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Your Dog’s Skin and Coat

The Essentials of a Dog’s Healthy Coat
What a dog looks like on the outside is likely an indication of what is going on in the inside. If a dog’s coat is matted, dull or has an unkempt appearance, chances are that the animal needs more essential fatty acids (EFAs) in its diet, according to a study appearing in the June 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). The study indicates that EFAs such as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids play a critical role in the health of a dog’s skin and coat and also contribute to the animal’s overall good health.

Pet owners are cautioned, however, that more is not necessarily better for healthy dogs. Only dogs with skin and coat problems that have been diagnosed by a veterinarian should receive essential fatty acid supplements like linseed oil or sunflower oil. “Pet foods are manufactured to maintain the health of healthy pets and already contain adequate essential fatty acids,” says Dr. John Bauer, a professor of clinical nutrition at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the study’s authors. But some pets may need more EFAs in their diet from time to time.

Reputable commercial dog foods typically contain enough nutrients, including essential fatty acids, to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat, says Floridaveterinarian Dawn Logas, DVM, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology. In contrast, dogs on low-quality commercial dog foods or improperly balanced homemade diets—for instance, a dog that eats mostly chicken—may not get enough nutrients to keep a healthy skin and coat.

“The best example is how a dog with dry, maybe scaly skin would benefit from having some additional oil containing EFAs added to its diet,” Dr. Bauer says. “Pet owners should not self-medicate. A veterinarian should recommend an appropriate amount of oil to be added to the diet.” The body cannot make essential fatty acids, so they must be added through diet. Dr. Bauer and his colleagues fed dogs with skin and coat problems dry pet food mixed with higher amounts of linseed or sunflower oil and noticed improvements in about 28 days. The most noticeable improvements were seen at about seven weeks. “At seven weeks, you could look at the dog and say, ‘I can readily see how his coat has improved,'” Dr. Bauer said.

The AVMA and its more than 75,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at for more information.


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