A shiny coat, strong nails and healthy skin are important indicators of general health and wellbeing in our pets. Watching your dog experience discomfort from dry skin or paws or splitting nails can be distressing for owners and equally unsettling for your pet.
In fact, skin conditions are one of the major reasons dog owners visit a vet. Taking a proactive approach to the healthy maintenance of your pet’s skin, coat and nails may help dogs avoid many associated skin conditions.
Here are five things you need to know about maintaining the health of your dog’s skin, coat and nails.
1. Tell-tale signs your dog’s coat may need some attention
It’s important to regularly inspect your dog’s skin and coat to increase the chance of detecting any strange lumps, parasites (such as fleas and ticks) or sensitive spots. Although every dog is different and it’s important you get to know your pet’s unique features, there are some common signs for every owner to look out for when completing a routine check of your dog. Whilst a healthy coat looks vibrant, shiny and lustrous, it’s important to recognise the signs indicating your dog’s coat and skin may require some special attention, including:
A dull, dry, coarse or limp coat, or if hair is split or brittle
- Excessive shedding
- Dry skin
- Excessive licking or scratching
- A bad-smelling coat, even after your dog has been freshly washed
- Areas of sensitivity when inspecting the skin
- Dry or cracked paws
- Brittle or split nails
2. Helping your dog eat its way to healthier skin
Just like healthy hair and skin in humans, good nutrition plays an integral role in the health and appearance of skin and coats in our pets. Whilst a quality complete and balanced diet is always best, there are some specific ingredients you can look out for to help promote a healthy coat and skin.
With dogs shedding their hair regularly – or the constant hair growth for non-shedding breeds, a diet rich in fatty acids and meat, poultry or fish is particularly good for skin and coat health. Omega-3 has a wide range of health benefits including anti-inflammatory qualities, whilst Omega-6 helps give shine to your pet's coat, as well as maintaining healthy skin barrier function.
3. Benefits of bathing and regular grooming
Brushing your dog daily is the easiest way to keep an eye on any potential skin challenges whilst removing loose hairs, dead skin cells, dirt and parasites. It also helps to spread natural oils throughout the coat and untangle any knots, known as ‘matting’. Dog fur often becomes tangled without frequent brushing, especially in breeds with long, curly, fine, or double coats. Daily brushing of shedding dogs will also reduce the amount of loose hair around your home, as well as cutting down the amount of hair swallowed by your dog when self-grooming.
Fleas are also at the top of the list when it comes to skin irritation – make sure your dog is on a regular flea prevention program that also kills the flea eggs as they make up 70% of the flea population. Fleas are often first seen at the base of the tail (where the tail meets the body).
According to the RSPCA, how often you bathe your dog will vary depending on age, lifestyle, breed and health condition. But in short, dogs should only be bathed when necessary: that is, when your dog is starting to smell, or has a dirty and/or muddy coat. Bathing dogs too frequently can strip away natural oils, drying out their coat and skin. When your dog is in need of a bath, it’s important you choose a shampoo specially formulated for dogs as their skin pH is different to that of humans. A mild and gentle shampoo is recommended for dogs with healthy coats and skin, whilst your vet is best to advise on the most suitable products to manage or treat specific skin conditions.
4. When in doubt, ask your vet
Symptoms such as excessive shedding, scratching, dry skin, odour or a greasy coat can indicate more serious underlying health concerns. Whilst diet, grooming and bathing are essential measures in maintaining your dog’s skin, nail and coat health, sometimes veterinary intervention may be necessary to address specific health concerns. When in doubt, always visit your vet or speak to an animal health professional.
5. Supplements can support healthy skin, coats and nails in dogs
One of the main reasons dog owners give supplements to their dogs is to support skin and coat health. Supplements can provide a targeted range of ingredients beneficial to healthy skin and coats, including powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Formulated by Australian veterinarians, ZamiPet Skin, Coat & Nails helps maintain healthy skin for your dog, as well as promoting a shiny coat and strong nails. Made from a rich source of Omega-6, these great-tasting breakable chews also contain a comprehensive range of ingredients beneficial to skin, coat and nails including Manuka Honey, Prebiotic, MSM, Vitamin E, Selenium, Biotin and Zinc.
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.