Does your dog have a dull and lifeless coat? Do you wish your dog had a healthy-looking, shiny, silky, soft to the touch coat? If so then this article is for you.
Our dog’s coat is one of their most prominent features and we should all want our dog’s coat to look and feel great. As well as being aesthetically pleasing for us, it’s also very important for your dog’s health and wellbeing to have a well looked after coat. Fortunately, there are many remedies to improve the health and condition of your dog’s coat.
In this article, I’ll talk about why your dog might have a dull or unhealthy coat in the first place, what you can do to treat and improve this and recommend some supplements and products that might be of interest to you.
- Pests & parasites.
- Wrong shampoo & conditioner.
- Lack of proper grooming.
- Poor diet.
- Lack of vitamins & supplements.
- Bacterial or fungal infections.
How To Identify An Unhealthy Dog Coat
If your dog suffering from an illness the skin and hair can be the first to suffer. The skin is a large organ and therefore needs large amounts of vitamins and nutrients to maintain its normal health. Also, when your dog is ill, its body will try to protect it’s vital organs first such as the brain and heart and will divert nutrients from less vital organs such as the skin.
So when your dog is suffering from an illness or not receiving the correct vitamins and nutrients in their food it can sometimes be seen in the health or their coat. Their coat may become extremely dry or dull instead of feeling soft and looking shiny. The hair may feel more brittle and have an unusual rough texture. Also, for dogs that have a darker coat, you could possibly notice a change in colour to a dull grey.
If your dog is showing any of these symptoms then you should take them to the vet immediately for a professional examination and possible diagnosis.
Why Your Dog Might Have A Dull Or Damaged Coat & What You Can Do About it
There are a variety of reasons why your dog may have a dull or damaged coat but thankfully there are several things you can do to improve its condition making it soft, shiny and silky. Some of the reason your dog might have a dull coat include:
- Pests & parasites.
- The wrong kind of shampoo and conditioner.
- Poor quality shampoo of conditioner.
- Lack of proper grooming.
- Poor diet.
- Bacterial or fungal infections.
- Thyroid disease.
Pests & Parasites
One of the causes of a dull coat or even loss of hair could be caused by a parasite infection. Parasites will live on or in your dog’s coat or skin to nourish themselves and reproduce. A parasite could be transmitted to your dog in many places including a grooming salon, a kennel, shelters or even over the park.
There are two types of parasitic infestation – internal and external. If your dog has an external infestation in the coat or skin it can cause them to have inflamed or irritated areas of skin, leading to scratching or biting making the situation even worse. In the more serious cases of internal infestations, the parasites can cause malnutrition that can then cause hair loss.
The most common types of external parasites are fleas, ticks and mites. Fleas survive on the skin by ingesting the dog’s blood and the saliva they produce can cause the skin to become irritated and itchy. Ticks are tiny arachnids that also ingest blood and as well as causing hair loss can lead to more severe medical conditions. Mites are microscopic creatures and are the cause of mange and scabies in dogs.
Hair loss in dogs is referred to as alopecia and below are some of the symptoms of this condition.
- Loss of hair.
- Itching & scratching.
- Chewing in infested areas.
- Areas of sore skin.
- Lesions & scaling
- An obvious dullness in the coat.
- Weight loss.
- Distended abdomen.
If your dog is showing any of the symptoms above or you suspect they have been infected by a parasite then you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will first give your dog a physical exam to look for the obvious signs and may do other tests including a blood count, chemistry panel, skin scrape, blood smear, urinalysis and a faecal exam.
The treatment for a parasitic infestation will depend on the type of parasite. External parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites will be treated with specially formulated shampoo and maybe medication. Internal parasites may be treated with deworming medication.
If your vet recommends using an anti-parasitic shampoo then there are a variety of good quality products available and below I will review some of the shampoos I think are worthy of a mention. I only recommend good quality products made with natural ingredients and have good ratings and customers reviews. This way you can always be sure that you are buying a decent product from a reputable seller.
My first choice would be the Avara Flea & Tick Shampoo. This a specially formulated antiparasitic shampoo that uses only natural ingredients and is suitable for dogs of all breeds and ages including puppies. It has a purely botanical formula including lemongrass, peppermint, cinnamon, thyme, clove, red cedar and rosemary giving it a subtle and pleasant smell. It doesn’t include any harsh detergents or toxic chemicals making it perfect if your dog has any allergies or sensitive skin. And they also make a small donation to animal rights charities from each purchase. This shampoo is available for adult dogs and puppies.
Benefits of Avara Flea & Tick Shampoo
- 100 % Natural ingredients.
- Specially formulated to repel fleas and ticks.
- No harsh detergents or toxic chemicals.
- Strict quality control.
- Botanical ingredients for a subtle and pleasant smell.
- Cleanses, strengthen and moisturize your dog’s skin.
- Nourishes and strengthens your dog’s coat.
- A small donation to animal rights charities from each purchase.
There are a variety of allergies that can have an effect on your dog’s coat including dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, food, shampoo and even mould.
Allergies can cause many different symptoms but for the purpose of this article, we are only concerned about the ones that might affect your dog’s skin or coat. If your dog has an allergic reaction to something that affects its skin it may lead to areas of irritation and soreness, causing your dog to scratch or chew at the affected area. This, in turn, can lead to loss of fur and a damaged coat.
The treatment for a skin or hair condition caused by an allergic reaction will depend on the specific allergy your dog is suffering from. If it is due to something in their food they will need to be given a specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food and possibly vitamin and nutrient supplements. In other cases, they may need medication and even injections.
It’s important to note here that if you think your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction then you should take them to your vet as soon as possible to receive professional diagnosis and course of treatment.
The most common cause of a skin allergy will be a reaction to something in your dog’s food. One of the ways to discover what food your dog is allergic to is to use a home allergy test kit and your vet may recommend this to be the first course of action. Affordable allergy testing kits are available to purchase.
They are easy to use and they test an extensive array of food that your dog might be allergic to as well as environmental allergens and nutritional deficiencies. These kits only require you to cut off a small amount of your dog’s hair and then send it back to be tested in the lab and then wait for the results.
A good home allergy testing kit is the 5Strands Allergy Sensitivity & Intolerance Test Kit. It tests for over 300 of the most common food types, environmental allergens and nutritional deficiencies. Another good feature of this product is that you receive the results within 7-10 working days.
If you would like to read more about home allergy testing kits and reviews of the best ones available then please read my article Allergy Test Kits For Dogs.
If your vet suggests that you change your dog’s food to a hypoallergenic dog food then there are a variety of choices available. Below I will give some information and links to a few produced by reputable brands that I would recommend.
The first one I would recommend is Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food for sensitive skin and stomach. This is natural dog food made with no artificial colouring, preservatives or flavouring. It has been scientifically formulated to be gentle on your dog’s stomach containing balanced nutrition and easy to digest ingredients. It also contains vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for a healthy and shiny coat.
Benefits of Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food
- Natural ingredients.
- Specially formulated for sensitive skin and stomach.
- Nutritionally balanced.
- Easy to digest ingredients.
- Contains omega-3 and other vitamins for a healthy coat.
- Contains antioxidants, vitamin C & E to help immune support.
- Available for both large and small breeds.
- Recommended by veterinarians.
- 100% money back guarantee.
Another excellent dog food is the Wellness Limited Ingredient Dog Food. This product is produced by a reputable brand and uses only natural ingredients. The food contains only limited ingredients making it a good choice for dogs with food allergies. It contains a single source a good quality protein, easily digestible carbohydrates and contains no gluten, wheat, fillers or artificial additives.
It comes in 4 different flavours, has a dry or wet option and is also available for small breeds. This food has an excellent 4.5 out of 5 star rating on chewy.com and you can read the reviews for yourself here.
Benefits of Wellness Limited Ingredients Dog Food
- Formulated to be easily digestible.
- Short but complete list of ingredients for a balanced diet.
- Single source of high-quality protein.
- 100% natural ingredients.
- Contains probiotics and prebiotics.
- Nourishes healthy skin with flaxseed.
- No gluten, wheat, corn, dairy, or eggs.
- No fillers, artificial additives, preservatives or flavours.
- Made in the USA.
- Comes in 4 different flavours.
- Available in a small breed variety.
Shampoo & Conditioner For A Healthy, Shiny Coat
Another reason why your dog’s coat might look dull or unhealthy could be the result of using a poor quality shampoo and conditioner or the wrong kind.
First off it’s important to mention that you should never use human shampoo or conditioner on your dog. Shampoo designed for humans has a more acidic pH balance and can cause severe irritation and scratching for your dog. This is because humans have more layers of outer skin and can handle the more acidic formula. Therefore using human shampoo and conditioner on your dog could have an effect on how shiny and healthy your dog’s coat is.
If you want your dog’s coat to be as healthy, shiny and as soft as possible then you need to use a good quality shampoo and conditioner. When purchasing these products you want to look out for 3 things – the type of cleaning agent, the correct pH balance for dogs, and if they contain harsh chemicals and other bad ingredients.
Using a shampoo and conditioner with a good quality cleaning agent is very important for the health of your dog’s coat. To keep their skin moisturised a dog will secret oils from their skin and as time passes these will build up and make their coat oily and greasy. The cleaning agent in the shampoo will remove these oils and how well it works will depend on its quality and concentration.
Inferior shampoos will use a poor quality cleaning agent in a lower concentration that can leave your dog’s fur still feeling greasy and looking dull even after you have bathed them. On the other hand, quality products will do a good job at removing these oils and leave your dog’s coat looking fresh and shiny.
Using a shampoo and conditioner that has the correct pH balance is very important. The pH scale is used to measure how acidic or alkaline a substance is and should be suitable for your dog’s skin. Whereas humans can use shampoo with a more acidic pH level around 4.5 to 5.5, a dog will need a more alkaline shampoo with a pH balance or between 6 and 7.
Using inferior products that are not specially formulated for dogs can lead to problems such as dry eye, skin irritation and yeast infections.
Some inferior dog shampoos will contain poor cleaning agents and other harsh chemicals that can ‘over-wash’ your dog’s skin and coat removing too many of the natural oils your dog needs to moisturise their skin. These harsh detergents can damage your dog’s skin and coat leaving their coat looking worse than it did before.
If you would like to read a more thorough explanation of what shampoo and conditioner to use on your dog then please read my article – What Is The Best Shampoo & Conditioner For Your Dog.
To avoid the issues listed above I always choose to use a product that has the correct pH balance for my dog’s skin and has only 100% natural ingredients. Below I’ll list a few that I think tick all the boxes to avoid the problems above and will leave your dog’s coat looking healthy. They all have excellent ingredients and are free of any harsh chemical or other bad ingredients that could cause any damage to your dog’s skin and coat.
Earthbath shampoo and Earthbath conditioner are produced from 100% all natural ingredients. It has no synthetic perfumes, dyes or harsh chemicals that could damage your dog’s coat. This is an excellent product for fur that is particularly oily and will help to promote healthy skin.
This shampoo and conditioner will also moisturise your dog’s skin and will help to produce a nice shiny and soft coat. This brand also provides the shampoo in different scents, including vanilla, rosemary and mango.
- All natural and biodegradable ingredients.
- Variety of scents.
- Hypoallergenic formula.
- Suitable for sensitive skin and allergies.
- PH 7.
- Reasonable prices.
- No chemicals.
- Helps to heal areas or dry or damaged skin.
Tropiclean 2-in-1 Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
The Tropiclean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner is another great choice containing only natural products. The coconut and mango extract help to separate tangled fur allowing you to easily brush out any knots. While the kiwi and papaya nourish and moisturize the fur and skin leaving your Shih Tzu looking and smelling great.
This shampoo is soap-free so you can use it along-side any flea or tick treatments. Being soap-free also means it’s a suitable shampoo for puppies and cats.
- Natural ingredients.
- Gentle formula.
- Long-lasting fragrance.
- Does not strip your dog’s fur.
- Prevents tangling & matted fur.
- Reasonably priced.
- No parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, phthalates or artificial dyes.
- Excellent rating and reviews.
- Safe for puppies.
Tropiclean shampoo and conditioner has an excellent 4.6 out of 5-star rating on chewy.com and you can check out the reviews for yourself here.
Lack Of Proper Grooming
Grooming your dog is important for maintaining your dog’s health as well as their appearance. Grooming is important for all dogs but more so for dog’s that have a longer coat. Obviously, if your dog has a long coat, you will need to spend more time grooming them and more frequently than those with shorter haired dogs.
Brushing your dog’s coat is important no matter what breed you have. Regular brushing will help to remove dirt, dandruff, dead hair and other unwanted debris. Brushing will also encourage your dog’s skin to produce natural oils in their fur that are vital for healthy skin and a good looking coat. As you continue to brush these oils will be spread over your dog’s coat giving it a shiny appearance.
Another reason to groom your dog is that it will give you a chance to look for any abnormalities on the skin or in the coat. For example, while grooming you should look for any skin problems such as dry patches or sore areas, fleas and ticks and also check for any issues with their teeth, ears, eyes and nails.
By spotting problems early they can be more effectively treated and may save your dog some future discomfort and pain and halt any symptoms developing into something more serious.
To groom your dog properly you will need the appropriate brushes and comb and may also like to use a detangling or dematting spray. For my dog, I use a slicker brush, a matt splitter and a comb. They each have a specific purpose and you can read more about these brushes and why they are important in my article – The Best Brush For A Shih Tzu. This article should also be useful even if you own a different breed of dog.
If you are feeding your dog a quality dog food, there are no other underlying health issues and you are regularly grooming your dog then their coat should be already looking healthy and shiny. In this section, I’ll discuss the vitamins and micronutrients that are important for a healthy coat and recommend some quality dog foods that will fulfil this part of your dog’s diet.
A lot of poor quality dog food can be missing the important nutrients your dog needs to maintain a healthy coat and this can lead to your dog’s hair being dry and dull. The most important nutrient for the health of your dog’s skin and coat is the omega-3 fatty acid.
This supplement will help improve the way skin cells are produced and organised in the body. Scientific studies have shown that if a dog’s diet is low in omega-3 the skin will appear disorganised and can lead to irritants and infections damaging the skin and coat. On the other hand, dog’s that have a diet rich in omega-3 show much better organisation of their skin cells leading to more protection.
Other vitamins and nutrients that are important for your dog’s skin and coat are vitamin E, C, B and zinc. Vitamin E and zinc are important as they help to improve the bioavailability of omega-3. Vitamins C and B (B12, riboflavin, thiamine, biotin, pyridoxine, d-pantothenic acid) are antioxidants and fight against damaging free radicals as well as improving collagen (skin protein) and skin immune function.
After researching different brands of dog food and the ingredients they use, I have selected 2 that I think tick all the boxes for a well balanced healthy diet and contain all the necessary vitamins and nutrients for healthy skin and a soft, shiny coat.
My first choice is Halo Holistic Natural Dog Food. This dog food is made with whole meat rather than a meat meal, contains no growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial flavours, artificial colours and artificial preservatives. It contains omega-3 and omega-6 as well as the other vitamins nutrients listed above to help nourish the skin and coat.
This dog food comes in a variety of flavours and is available for puppies, small breeds, adult dogs and senior dogs. It has an excellent 4.6 out of 5 rating on chewy.com and you can read the reviews here.
Benefits of Halo Holistic Natural Dog Food: