Build a beautiful coat from the inside out by feeding your dog a few nutritional supplements!
Take a look at your dog’s coat. Is it thick and shiny, with little shedding? Or is it dull, greasy or thin? The quality and luster of her hair is a measure of her internal health, so creating a gorgeous coat means working from the inside out.
The ingredients in your dog’s diet will determine the appearance of her coat. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates supply calories, but not the tools needed for maintenance and continued wellness, including healthy hair. A quality diet along with good supplementation will provide those tools, and will help grow thick healthy coats with good pigment.
Vitamins and minerals
Hair is composed of protein, but it’s the vitamins and minerals in the dog’s diet that turn that protein into hair. Vitamins and minerals nourish and support her hair, and the metabolic functions that lead to healthy hair growth.
I was seeing proof of this in my practice more than 30 years ago. In those days, vitamins for animals lacked many essential nutrients, so I used very high quality human vitamins for my canine patients. The results were remarkable. Coats thickened and became luxurious and glossy, and colors were also remarkably enhanced. Shedding virtually stopped.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most important vitamins and minerals for building a beautiful coat.
1. B vitamins are all important for coat health, with biotin leading the way. Green vegetables, peas, kelp, liver, nutritional yeast and nuts are all high in the B complex family.
2. Unlike humans, dogs can internally make their own vitamin C. Yet some extra C can go a long way in assisting coat formation. Vitamin C promotes tissue and cell repair and growth. Foods such as berries, Brussels sprouts, sweet red peppers, kale and cauliflower can add vitamin C to the diet.
3. Vitamin A, present in water-soluble form (beta carotene) in carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, is another coat-building nutrient. Dogs can assimilate the water soluble form of vitamin A, although cats cannot. Vitamin A lubricates the fur follicles and help with growth.
4. Zinc is very important for skin health. It’s an essential trace element necessary for immunity, a strong healthy body, and neurological function. Zinc helps with the production of about 100 enzymes in your dog’s body. It’s also very important for her skin and coat. Zinc is associated with protein foods, and the best sources for your dog are beef, lamb, pork, chicken and salmon.
Zinc is commonly used topically for skin health and is the active ingredient in diaper rash creams. It’s hard to get zinc in a simple ointment or cream form, but I often prescribe extra strength diaper rash cream (it has more zinc oxide in it) for topical use on skin problems caused by moisture buildup, such as in the folds of a bulldog’s face. When included in the diet, zinc creates a healthy coat and skin. Zinc can often be a super-duper solution to skin problems. Dogs with skin allergies frequently do better with both extra zinc and vitamin C.
EFAs and oils
Essential fatty acids are also necessary for proper coat health. I prefer EFA products that are algae-based. Fish oil sources need to be carefully prepared to avoid contaminants, so make sure you are buying a high quality product.
Oils are another dietary component important to superior coat health. I like both olive and coconut oils and suggest using both. Coconuts and their oil are classified as “functional foods” because they provide many health benefits beyond their excellent nutritional content. At one time, coconut oil was a significant part of the American diet, and the food industry considered it superior for use in food preparation. During WWII, however, when the Japanese occupied most of the countries producing coconut oil, we turned to other oils for cooking.
Coconut oil is coming into its own again. Its medium chain fatty acids are used immediately by the body, without circulating in the bloodstream. Its daily use reduces dandruff and odor and supports thyroid function. Coconut contains lauric acid, famous for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, so the oil can help with bacterial or fungal growths on the skin. I suggest gradually moving up to one teaspoon of coconut oil per ten pounds of body weight, divided between two meals. Dogs typically enjoy the taste and you can find it at any health food store.
Could she have hypothyroidism?
If your dog has a poor coat or chronic skin problem, have your veterinarian assess her for possible medical problems. Allergies, of course, cause itchiness and scratching and will result in a poor coat. External parasites can have the same effect. But other medical conditions can also affect hair health.
Hypothyroidism is one common cause of poor coat quality. You might think your dog has to be overweight and lethargic to be hypothyroid, but this is not always the case.
Interestingly, thyroid hormones increase the metabolic activities of almost all tissues in the body, including those that create the coat. That’s because thyroid hormones have the capacity to activate nuclear transcription in the genes, leading to the formation of proteins in the body.
Quality supplements and coconut oil help support the thyroid, but it’s still a good idea to routinely test thyroid function in an older dog, or if she has a thin lusterless coat that is not responding to an improved diet and supplementation.
If your dog’s coat isn’t up to par, start by having her checked over for any underlying health problems. Then take a look at improving her diet, and work with a holistic or integrative veterinarian to add in some of the above supplements. It won’t be long before she’s looking beautiful again!