Skin & Coat Health Support for Your Dog
A lustrous, shiny coat is a sign of vitality and is indicative of your dog’s health
If your dog is suffering from a dry, flaky coat it may be suffering from health issues such as thyroid disease, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), kidney or liver disease, or nutritional disorders
One of the first things your vet will assess to establish a guide to the general health of your dog is the condition of their coat and skin.
What you need to know about your dog’s skin and coat
The skin and coat form the largest organ in dogs, comprising around 10% to 15% of their total body weight. The skin is made up of the hypodermis (layer under the base layer of ‘skin’) which contains mostly fat, the dermis, and the epidermis.
The dermis is made up of collagen and is the largest portion of the skin.
The dermis is also the most metabolically active and contains the sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Sebum, the oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands, keeps the skin and hair lubricated and also coats the hair to prevent friction during movement.
The epidermis contains specialized skin cells called keratinocytes which produce keratin – a waxy substance that covers the epidermis to prevent the loss of water through the skin.
Your pet’s coat consists of thousands of hairs produced in hair follicles. Because hairs are under constant environmental stress, they are continuously shed and replaced. Anyone who has ever cleaned up after his or her pet can attest to the volume of hair shed each day!
Seasonal shedding, which also occurs to replace the coat, is affected by the outside temperature and hours of daylight each day (the photoperiod). However, cats and dogs who spend much of their time inside, exposed to a more consistent climate and electric light, may shed year-round.
What role does my dog’s skin and coat play in their health?
Besides being lovely to look at, your dog’s skin and coat play vital roles in their health; they function as an important part of the immune system and are critical to maintaining proper hydration. Some of the basic functions of their skin and coat are:
- Protection – The skin and coat provide a barrier that protects your dog from external objects, chemicals, and environmental stressors. In simplest terms, their skin and coat protect the internal organs from external threats. Their skin also contains nerves and nerve endings that help your dog sense heat, cold, pressure, and pain. Additionally, the coat protects them against chemical damage, trauma, ultraviolet light, and contact with hot surfaces.
- Immunity – Your dog’s skin also functions as an important part of the immune system. If their skin’s immunity is compromised, infections and potentially serious diseases caused by harmful bacteria can occur.
- Thermoregulation – A healthy coat helps keep your dog’s temperature properly regulated by providing an insulating layer of fur. A healthy coat can efficiently regulate their body temperature by moving hair follicles to bring hairs closer together to insulate or allow air to enter under looser hairs to cool your dog. Your dog can also warm themselves by shivering.
- Hydration – Your dog’s skin is critical in maintaining proper hydration. Water loss through their skin can severely impact your dog’s health. Your dog does not have sweat glands, so excess water loss through unhealthy skin (transepidermal water loss) often causes health problems.
Excessive water loss through the skin also affects the amount of energy your dog needs to maintain their metabolism.
- Nutrient storage – Your dog’s skin also serves as a storage site for several nutrients. Protein and amino acids are present in the skin, as are collagen fibres and enzymes.
Dog hair is mostly made up of protein. Up to 35% of your dog’s daily protein intake is used to maintain their skin and coat.
Linoleic acid and other fatty acids are stored in the skin and are present in the phospholipid bilayer to provide flexibility and fluidity to the skin.
Fatty acids are important in protecting dogs against inflammation.
In our bodies, the precursors to vitamin D are present in the skin and are converted to vitamin D by exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Dogs do not have the ability to convert these and so must get Vitamin D from their food.
Minerals such as zinc, copper, selenium, and manganese are found in relatively high concentrations in the skin because of their role as cofactors and coenzymes in several biologic reactions that take place in your dog’s skin.
Fat-soluble vitamins A and E may also be stored in the skin. Vitamin A is necessary for cell production and maintenance, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin. B vitamins are found in the skin but are not stored there because they are water soluble.
How can I keep my dog’s skin and coat healthy?
Nothing affects the condition of your dog’s coat more than their food. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals play an essential part in caring for your dog’s skin and coat.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) help protect your dog’s skin and coat and keep it shiny. EPA helps combat inflammation. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish and algal oils and extracts and flaxseed.
- Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in sunflower, rapeseed and flaxseed oils, as well as nuts, is a key nutrient in maintaining a healthy coat. Many dogs with dry, flaky skin are often deficient in linoleic acid. Dandruff, thin hair, discoloured hair, increased shedding, and poor healing are all associated with low linoleic acid levels in the skin and diet.
- Zinc is especially important in their skin because of the high cellular turnover rate caused by constant shedding. In addition, zinc helps reduce water loss through the skin. Dogs who are fed low levels of zinc develop hair loss, skin infections, and a dull coat appearance.
- Biotin and B vitamins play important roles as cofactors in many of the body’s metabolic processes, including fat metabolism. This is important in the skin because biotin and B vitamins are involved in aiding linoleic acid function in the epidermis and dermis.
Research has shown that adding omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, and zinc in combination increases coat gloss and decreases dry, flaky skin (1).
Good grooming can also help keep your dog’s skin and coat in good shape.
As with many aspects of your dog’s health, the key to a healthy coat begins with your dog’s diet.
Bonza’s non-meat, plant-based food for dogs is formulated to provide your dog with the very best support for optimum skin and coat condition.
A blend of healthy oils, including sunflower, rapeseed, seaweed and coconut oil as well as seaweed (algal oil) extract, provide the optimum balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to provide the foundation for your dog’s excellent skin and coat health.
These potent herbs work together to reduce flaky skin, hotspots and other skin irritations and work synergistically with the other quality ingredients in our vegan dog food to support your dog’s very best skin and coat condition.