Caring for a dog’s coat is one of the most important tasks of a dog owner. We all want our pups to look (and smell) clean, groomed, and polished, but maintaining a healthy coat is also tied to good health and longevity. Good coat health starts with proper nutrition and also requires some basic grooming. Here’s how you can do your dog right and make sure their coat is in tip-top condition.
What Is The Purpose Of A Dog’s Coat?
A dog’s coat is often their most defining characteristic – whether it be sleek and black, white and fluffy, brown and moppish, or anything and everything in-between. But beyond looks, a dog’s skin and coat play some very important roles.
- Protection. A dog’s skin and coat create a protective barrier between the dog and the external environment. This can protect them from external objects, chemicals, toxins, ultraviolet light, heat, and other stressors.
- Heat Regulation. A healthy coat can help keep a dog warm by providing insulation. It can help keep a dog cool by bringing hairs closer together to allow air to flow close to the skin.
- Nutrient Storage. Up to 35% of a dog’s daily protein intake is used to maintain healthy skin and coat. The skin actually stores many nutrients, such as linoleic acid, fatty acids, minerals like zinc and copper, and more. A dog’s body uses these nutrients to carry out various bodily functions.1
What Might A Dog’s Coat Says About Their Health
While dogs can’t tell us if something feels wrong in their bodies, we can look to their skin and coat health for clues. A healthy coat should look smooth, shiny, and hydrated, not coarse or brittle. Healthy skin should look supple and free of bumps, blemishes, flakes, and grease.
Stress and various health conditions can affect the appearance of your dog’s coat. What does an unhealthy dog coat look like? Here are some issues to look out for:
- Itchy skin
- Dull, dry coat
- Excessive shedding
- Patches of hair loss
- Changes in texture
- Smelly coat
- Oily coat2,3
Any changes in your dog’s coat health might signal an underlying health issue. If you have any concerns, call your vet.
How To Keep Your Dog’s Coat Healthy
There are many things you can do to keep a dog’s coat healthy. The right time to start paying attention to these things is right away – before you notice any issues. Keeping your dog’s coat healthy plays an important role in your dog’s health, happiness, and longevity. Here’s what you can do.
Provide Good Nutrition
How do you keep a dog’s coat in good condition? One of the most important things you can do to support the health of your dog’s coat is to feed your pup nutritious food. Dogs require a balanced diet with high-quality protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. Dogs who do not get the nutrition they need may suffer from dry skin, a dull coat, and excessive shedding.4
So, what food is good for dog fur? The quality of the food matters. Feeding your dog the right kind of food will help them maintain healthy skin and a soft, lustrous, shiny coat. Here’s what to look for:
Proteins And Amino Acids
Protein is essential for giving dogs energy and helping with many biological functions. Always look for high quality sources of protein, such as premium beef, beef heart, beef liver, and salmon.
Fats And Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, like omega-3, keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Fatty acids also play a role in supporting cell structure and function and brain health. Look for a food with natural ingredients that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseed, and chia seeds.
Fiber does all sorts of things for a dog, such as supporting gut health, immune health, balanced blood sugar, and more. Vegetable sources of fiber, such as sweet potato, flaxseed, broccoli, and carrots are an especially good choice, because they also supply dogs with vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins & Minerals
Just like humans, dogs require various vitamins and minerals for their bodies to function and thrive. Vitamins and minerals support skin and coat health, too. For example, vitamin A aids in skin growth and repair, vitamin E protects cells from free radicals, vitamin C helps heal wounds, Biotin helps metabolize fat and protein, zinc helps reduce water loss through the skin, Riboflavin metabolizes fat and protein, and copper supports tissue health.
To ensure that your dog is getting the vitamins and minerals they need, seek out a high quality kibble that is full of nutrient-dense superfoods. Food that is slowly cooked or air-dried will maximize freshness and nutritional content.5-10
Establish Good Grooming Habits
Regularly brushing your dog is a great way to support skin and coat health. Brushing your dog may help remove dead hair, spread their coat’s natural oils, and keep their fur looking its best. It may also help keep their fur free from external parasites.11 Bonus: grooming your dog is also a nice bonding experience for you and your dog.
Here’s a quick rundown of grooming practices to try for different types of dogs.
For Dogs With Short Hair…
Short-haired coats are relatively easy to care for. However, some short-haired dogs have an undercoat and are prone to shedding. Here’s how to care for short coats.
- Use a bristle brush in the opposite direction of hair growth to help loosen dead hair.
- Then brush their coat in the right direction to remove the hair. This will help with future shedding.
- Try to brush your dog once a week.12
For Dogs With Long Hair…
Without regular brushing, long hair coats may become tangled. Here’s how to brush them.
Remove any tangles with a dematting tool.
Brush in long strokes with a wire brush to remove dead hair.
Finish with a bristle brush to help spread oils and keep the coat shiny.
- Try to brush your pup’s hair a few times a week, and incorporate professional grooming when you can.13
For Dogs With Double Coats…
Dogs with thick hair likely have undercoats that may become matted. Here’s how to keep their coats looking healthy.
- Using short, gentle strokes, go over their coat with a slicker brush in both directions. Continue until the brush stops picking up excess hair.
- If you run into a tangle, pick it out with a dematting tool.
- Try to brush your dog’s hair a few times a week, and see a groomer when you can.14
Bathe Them Regularly
How do you keep a dog’s coat clean? While you could take your dog to a professional groomer for a bath, brush, and cut, many people choose to bathe their dogs at home.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?
Your dog’s bathing frequency will depend on their breed, coat type, environment, and activity level. Here are some general guidelines.
- Short-haired dogs: every other month
- Medium and long-haired dogs: from weekly to every 4-6 weeks
- Dogs with oily coats, like Basset Hounds: once a week
- Dogs with double coats: every other month
- If your dog smells or is visibly dirty: go ahead and throw them in the bath.15
How To Bathe Your Dog
- First, brush your dog to remove any mats or tangles before you put them in the bath.
- Fill up the tub with warm (not hot) water.
- Lead your dog to the bath, and get them wet. If they are afraid of water, you may need to keep a leash on them to help keep them in place.
- Lather up and gently rub in shampoo all over their coat. Make sure you massage it in enough so it reaches through the coat to the skin.
- Rinse off the shampoo.
- Gently towel dry them off, and give them a nice head scratch for a job well done.17
Caring For Your Dog’s Coat Is Caring For Your Dog
Taking proper care of your dog’s coat is a great way to tell them that you love them. Regular brushing and frequent bathing will help the look of their coat, but really it all starts with the food. Focus on high quality, nutritious food, and get ready to marvel at how your dog’s coat shines from the inside out.