Not all owners know how much of an impact their dog's diet has on the quality of their skin and coat. In this post, our Groton veterinarians explain the relationship between your dog's nutrition and the health of their coat and skin.
How does nutrition affect my dog's skin and coat?
A dog's skin is their largest organ. Combined with their coat, it makes up 12% of the average dog's body weight; this is why a dog's skin and coat requires so much of the dog's energy and nutrient intake to maintain health.
So, it only stands to reason that the quality of your dog's diet each day will be reflected in the quality of their skin and coat.
Dogs that receive insufficient nutrients aren't able to supply their skin with the building blocks it needs to maintain its own health. In cases like this, the coat may look dull or patchy, and their skin may have lots of dryness or irritation.
How does poor nutrition affect my dog's skin?
One of the most common ways that your dog's diet can negatively affects their skin health is the degradation or destruction of a biofilm that naturally sits on the outside of your dog's skin called 'sebum.' Like humans, a healthy dog's skin naturally secretes this substance which creates a protective layer overtop their skin, protecting it from debris and bacteria and keeping it moisturized.
When your dog's skin doesn't get the nutritional ingredients it needs to maintain their biofilm, their skin can become home to bacteria and become irritated, infected, uncomfortable and, if it goes long enough, dangerous to their overall health.
Some breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs, are more susceptible to skin infections because of folds in their skin that aren't as exposed to air and can hone more 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?
Poor skin condition can reveal itself in a number of ways. The most common symptoms are:
- 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?
While nutritional deficiencies are the most direct way that a dog's diet may negatively impact their skin and coat, your dog may also display symptoms of skin issues if they have a dermatological 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 (due to the dietary allergen).
Some dogs have allergies to specific ingredients in foods and, if this is the case, they may begin to display quite similar symptoms to those listed above. If you suspect that your dog is getting all of the nutritional value they need from their daily diet, contact your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to test your pup for allergies and walk you through the steps of narrowing down ingredients until you find a food that works best for your dog's health and well-being.