Veterinarians have known for a long time that your dog's daily nutrition can affect the condition and health of its skin and coat - for better or worse. In fact, up to 25% of all dogs have a skin or coat problem that could be exacerbated by their daily diet.
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 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.
On the other hand, dogs who don't get all of their nutritional needs met aren't able to supply their skin with the building blocks it requires to maintain its own health and coat condition. In such cases, their coat may appear dull, their skin may be dry or irritated, and they may scratch or groom more than is normal or healthy 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.
The degradation or destruction of a "biofilm" that naturally sits on the surface of your dog's skin is one of the most common ways that the diet of your dog can have a negative impact on the skin health of your dog.
A healthy dog's skin naturally secretes a substance known as "sebum" (people's skin also secretes this!). This substance forms a protective layer on top of your dog's skin, shielding it from external irritants, aiding in moisture retention, and acting as a physical barrier against harmful bacteria that would otherwise accumulate on the 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?
In spite of the fact that skin conditions in dogs can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, the following are some of the most typical manifestations associated with our canine companions who are not receiving sufficient nutrition in their diets:
- 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.
It is possible that certain dogs are allergic to particular components of food, and if this is the case, they may start to display symptoms that are comparable to those that have been described above. Get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible if you have any reason to believe that the food your dog consumes on a daily basis does not provide it with sufficient nutritional value. Until you find the food that is best for your dog's health and well-being, they will be able to test your dog for allergies and guide you through the process of narrowing down the ingredients until you achieve the best possible results.