Dogs are the most popular pets in America with more than 65 million households sharing their lives with their fur babies, according to the most recent stats from the American Pet Products Association.

A 2024 Forbes Advisor survey of more than 5000 dog parents in the U.S. found that on average parents spend $730 per year on their dogs. Thirty-six percent spent between $200 and $499, 41% shelled out between $500 and $1999 annually, while 8% coughed up more than $2,000. And those costs may not be inclusive of an unexpected emergency situation handled by a veterinarian.

If you’re a dog owner, you know!

It all goes to show how deeply our dogs get a hold of our hearts. Their health means to the world to us. So, when we see our Fifi furiously scratching or exhibiting a lackluster coat, we’d be wise to wonder if that’s a health problem that we should be worried about.

Just like humans, dogs—through their dog parents—need to take care of their skin and coat for more than cosmetic reasons alone. And one way to do that is through a balanced diet that may also include nutritional supplements.

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While food is the first step to properly nourishing your dog’s skin, sometimes additional support is needed. That’s where nutritional supplements for dogs come in. In today’s blog, we’ll take a look at the top five nutritional supplements for you to consider for your dog’s skin and coat.

 

Why Protecting a Dog’s Skin is Important

Just like with people, skin is the largest organ in your dog’s body. While our skin is exposed to the elements (with clothes and sunscreen serving as our protectors), a dog’s skin has a built-in layer of protection all over their body that’s known as your dog’s coat. Depending on the kind of dog, the coat will consist of either fur or hair, or for some dogs, it’s a combination.

For visualization purposes, dogs like German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, and French Bulldogs are just some of the dogs that have fur. Dogs with fur can have a single coat or a double coat. For example, many herding dogs have two coats. Take the Border Collie: the undercoat is soft and thick while the outer coat (or topcoat) is longer, feathered and water-resistant.

On the other hand, your Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles and Bichons Frises are examples of dogs with hair. These dogs shed less than those with fur and some breeds in this category are considered hypoallergenic, although the American Kennel Club warns that no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. Dogs with hair are usually the ones that need haircuts more often, because their hair grows faster, not necessarily because they’re vainer.

Regardless of whether your dog has hair or fur, from a cellular standpoint, both are made from a protein called keratin. From a health perspective, a dog’s coat and skin are key indicators of good health or that there might be an underlying health problem.

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How can you tell? If your dog’s coat is shiny and feels smooth, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, if there are bald spots, excessive shedding (more than is normal for the breed), or the coat feels brittle or looks lackluster, you should probably talk to your vet. And as for the skin, if your dog is itchy, and their skin is blotchy, greasy, flaky or bumpy, add that to the conversation. Your (and your dog) want their skin to be clear and supple, just like you’d like your own skin to be.

And, it should go without saying, if there’s an odor coming from your dog’s skin (that’s atypical or more offensive that their usual doggy coat smell), that’s something you want to address for many obvious reasons.

The main reason for protecting your dog’s skin is because of the impact unhealthy skin can have on your dog’s overall health. Your dog’s skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutis. Overall, the skin serves as a protective barrier to external elements, helps regulate your dog’s temperature and can also help keep your dog hydrated. The sensory and motor nerves in your dog’s skin and hair follicles support the sense of touch and alert to pain, itch, and extreme body temperatures. Immune cells in your dog’s skin can help fight infections. Read more here.

 

Common Skin Issues for Dogs

The catch-all skin problem for dogs is dermatitis, a broad term for an inflammatory skin condition marked by dry and itchy skin. Fleas are the most common cause of dermatitis in dogs and are considered an allergy dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is another allergic response to environmental factors such as pollen, grass, trees, ragweed or molds, and a bad skin reaction to a dog’s medication or food is also considered within this category.

There’s also contact dermatitis that occurs from an overreaction from the immune system or from a skin irritation and seborrheic dermatitis, which is a condition where the skin glands produce too much sebum, a substance that the body manufactures as a natural moisturizer.

Tumors on the skin or skin tags may—or may not—be cancerous. But be aware that skin tumors are the most common tumors in dogs, according to WebMD.

It’s also interesting to note that if your dog has chronic diarrhea, suffers from arthritis or obesity or experiences and abundance of stress, the telltale signs are likely to show up in your dog’s skin or coat.

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While your first reaction might be to google the symptoms and try to make your own diagnosis, a trip to your dog’s vet is probably a better solution. As the expert, the vet is better equipped to properly diagnose and then offer suggestions for your dog’s specific skin or coat problems.

In the most serious cases, like cancer, early diagnosis is key. But even if it’s flaky or greasy skin, or just a little too much itching and scratching, your vet can help you figure it out. The solution might be as simple as flea medicine, an improved diet, adding supplements, some home remedies (using a humidifier or apple cider vinegar applications), allergy testing or medication. But properly diagnosing what’s wrong will go a long way toward finding the right solution.

 

5 Supplements/Nutrients That Can Help a Dog’s Skin

A well-balanced, nutrient-rich daily diet that covers all the necessities, including water, protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals is the foundation of your dog’s good health. Here are five nutrients—available in dog supplements—that can add shine to Fido’s coat and keep Fifi’s skin in the pink. 

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids—These nutrients help moisturize your dog’s skin, which in turn may help lessen shedding, prevent dandruff and reduce itchiness. Plus, they may help make your dog’s coat shine. (And that’s not even counting all the other benefits omega-3s can offer your dog, from reducing inflammation to promoting heart health and from helping regulate the immune system to supporting cognitive function. Read more here.
  2. Vitamin E—This fat-soluble vitamin can add shimmer to your dog’s coat and suppleness to your dog’s skin. If your dog isn’t getting enough vitamin E in his diet, consider adding a supplement or applying vitamin E oil directly to his skin. Some common skin ailments when your dog is lacking in vitamin E include dry skin, dandruff, skin cuts or scratches or dermatitis in the ears. But don’t overdo this one. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver rather than excreted, so taking too much vitamin E could be a problem for your dog. Read more here.
  3. Vitamin A—This is another fat-soluble vitamin that you’ll want your dog to have, but like vitamin E too much is truly too much. Some dogs find relief with vitamin A from scaly skin or seborrhea. If your dog is taking a multivitamin, she’s probably already getting enough vitamin A (and vitamin E)—check the labels—but if not, egg yolks, liver, liver oil, fish, kale and carrots all contain vitamin A.
  4. Biotin—Just like your dermatologist may recommend biotin for your own hair, nails and skin, so might your dog’s vet suggest biotin for your canine companion to help feed their skin or stop hair/fur loss, help with dermatitis, and give their coat luster. Biotin is one of the B vitamins.
  5. Zinc—A zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss and skin problems for your dog. However, when your dog is getting enough zinc, her coat may look shinier and her skin may be healthier. Zinc helps heal wounds and helps your dog’s thyroid and immune system function properly.

 

Shopping for Your Dog’s Supplements

Just as you have a choice when it comes to your diet, there are numerous brands of dog foods—from large and small companies and those in-between—selling dry/kibble, wet/canned, or semi-moist options. You also may choose to put your dog on a home-cooked diet or a raw diet. And there are also organic dog foods and specialty diets (like grain free, for pregnant dogs, etc.). Learn more here.

There are also plenty of options when it comes to purchasing supplements for your dog.

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When shopping for your dog’s supplements, you’ll want to factor in the following:

  • The ingredients
  • Your dog’s breed/size
  • Your dog’s life stage
  • Your dog’s food flavor preferences
  • Your dog’s preferred way to take supplements

 

Bottom line: Being a dog parent comes with responsibilities, not the least of which is ensuring they get the nutrients they need to thrive. Don’t go it alone. Start the conversation with your dog’s vet. Although we’re not “naming names” when it comes to supplement recommendations, this article does and so does this one. Both also offer additional information. Do plenty of research because choosing the right diet and the right supplements can make a significant difference in not only your dog’s skin health but also in their overall well-being.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This test is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. This site does not offer medical advice, and nothing contained herein is intended to establish a doctor/patient relationship. OmegaQuant, LLC is regulated under the Clinical Laboratory improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) and is qualified to perform high complexity clinical testing. The performance characteristics of this test were determined by OmegaQuant, LLC. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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