HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR DOGS HEALTHY SKIN COAT
- Many dogs (and cats) are deficient in omega-3 fats, which can lead to inflammatory skin diseases, dry skin and a dull coat
- For skin and coat health, dogs need animal-based sources of omega-3s, such as sardines (packed in water), wild-caught salmon or an ethically sourced, purity-tested fish or krill supplement
- Dogs with skin conditions and infections will need regular baths to keep their skin disinfected; bathing is a cheap and easy way to reduce bacteria, irritation and inflammation
- Be sure to use USDA-certified organic, all-natural shampoo designed for dogs — not a human shampoo, which will have the wrong pH for your pet
- Regular brushing and applying coconut oil will help to remove dead skin and provide shine
Just as your hair and skin need regular attention to stay healthy and looking their best, your dog’s coat needs proper care to maintain its shine and underlying health. A comprehensive plan to maintain your dog’s skin and coat requires not only attention to external factors — like proper brushing and bathing — but also care in choosing a proper diet to nourish your dog’s coat from the inside out.
In fact, perhaps the most important part of improving the health of your dog’s skin is ensuring her diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re feeding a processed, commercial diet, there’s a good chance your dog is not getting enough of these beneficial fats, which can be found in sardines and krill oil.
What to feed your dog for healthy skin and coat
Many dogs (and cats) are deficient in omega-3 fats, which can lead to inflammatory skin diseases, dry skin and a dull coat (not to mention chronic diseases like heart and vision problems, cognitive dysfunction and arthritis). If feed your pet homemade fresh meals, be sure you are following a balanced recipe that includes a source of omega-3s.
While you may have heard that hemp, chia and flaxseed are good sources of plant-based omega-3s, this only applies to humans, as pets lack the enzymes necessary to convert vegetable sources of omega-3s into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Seed oils also lack the necessary amounts of EPA pets require.
For this reason, they need animal-based sources, such as sardines (packed in water), wild-caught salmon or a krill oil suppliment. If your pet is currently in good health, I recommend supplementing with krill oil as follows, for a healthy skin and coat as well as good overall health:
- 250 milligrams (mg) daily for toy breeds and cats.
- 500 mg daily for small dogs.
- 1,000 mg daily for medium dogs.
- 1,500 mg daily for large dogs.
- 2,000 mg daily for dogs.
If your dog is having skin issues, such as flaking, micronutrient deficiencies and hypothyroidism should be discussed with your integrative veterinarian. Certain breeds require more zinc than others (northern breeds).
Some commercial diets use cheap forms of zinc, which may not be bioavailable and can lead to deficiencies. Many homemade diets can be deficient in zinc and iodine, both of which contribute to skin and coat problems in your dog. Ask your vet if supplementation is needed before giving extra nutrients to you
how often to bathe your dogs
Dog with skin problems may need regular baths to keep her skin from becoming infected. There’s no rule as to how many baths your dog should receive, but if she’s dirty or smelly, feels greasy or itchy with skin irritations, it’s time for a bath. While you don’t want to overdo bath time, which can dry out your dog’s skin, don’t be afraid to bathe your dog when she needs it.
Dogs with skin conditions often need several baths a week to reduce skin bacteria (and avoid the use of oral antibiotics). However, be sure that you’re using an all-natural shampoo designed for dogs — not a human shampoo, which will have the wrong pH for your pet.
Further, look for USDA-certified organic products that contain no sulfates or harsh chemicals, but are rich in organic herbal extracts and natural moisturizers. Avoid grain-based shampoos, including those with oatmeal, which may feed yeast and bacteria on the skin or exacerbate allergies.
Depending on your pet’s needs, you can use special homemade rinses after the bath as well. For instance, a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water can be used as a disinfecting rinse, while cooled herbal tea (such as peppermint, chamomile or Tulsi) can be massaged into skin to help relieve itching.
These specialized rinses should not be rinsed off, but be sure to rinse typical shampoo residue thoroughly, as residues can irritate your dog’s skin and contribute to matting.
Apply a coconut oil mask for antimicrobial action, softness and shine
coconut oil, which is rich in beneficial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) is an excellent oil for your dog’s mental health when consumed (and adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet can also improve flaky skin and reduce shedding), but when applied topically, it has powerful antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
As such, it’s excellent for improving skin health, including in conditions such as allergies, eczema, dermatitis, yeast infections or hot spots. This healthy fat also supports the integrity of your dog’s skin by improving the lipid barrier, helping it to resist pathogens.
When applied regularly, coconut oil will also add softness and shine to your dog’s coat. After you’ve bathed your dog, apply coconut oil to your dog’s skin like a mask, being sure to coat her armpits and nails as well. Let the oil sit for about five minutes, then give her a quick bath and rinse to remove the excess oil so she’s not greasy.
Brush your pet’s coat
For heavy shedders, daily brushing is recommended for coat health, particularly during shedding season. However, even dogs with short coats can benefit from brushing with a curry brush or grooming glove. I recommend giving your dog a thorough brushing before bath time to remove excess fur and exfoliate dead skin.
Dogs with double coats, in particular, may accumulate a lot of dead, flaky skin if you don’t brush them regularly, so be sure to add this to your regular grooming routine. If you’ve implemented the steps above and find your dog’s coat is still lacking in luster or her skin is showing signs of problems such as hot spots, itching, irritation or flaking, see your integrative veterinarian to rule out potential underlying health problems.
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- Training tips