselves against these microscopic invaders is even more critical than in other dogs.
Signs of Diet-Related Skin & Coat Conditions
While skin conditions in dogs can display several symptoms, the following are some of the most common in our canine companions that aren't getting enough nutrition in their diets:
- Sparse, dry, dull hair with “split ends”
- Slow growth or no growth of hair from spots that have been clipped or shaved
- Accumulation of dry skin scales
- Pressure sores
- Change in or loss of hair color
If your dog is showing any of the above symptoms, take them to your vet for an examination.
Other Skin Problems Caused By Diet
While nutritional deficiencies are the most direct way that a dog's diet may negatively impact their skin and coat, your dog may also display symptoms of skin issues if they have a dermatological dietary allergy. In cases like this, rather than being caused by what isn't in your dog's food, their body's response is caused by what is in your dog's food.
Some dogs have allergies to specific ingredients in foods and, if this is the case, they may begin to display quite similar symptoms to those listed above. If you suspect that your dog is getting all of the nutritional value they need from their daily diet, contact your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to test your pup for allergies and walk you through the steps of narrowing down ingredients until you find a food that works best for your dog's health and well-being.