How to Give Your Dog Healthy Skin and a Great Coat

What Affects the Condition of His Coat?

It's easy to spot a healthy-looking dog: a gleam in the eye, a bounce in the step, and a glossy, healthy coat. That glow is a reflection of your dog’s overall health, and a good gauge of what's going on inside and outside. Several factors play roles in your dog's skin and coat health.

  • Heredity
  • Nutrition
  • Internal or external parasites
  • Health
  • Grooming


Although heredity determines the thickness, length, color, and texture of a dog's coat, your care can make a big difference in your pet's skin and coat health.

Regular veterinary checkups will ensure that your dog is disease- and parasite-free. Flea-bite allergy and external parasites, such as mange, are primary causes of hair loss and skin problems.

Balanced Nutrition for a Better Coat

What's the best thing you can do for your dog's skin and coat health? Feed a high-quality food packed with protein, such as IAMS® ProActive Health™ Adult MiniChunks. Dogs are best fed as carnivores: They need protein and thrive on diets rich in animal-based protein sources.

Hair is actually 95% protein! Although coat growth varies by breed, the combined growth of all the hair can add up to 100 feet per day in some dogs. This means that nearly 30% of the animal's daily protein requirement is used just for coat growth during some seasons.

If your dog's skin seems thick or scaly or lacks elasticity, and you see hair loss, these might be signs of a nutritional deficiency. Check with your veterinarian, and try feeding him a premium food.

Premium pet foods are carefully formulated to be complete and balanced, which means the food includes all of the nutrients your pet needs. Ingredients in premium foods are highly digestible so your dog's body uses the nutrients efficiently.

Less costly foods might contain lower-quality proteins. Though a bag of premium food may cost a bit more than other brands, you might be able to feed less, which minimizes the cost difference.

Dietary Fats Give That Glow

Studies have found that certain fatty acids play a critical role in canine skin and coat health. For some time, veterinarians and scientists have known that linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is important for achieving and maintaining a full, glossy coat. But just because linoleic acid is good, consuming large quantities is not better!

Recent research shows that a precise balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is important. Supplying a dietary fatty-acid balance (or ratio) of between five and 10 omega-6 fatty acids to every one omega-3 fatty acid can be key to a healthy skin and coat.

Fatty Acids and Skin Health

Fatty acid supplements of omega-3s or adding fat, such as corn oil or bacon grease, to the pet's diet rarely makes for a healthy skin and coat. The best way to provide the precise balance necessary is through a complete diet.

A diet with a properly adjusted fatty-acid balance also might be helpful for skin health. The ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids should be between 5:1 and 10:1.

It will usually take between six and eight weeks after a diet change to see results. If your pet continues to scratch and chew his skin, consult a veterinarian.

Working on the "Outer Dog"

The overall health of your "inner dog" helps create a beautiful, healthy coat, but the care of the "outer dog" is important, too.

Regular grooming removes loose hair, dirt, and mats, and distributes skin oils. Grooming lets you check your pet closely, catching any skin problems early. Plus, your dog will love the attention!

As dogs age, their skin might become more sensitive. Select a mild dog shampoo for your older dog. Shampoos made from coconut or palm oils are the mildest. Unusual or "doggy" odors can signal disease, so if odors persist, contact your veterinarian. Do not use human shampoos because they can actually be too harsh for a dog’s skin.

When bathing your dog, be sure to rinse him thoroughly. Residue left on the skin can be irritating. You might want to follow the shampoo with a hair conditioner to control static electricity and add extra body or sheen.

During the summer, pay close attention to your dog's skin and coat. Many dogs shed a winter coat and others face flea problems, so it's a good time to evaluate your dog's skin and coat condition to nip any problems in the bud.

Essential Grooming Tools

  • Brush
  • Flea comb
  • Nail clippers
  • Mild dog shampoo

Attention to your dog's coat and skin from the inside out will produce a healthy, lively dog that is a joy to look at—and a pleasure to live with—every day!