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Your dog's skin and coat combined make up about 12% of their body weight, so keeping your dog's skin and coat healthy is essential. How you feed your dog can have a significant impact on their skin and coat health. Read on to learn about the relationship between skin, coat and your dog's diet.

How does nutrition affect my dog's skin and 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. 

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 pup 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 eating a diet that does not meet their nutritional needs aren't able to supply their skin with the building blocks it needs to maintain its own 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 does poor nutrition affect my dog's skin?

Any deficits in your dog's nutrition - whether that be not eating enough calories or not getting enough of a particular nutritional ingredient - will impact the health of their skin. 

One of the most common ways that diet can negatively impact your dog's skin is the degradation or destruction of a 'biofilm' that naturally sits on the outer layer of the 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 on the top 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 (such as bulldog breeds or pugs) are more susceptible to skin infections because of folds in their skin that may become home to bacteria. Feeding these dogs a nutritious, high-quality diet to allow them to naturally defend themselves against these microscopic invaders is even more important than in other dogs.

What are the symptoms of skin and coat conditions caused by my dog's diet?

While skin conditions in dogs can display a number of 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

What other skin problems may be associated with my dog's 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 cause by what sn't in your dog's food, their cody'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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Are you concerned about the health of your dog's skin? Contact New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care today to book an examination for your canine companion.

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