Just like in people, our dogs' skin is their largest organ. When combined with their coat, it 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 its skin and coat. Here, our Tucson vets explain the relationship between your dog's skin, coat, and its diet.
For a considerable amount of time, veterinarians have been aware that your dog's daily diet can have a positive or negative impact on the health and condition of its skin and coat. As a matter of fact, the diet that dogs eat on a daily basis may aggravate the skin or coat issues that affect up to 25% of dogs.
How does nutrition affect my dog's skin and coat?
Your dog's skin is its largest organ and, as a result, uses a lot of resources from its body to maintain - especially when you consider that it is also responsible for growing and maintaining the health and condition of its coat too!
So, it only stands to reason that the quality and nutritional contents of your dog's diet and food each day will have an impact on the kinds of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that your pooch 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.
Conversely, undernourished dogs are unable to provide their skin with the necessary building blocks to sustain their own health and coat condition. In these situations, their skin could be dry or irritated, their coat might seem dull, and they might scratch or groom more than is appropriate or good for their body.
How does poor nutrition affect my 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.
"Sebum" is a naturally occurring substance secreted by the skin of healthy dogs (people's skin secretes this!). Against harmful bacteria that would otherwise build up on the skin, this substance acts as a physical barrier, preventing irritation from the outside world, and helping to retain moisture on your dog's skin.
When your dog's skin doesn't get the nutritional ingredients it needs to maintain its biofilm, its skin can become home to bacteria and become irritated, infected, uncomfortable, and, if it goes long enough, dangerous to its overall health.
Some breeds of dogs (such as bulldog breeds 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 important than in other dogs.
What are the symptoms of skin and coat conditions caused by my dog's diet?
Dogs with skin conditions can exhibit a variety of symptoms, but some of the most prevalent ones in our furry friends who aren't receiving enough nutrients in their diets are as follows:
- 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 & food?
While nutritional deficiencies are the most direct way that a dog's diet may negatively impact its 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.
Certain dog foods contain ingredients that cause allergies, and in such cases, the symptoms mentioned above may start to manifest in the dog. Make quick contact with your veterinarian if you believe that your dog is not receiving enough nutrients from its regular diet. In addition to helping you narrow down the ingredients until you find the best food for your dog's health and wellbeing, they can test your dog for allergies.