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5 Ways to improve your dog’s skin and coat health

Approx. 7 minutes read

When you look at your furry friend, it should only be with love and admiration. However, if you notice your pup has a dry, brittle coat and/or flaky, itchy skin, it’s impawsible to not be concerned for him! There may be many reasons for your dog’s unhealthy skin and coat, but furtunately, there are some easy and effective ways to improve your dog’s skin and coat naturally.

In this article, we’ll discuss what an unhealthy coat looks like; whether coconut oil is good for dogs’ skin and coat; and how to naturally and safely improve your dog’s health for soft skin and a shiny, radiant coat.

Symptoms of an unhealthy skin and coat

There may be many reasons why your dog’s skin and coat are not in the best condition. Maybe he’s got allergies; maybe it’s a seasonal thing and his skin and coat are affected by dry air and low humidity. Maybe his dog food isn’t meeting his nutritional needs or he needs to be brushed more, or bathed less (too much bathing can have a drying effect on his skin and coat). Whatever the reasons, the symptoms of an unhealthy skin and coat include:

  • dry, flaky skin
  • skin redness
  • scratching, biting and licking himself
  • dry, dull fur coat
  • patchy fur/too much shedding
  • coat feels brittle and/or hard

How to put health and shine back into your dog’s skin and coat

Your dog’s coat doesn’t just go dry and brittle on its own. It’s essentially the barometer of a dog’s general health, so if your dog’s coat is dull and his skin is dry, it’s a very good indicator that something’s going on in other areas of his health. Impawtantly, then, this means that you’ll need to take a closer look at your dog’s nutrition, hydration, grooming, supplementation, parasite control and weather protection too. These are the five ways to improve your dog’s skin and coat health:

1. Nutrition

Your dog’s diet is the bedrock of his entire health profile. With high-quality proteins and balanced macronutrients, as well as the right amounts of vitamins, minerals and omegas-3 and -6 fatty acids, all his health needs can be met in just one bowl of doggy breakfast. If you’ve ever wondered which dog food is the best in South Africa, remember that it’s not about the best of the best, but which is the best dog food for YOUR dog. Chat to your veterinarian about your dog’s nutritional needs and buy the dog food that is right for him. With the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and moisture, his health will get a vital boost, and his skin and coat should return to softness and shine in no time.

Don’t forget that a large part of your dog’s nutrition regimen is hydration. Does he drink enough water throughout the day? Dogs – especially active dogs – need a lot of water to keep their bodies functioning well, to not place too much strain on their kidneys, and to hydrate their skin and fur. This is especially relevant if your dog only eats a dry kibble diet. Always ensure your dog has access to fresh water by placing a few water bowls both indoors and outdoors, giving him easy access to clean drinking water.

2. Grooming

Bathing, brushing, clipping and spritzing your dog’s coat are all good dog grooming practices, but did you know that bathing your dog too often can actually damage his coat? Bathing your dog can strip his coat of its natural oils, causing it to become dry and brittle. Some dog breeds have oilier skin than others, which can give them a distinct doggy odour, so they need more regular bathing. However, most dogs can get away with a weekly or twice-weekly brush and only need the occasional bath to keep them clean and to condition their coat. If you’re used to bathing your dog often to keep his coat clean, try less bathing, but with regular brushing. Brushing helps to distribute his natural skin oils and keep his coat healthy.

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Some dogs have allergic skin conditions, or inflamed, itchy skin thanks to environmental allergens. These poor pups need medicated shampoos or shampoo for sensitive skin, which have been specially formulated with omega-3 and/or omega-6 fatty acids along with other ingredients to support skin health. They may also benefit from skin balms, gels and creams, which contain beneficial ingredients to soothe and treat problem skin. Shampoos, topical creams and gels, as well as sprays should form part of your regular grooming routine with your sensitive-skinned dog. 

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3. Supplements

Your dog’s nutrition is the vital foundation necessary for a healthy skin, coat, internal organs, eyes and his general wellbeing. However, some dogs need a little more of this and a little less of that for their optimal health. Supplements help you to support your individual dog’s needs from the inside out, so if your furry friend has a deficiency that causes skin issues, skin supplements will moisturise, heal, and soothe dry, itchy, inflamed skin. Supplements come in a food topper oil, gravy, tonic, capsules and even probiotics that are topically delivered and absorbed into the skin. Depending on your dog’s skin condition, get a vet-recommended supplement to restore a healthy balance to your dog’s itchy skin.

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4. Weather protection

Just like human skin must be protected from sun exposure, so too should dogs’ skin and coat be protected. Too much sun can damage your pup’s skin, so try to keep your dog out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. If your dog does spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun, use a pet-specific sunscreen to protect his skin and reapply it often to make sure it’s effective cover for his skin.

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5. Tick & flea prevention

Flea allergies are a common cause for itchy skin and compulsive scratching in dogs. The best way to not only restore allergy-prone skin, but to prevent it in the first place is to ensure your dog’s parasite control is up to date. Whether you use spot-on treatment, chewables, tablets, flea collars, sprays or powders, choose the tick and flea repellent that’s appropriate for your furry friend. Some repellents only need to be reapplied every two weeks to three months – so make sure you keep your dog’s treatment up to date, giving ticks and fleas no window for pesky bites in between.

What about coconut oil for dogs as a skin treatment?

Some dog owners have asked Is coconut oil good for dogs’ skin and coat? And the answer is “Yes, but…” The magic ingredient in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is anti-microbial in nature and fights off bacteria, viruses and fungi. This is fantastic for red, dry, irritated skin, but if you choose to use coconut oil on your dog’s skin, it needs to be used in conjunction with the above remedies. Coconut oil alone will not get to the root of your dog’s skin issues, so be sure to address his nutrition, hydration, grooming, supplements, weather protection and parasite control.

How to use coconut oil for dogs’ skin and coat

There are a few ways that coconut oil can help your dog’s dry, itchy skin and dull coat:

  1. Topical treatment: Coconut oil can be slathered onto your dog’s skin and coat, but keep in mind that it is very If you apply the coconut oil and your pup goes and lies on the furniture, he will leave a big ol’ oily mark. If you don’t have time for that, make sure that the grooming products, balms and creams you buy for your dog’s sensitive skin have coconut oil as an active ingredient.
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  1. Food supplement: Coconut oil melts at low heat, so it can be gently warmed and then poured over your dog’s food. Start gradually with a ¼ teaspoon per day, building up to 1 teaspoon of coconut oil for every 4.5 kg of weight. Coconut oil is a wonderful source of energy, but it is pure fat, so be sure to adjust your dog’s nutritional intake to make up for the extra calories he will be receiving.

That being said…

How much coconut oil is too much for dogs?

Coconut oil is not the silver bullet for skin issues in dogs. It does offer many benefits, but coconut oil must be used in moderation when it comes to supplementing. There are some risks associated with coconut oil for dogs:

  • some dogs may be allergic to coconut oil – watch out for diarrhoea and nausea
  • it may lead to raised cholesterol levels in dogs
  • coconut oil may lead to weight gain if too much is given without balancing the dog’s diet and exercise
  • dogs prone to pancreatitis attacks should not be given coconut oil, since it’s a very fatty substance and can trigger pancreatitis

There are many tried and tested ways to improve your dog’s skin and coat, but because all dogs’ skin and coats may thrive under different circumstances, it may take some trial and error to find what works best for your pup. Always speak to your veterinarian about the best solution for your dog’s skin and coat – and for good health in general.

Backed by vets, Pet Hero cares for your pets’ health and wellbeing. We aim to educate and inform pet pawrents about pet health conditions and effective solutions to get pets back on track with their health. Sign up to receive our newsletter and get more pet health content delivered straight to your inbox. Also be the first in the know about our promotions, competitions and sales!

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