With all the supplements, shampoos and grooming products available to dogs these days, figuring out what makes his or her coat look its best can be a hard task.
Knowing what a healthy coat looks like, and what some common skin issues look like can help you keep up to date on the overall health of your dog. Coat care is easy once you know the ropes!
Dog coats come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, they can be any combination of the more common types listed below:
Think of your typical Labrador with this coat. The coat is often thick, plush and long and smooth without any curl to the hairs. The coat may be double-coated, meaning there is a shorter, insulating layer near the skin, and a longer more protective water repellent coat sticking out.
A wiry coat is the type of coarse, bristle-like coat you’ll often find on dogs of terrier heritage. This coat has a stiffer feel to it to help protect the dog, and may give them that “shaggy dog” look.
Think of the locks of a Golden Retriever. Curly coats have a smooth wave to them and are often silky-soft to the touch. They do not feel stiff or bristle-like when compared to a wire coat.
There are a few breeds of dog that are considered hairless such as the Chinese Crested which have very little coat or a very fine coarse hair on the body.
The Puli comes to mind with a corded coat, and has the appearance of a coat that turns into the “mop” locks pictured. These coats will naturally begin to cord but may sometimes need special care.
A normal, healthy coat should have some sheen and shine to it, even if the hair is naturally bristly.
The hair should be the same consistency over the body without any patches of hair loss (except in the case of hairless breeds) and should not break easily or be pulled out easily if attached to the body still.
Loose hair from shedding is a normal occurrence, but should not come out in clumps unless during shedding season for double-coated breeds.
Under the coat, the skin should appear smooth and free of cracks or breaks. Skin color may vary some depending on the body location and breed of your dog, and can range from pink to a darker gray or brown.
Hairless breeds tend to have a browner, thicker appearance to the skin to help aid in protection.
An abnormal coat is often easy to see, however abnormal skin may be harder to find if the coat is thick and plush.
Abnormal coats will appear dull and brittle, may lose its shine and appear dirty, and may come out in clumps or patches leading to bald spots. You may also find parasites or flecks of dirt stuck in the hairs.
Abnormal skin may become very itchy and irritating. Dogs may scratch or bite at the skin, leading to further inflammation and pain.
The skin may have wounds or breaks on it, dry cracks and hairless patches, or rashes and raised bumps that may or may not ooze debris.
Daily brushing, even of short-haired breeds, will remove dead hair and dirt that can become trapped against the body and will also allow you to check for parasites or other skin issues.
Shampooing is best done no more often than every three weeks unless indicated otherwise and should be done with a soothing shampoo such as oatmeal to help prevent irritation.
Many shampoos also contain a conditioner to help keep the coat soft and shiny. In between bathing, a pet or baby wipe can be used to remove excess dirt and debris.
Supplements are another great way of keeping the skin and coat healthy. Vitamin E, fish oils, flax oils and more are commonly used in supplements to help give the coat and skin a healthy shine. These can be given orally via a pill or placed over food, or can sometimes be rubbed directly on the skin to address any problematic areas.
Many pet foods are also now adding these ingredients to their foods to give a boost, however supplementation is usually better due to the higher quality and lesser processed ingredients.
A trip to the vet is in order if you are seeing any of the signs of poor skin or coat and basic care hasn’t helped.
There can be a wide variety of reasons behind a poor coat or poor skin, and your vet is the best option in determining what that is.
Your vet will likely perform a variety of tests including skin scrapings, biopsies or aspirates, blood work, body examinations and more.
Knowing the basics about your dog’s skin and coat are a great way to help keep your dog healthy and stop issues before they start.
A great grooming routine combined with supplements, veterinary care and more will help ensure your dog looks his or her best!