Dogs are a pleasure to pet,
especially when they’re blessed with healthy skin and lustrous fur. But some
dogs are plagued with itchy, flaking skin and lackluster coats. What can you do
to restore your dog’s shiny coat?
Healthy fats play an important role in keeping your dog’s coat in good
condition. Fortunately, few dogs develop dull coats because of nutritional
deficiencies, although veterinarians occasionally see such problems.
“With the ready availability of quality pet foods, it is very difficult for
a pet to have a nutritional deficiency of any kind,” says Wendy Brooks, DVM, a
diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. She also owns the
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles and serves as educational
director for the web site VeterinaryPartner.com
Reputable commercial dog foods typically contain enough nutrients, including
essential fatty acids, to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat, says Florida
veterinarian Dawn Logas, DVM, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary
In contrast, dogs on low-quality commercial dog foods or improperly balanced
homemade diets -- for instance, a dog that eats mostly chicken -- may not get
enough nutrients to keep a healthy skin and coat.
Low-fat diets are risky, too. “The obvious coat problems from deficiencies
would be a dandruffy, dull coat from an omega-6 deficit if the pet is eating an
extremely low-fat diet,” Brooks says.
In fact, puppies that eat very low-fat diets develop coarse, dry hair and
skin lesions that become prone to infection.
But diet isn’t the only culprit when it comes to irritated skin and dull
coat. Dogs that scratch themselves frequently or are bathed too often can lose
oil from their skin. Though these dogs don’t have a true dietary deficiency, supplements can often remedy
the problem. “I see a lot of dogs that probably could use more fats in their
diets,” Logas says.
Omega-6 for Dog Coat Care
“Most dog foods, fortunately, are very high in omega-6 [fatty acids],” Logas
says. “Those in themselves can be helpful just to give a shine to the coat, add
some luster back, and help replace the oils in the skin.”
Vegetable oils are also a source of omega-6 fatty acids. Pet stores sell
omega-6 supplements, but “honestly, sunflower oil or safflower oil works fine,”
Logas says. For a small dog, stir in one teaspoon of oil per meal, she says.
For a large dog, give one tablespoon per meal.
Just make sure that the oil is fresh, because oils that are kept too long
can go rancid and become less effective, Logas says.
The same goes for dog food that contains
essential fatty acids, which can oxidize when exposed to air. “You don’t want
to have dog food open and around for months and months,” Logas says.