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A dog’s skin and coat are visible manifestations of nutrient needs, overall health and weather changes. If a dog has a poor appetite or eats low quality pet food, supplements may be necessary to help boost the vitality of her skin and coat. Are you helping your furry friend put her best face forward?

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Dogs are an incredibly diverse species. The AKC currently recognizes over 160 breeds – canines come in practically every size, shape, color and temperament. But all dogs have skin and a coat (and some breeds ­– such as the Chinese crested hairless – have more skin than fur).

Taking appropriate care of your dog’s skin and coat is vitally important to her health. Not only can a dull coat and dry skin be uncomfortable for a dog, but it can lead to potentially harmful conditions if left untreated. Your pet’s skin and coat can be a visible clue to his or her overall health and possible nutrient deficiencies or excesses. 

Beneath your dog’s coat, her skin should be smooth, flakeless and without lesions. It should be void of signs of fleas and their eggs (such as tiny salt-and-pepper type flecks), bare patches, fading color or red/spotted skin. These types of issues are often a sign of fungal skin infections, eczema, mange, allergies or parasitic presence. 

If your dog’s daily nutrient intake is lacking, an additional supplement that can boost skin and coat health may have multiple benefits. After a 4-8 week time period, a lifeless coat often enjoys noticeable gains and a soft sheen. Shedding frequently reduces. Dry skin – which generally causes a dog to itch and scratch – may improve. Flea and allergy dermatitis could be potentially be alleviated.

So what things do pet owners need to know about the vitamin and mineral products on the market? Look for supplements with these healthy coat-and-skin promoting ingredients:

Essential Fatty Acids

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If your dog exhibits a dull, brittle coat, unusual hair loss or flaky skin, it’s possible she is lacking essential fatty acids in her diet. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid supplements help give your dog supple, smooth skin and a shiny coat of fur (and benefits dogs in many more ways, like with cardiovascular health).

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Fish oils come in a liquid or soft gel pill form. Liquids are generally distributed to your dog in a 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon per day dosage, depending on the weight of the pet. Liquids are often an excellent choice for picky pooches, as the fish oil can be easily drizzled over a treat. The soft gel pill form are usually dosed as one pill for every 10 pounds of dog, and there are generally 90 soft gels per bottle. Only have the capsule option at your local store? Soft gels can also be pierced and squeezed over food. Both types of Omega fatty acids – found in the fish oil products, above – are available for purchase at PetSmart.

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Have a dog that sheds a lot? Some products that contain a variety of vegetable oils ­– like sunflower, safflower and flaxseed – claim that they help alleviate this problem. This type of supplement can be given to a dog in the form of a chewable tablet and is generally dosed at one tablet per 10 pounds of body weight (but always read the label’s specific administration guidelines).

Vitamin E

Consider Vitamin E the protector of fats in the body. Vitamin E has multiple benefits for dogs (such as helping fight disease) but it also promotes healthy skin and a lustrous coat. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that can be found in a natural-source form (like d-alpha tocopherols) and wheat germ oil. Vitamin E helps preserve Vitamin A (which in deficiency or excess can lead to irregular thickening of the skin) and essential fatty acids in your dog’s body, contributing to an healthy skin and coat.

Always talk with your veterinarian about safety, concerns and questions that you have regarding your dog’s specific skin or coat condition, and remember that supplements are only to be given to pets that are deficient of nutrients. Additionally, follow all dosing as marked on the product’s label, unless your vet recommends otherwise.

Visit this resource to learn the basics about other important vitamins and minerals – like Riboflavin (B12) – and how they can benefit your dog. Check out a variety of dog skin and coat products available at PetSmart to determine the right supplement for your furry friend.

Photo Credits: Jodi Kendall