It’s the middle of the night, and you’re awakened by the sound of your dog scratching—again. The constant scratching and licking is enough to drive you nuts, but imagine what it’s doing to your poor dog. Skin conditions in dogs aren’t just annoying and uncomfortable—they can be a sign of a health problem. A dog’s coat is their protective barrier against the elements and infections, and when that barrier is broken, dog skin is susceptible to health problems.
There are many factors that can cause skin problems in dogs, including dog allergies to fleas, mites and dust. But what if the issue is what your dog is eating?
“Many of the problems we see with pets start with the food we feed them, and many of the long-term problems they get show up first on their skin,” says Dr. Ari Zabell of Banfield Pet Hospital.
- Persistent scratching
- Sores and hot spots
- Hair loss
- Dull coat
- Excessive shedding
You should consult your vet to determine what’s causing your dog itching issue. Skin allergies can occur more often in certain breeds and certain families of dogs, Zabell says. But if all other factors are ruled out, tell your vet what dog food you’re feeding your dog, including the brand of dog food, format (kibble or wet), formula, flavor, ingredients and any other treats or table food. Consider keeping a food journal to help you keep track. This will help your vet spot some of the more common food allergens.
“Pets can be allergic or develop allergies to foods like chicken, beef, corn, rice and lamb,” Zabell says. “It is vital to ensure your pet’s specific challenges, allergies or difficulties digesting certain nutrients are taken into account.”
Other common food allergens include:
Your vet may recommend a prescription diet or a limited ingredient diet (LID) to eliminate these triggers. Natural Balance L.I.D. Potato & Duck Formula grain-free dry dog food, for example, features limited ingredients to reduce the chances of an adverse food reaction. It also contains higher levels of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
Another option is to add a supplement to your dog’s food, like The Missing Link Ultimate Canine Skin & Coat Formula, which is a powdered supplement made with omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to maintain healthy skin and coat. American Journey Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil is a liquid supplement made with wild-caught salmon and has long-chain omegas like DHA and EPA.
Even if your dog doesn’t have a food allergy, he may have a food sensitivity, meaning certain foods cause flatulence, upset stomach or diarrhea. To ward off any dog skin conditions and avoid tummy troubles, ask your vet to recommend a diet that does both, like Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food.
Whatever the cause of your dog’s skin issues, you can get relief for him and peaceful nights for you with the right nutrition and help from your vet, Zabell says. “Pet owners should always work with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of skin issues, food-related or otherwise, and the most appropriate diet for their individual pet.”
Other Tips for Healthy Skin and Coat
- Brush regularly to stimulate the skin and hair follicles and increase natural production of oils.
- Bathe with shampoo made for dogs with sensitive skin. Look for soothing ingredients like oatmeal, aloe, olive oil, tea tree oil, shea butter or chamomile.
- Avoid overbathing.
- Incorporate a conditioner into your bathing routine
- See a professional dog groomer regularly.
- Treat hot spots and itchy spots with topical ointments.
- Discourage your dog from licking or biting affected areas with a cone collar, like the Comfy Cone E-Collar, which features removable plastic stays that let you determine how structured the cone should be.
- Use flea and tick prevention regularly. If topical treatments are irritating to your dog’s skin, ask your vet to recommend an oral flea and tick treatment.