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Just like how humans need skin and hair care, so do our fur friends. This isn’t limited to the type of shampoos, conditioners or creams that you choose to use for them. In fact, the type of dog food you choose to feed them plays a crucial role in ensuring the health of your dog’s skin, coat and nails. Similar to humans, a dog’s coat is made up of 90% protein, it is thus no surprise that if their dog food is deficient in high quality protein or other important nutrients, that the quality of their fur will suffer.
For example, research has shown that if a dog’s diet contains 25-30% of protein, it allows them to maintain a healthy coat and skin during adult years. One simple way to add protein to your dog’s food is through eggs. Eggs contain the highest amounts of bioavailable protein, making them a good single-ingredient supplement for dogs to improve their skin and coat. It is widely considered to provide lustre and strength to a dog’s coat.
Of course, it is not just about protein. In fact, essential fatty acids are key to ensuring that your dog will maintain its lustrous fur and healthy skin. Any highly processed pet food will be deficient in this as they are denatured throughout the manufacturing process. Biologically appropriate diets in this case could have a larger advantage.
Conversely, low-quality commercial dog foods or homemade diets which are unbalanced, for example if a dog’s food is made up mostly of chicken, this may cause them to have insufficient nutrients to maintain healthy skin and coat. Specifically, puppies who have low-fat diets can actually develop coarse, dry hair and skin lesions that become prone to infection.
The Omega Factors
You might have heard of Omega-6 and Omega-3 supplements when it comes to dog food, but what are they and should you be adding it to your dog’s food?
Omega-6 fatty acids are already found in high amounts in most dog foods which can help to replace lost oils in your dog’s skin. However, a good alternative should you decide to supplement your dog food would be vegetable oils which are also a source of omega-6 fatty acids. Consider using sunflower or safflower oil should you decide to do so – one small teaspoon per meal for small dogs and one tablespoon per meal for large dogs.4 Ensure that you are feeding fresh oil as oils that are kept too long may become less effective or go rancid. This should not be necessary when feeding fresh diets.
Omega-3 on the other hand can particularly help dogs that suffer from skin disorders (or all dogs, as prevention), as they provide anti-inflammatory effects. This can serve to be helpful for dogs which suffer from allergies or other inflammatory skin diseases. Consider adding flaxseed oil or fish oil in your dog’s food to relieve itching or inflamed skin or help prevent other issues. If you are looking for supplements, look for those that contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). When added to dog food, your pup’s skin and coat should see a visible improvement in about 6 weeks, bearing in mind not to give your dog excessive amounts of such fatty acid supplements which may upset their stomachs and cause vomiting.
An alternative to literally adding oil to your dog food, you can consider incorporating foods such as salmon which is high in omega-3s that help maintain your dog’s skin and coat, while supporting its immune system at the same time. If adding salmon to your dog’s food may seem too costly over the long term, you can consider toppers or oil sprays such as PetCube’s Wild Salmon Oil Spray which contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids as well as Vitamin E, it also lasts about 48 days for a 60lb dog.
Apart from fatty acids, other vitamins and nutrients may trigger skin problems in your dog. For example, dogs that have a zinc deficiency may develop crusting on their skin, while some dogs that suffer from seborrhoea (or scaly skin), require more Vitamin A in their dog food. Remember to always seek your vet’s advice if you are unsure about how much supplements to feed your dog or if you are planning a drastic diet change in your dog’s food.
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