A dog's skin is their largest organ that when combined with their coat, makes up 12% of the average dog's body weight. What you may not know is that your dog's daily nutrition can have a significant impact on the health and condition of their skin and coat. Here, our West Salem vets explain the relationship between your dog's skin, coat, and diet.
How Does Nutrition Affect My Dog's Skin and Coat?
Your dog's skin is their largest organ and, as a result, uses a lot of resources from their body to maintain. Your dog's daily nutrition can impact the condition and health of their skin and coat - for better or for worse. Up to 25% of all dogs have some kind of skin or coat issue that may be affected by their daily nutrition.
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 dog will have access to in order 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. 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.
The Effect of Poor Nutrition on 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. This oily 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 its biofilm, their skin can become home to bacteria and become irritated, infected, uncomfortable, and, if it goes long enough, dangerous to their overall health. Maintaining a proper diet allows your dog to naturally defend themselves against these microscopic invaders.
Symptoms of Skin and Coat Conditions Caused by Diet
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
Other Skin Problems That Can be Associated with 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 issue is in response to 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 nutrition they need from their daily diet, contact your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to test your dog 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.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.