What Does Your Dog's Hair Say?

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and beauty in regard to most dogs is in its coat.

What does your dog’s coat tell people?

A shiny coat, clear skin and bright eyes means a healthy dog and a caring owner.

A dog’s coat and eyes reflect the inner well being of a dog. When a shiny coat starts to look dull or if the skin begins to flake or become scaly, it is time to do some searching as to what is wrong. It usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks for a dog’s coat to begin to give signs that something is amiss.

What are some of the things you should be taking under consideration?

Diet for one, have you changed your dog’s diet. Is the new food a complete and balanced one?

Have you decided to prepare meals for your dog and in the process not provided all the proper nutrients. Providing home prepared meals on a 24/7 basis requires a great deal of nutritional knowledge.

There are also several medical causes that can create dull and brittle hair such as a digestive condition, thyroid problems, a kidney condition, parasites and others. A quick visit to your vet will answer those questions and solve the problem.

A dog’s coat and skin form a protective suit of armor for your dog protecting him/her from infection, parasites and the elements.

Dogs have hair, they do not have fur, even though we tend to call their coats furry at times.

Dog hair is categorized into three different types, the first being the primary hair which is the outer coat that protects against the sun and moisture, the secondary hair (which is sometimes called “fur”) is the inner coat and provides insulation and the third type are the tactile hairs that provide sensory feelings such as the whiskers do. Some animals have tail and mane hair and some have sensory hairs in their ears.

All adult dogs have primary and secondary hairs, but every breed is different.

Some breeds have longer primary hairs and shorter secondary hairs these are called single coated dogs such as Boxers, Greyhounds and even Yorkshire Terriers which have a long primary coat and literally no secondary hair.

Double-coated dogs have both a heavy secondary and primary coat such as Labradors.

Healthy hair needs a diet high in protein, essential fatty acids and B vitamins.

Every dog sheds, no matter what anyone says. Some shed very little and some shed a lot. Whether a dog is an indoor dog or an outdoor dog will determine the amount of shedding. Some shedding is seasonal and other shedding is dependent on new hair growth. Every follicle will reproduce new hair and the old hair has to fall off.

What are some of the common causes for a dull coat and hair loss?

Fleas will cause a brittle, broken and dull hair coat. Fleas cause a dog to scratch and scratching can cause open sores and patches of hair ot fall off. Fighting fleas can be a full time job, not necessarily on the dog, but getting rid of them in the yard and the house. The new flea preventatives have helped in this control immensely.

Hot Spots (Pyotraumatic dermatitis) causes a dog to itch one or two spots constantly and can cause open sores.

A dog suffering from stress can create a problem of hot spots.

There are many remedies on the market to help your pet, but finding the cause of stress should be the top priority.

If you are opposed to commercial treatment make up a tea of the herb calendula and apply this to the affected areas. This herb is good for many topical problems that dog’s suffer from.

Mange is caused by a parasite called Demodex canis this parasite lives in most dogs without any effect. However, if something is amiss in the immune system it can rear its ugly head. It seems to be common in some breeds and can be treated with such things as echinacea and antioxidants. Consult your dog’s health care provider before doing any treatment on your own.

There is also Sarcoptic mange, which is caused by a parasite that burrows in the skin and can be transmitted from dog to dog. Consult your vet or health care provider for treatment.

Ringworm is another problem caused by a fungus and can be picked up by both animals and humans. It forms a round or oval shape causing hair loss and can be treated with topical ointments.

Stress induced dermatitis causes a dog to constantly chew on itself. The cure here is to see that your dog has plenty of exercise, toys to play with and has human companionship. Dogs are social animals and without time with their humans can become very stressed out.

Last, but not least is food allergies, allergies to the food your dog is being served can also cause dull, brittle hair and a scaly skin.

We have covered some of the medical reasons for your dog’s coat and skin to be amiss, but we haven’t mentions that good grooming is also essential. Keeping your dog’s coat brushed and clean is very important. I am not an advocate of frequent baths (only when they smell) but brushing on a regular basis keeps the coat clean, removes dead hair and scale, plus makes for a wonderful bonding experience.

Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.