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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Nutrients and Ingredients that Promote Healthy Skin and a Glossy Coat

October 07, 2011 / (4) comments

I’ve written before about how owners are often more focused on the ingredients that are included in their dog’s food rather than the balanced nutrition that a particular food may or may not offer. This is not to say, of course, that high quality ingredients are unimportant. My point is that we need to be aware of what individual ingredients bring to the table, so to speak, in terms of the nutrients that they offer.

Let’s look at an example. You may have heard about the role that essential fatty acids (EFAs) play in skin and coat health for dogs. A diet that contains adequate amounts of and the correct balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids can go a long way to promoting healthy skin and a glossy coat. EFAs essentially moisturize the skin from the inside out and improve the skin’s ability to act as a barrier to potential allergic triggers and irritants. EFAs also play a role in nervous system functioning (including brain development), heart health, and the inflammatory response.

Most veterinarians are now sold on the benefits of essential fatty acids. Many vets, myself included, will recommend modifying a dog’s EFA intake if they have chronically itchy or flaky skin, excess shedding, or a poor quality coat, and we’ve ruled out common diseases that can cause similar symptoms. Chronic inflammatory conditions (e.g., osteoarthritis) can also benefit from EFA supplementation.

Pet food companies are also beginning to see the benefits of EFAs, but unfortunately, it can be difficult for an owner to determine whether or not a particular product contains these nutrients in adequate amounts. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid levels do not have to be included in a dog food’s guaranteed analysis, but some manufacturers are starting to report this information on the label.

The MyBowl Tool can help here as well. EFAs come primarily from fats and oils. You can use the food’s guaranteed analysis to determine whether or not it contains the recommended amount (about 15%) of this nutrient category. Next, look at the ingredient list for items such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybeans, soybean oil, olive oil, or some types of fish and fish oil (e.g., salmon) that provide high levels of EFAs. If you see at least one and preferably two of these ingredients, there is a good chance that EFA levels will be sufficient.

After a few weeks of eating a food that meets these criteria, your dog should have noticeably healthier skin and the glossy coat that is a sign of overall well-being.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Foonia / via Shutterstock

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Comments  4

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  • Dull Coat
    10/07/2011 07:17am

    Hopefully people realize that a coat that isn't healthy looking can be a sign of medical problems.

    I'm not a dog person, but I'm guessing that most should have a nice, shiny coat. (Are there any that wouldn't have a shiny coat?) A dull coat can be a symptom of all sorts of medical problems.

  • 10/07/2011 05:39pm

    Some breeds have coats that are naturally glossier than others. What's most important is knowing what is normal for your breed and individual so you can recognize when something is off.

  • 10/10/2011 01:30pm

    What is the best way to supplement in EFA's if needed (my dog doesn't currently, but just for curiosity's sake). Is flaxseed ok to be added to a meal? Ive also heard of people popping a fish oil capsule open over a meal. Is there such a thing as to much?

  • 10/10/2011 04:19pm

    Supplementing with some types of fish oil (e.g., salmon oil) and flax seed oil (more effective than the seed itself) are the most common ways to increase a dog's EFA intake. Both can be effective, but it generally takes more flaxseed oil versus fish oil to get the same results.

    I don't worry too much about "overdosing" on EFAs (never heard of a case). The simplest way to get an appropriate dose is to use a veterinary product, and follow the directions on the label.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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