Jenny Lambert June 10, 2016

There’s nothing nicer than being up close and cuddly with your dog, particularly if they have a soft, shiny, luxurious coat. A number of factors contribute to a healthy coat in dogs, but anything you do to improve your pet’s overall health and wellbeing will also be reflected in the condition of their fur.

There are many reasons why your dog’s coat can dull, from fleas to poor nutrition, so it’s important to understand that there is no one cure for the perfect coat, but rather lots of different influential factors. One of these factors is vitamin B - here’s how it can help.

Why nutrition is integral to coat health

Good nutrition is critical in maintaining your dog’s health, and, as a result, in keeping their coat shiny and soft. A poor diet, for instance, can result in poor immunity, poor growth and a dull coat. Some nutrients, however, are more important than others when it comes to coat health; namely B vitamins. B vitamins are a safe and effective way to add gloss to your dog’s coat because anything not used by the body is excreted in the urine with no ill effects.

The importance of B vitamins in coat health

B vitamins are a group of water soluble vitamins that play a role in a number of metabolic processes in the body. Because many are involved in maintenance of the skin and coat, deficiencies often manifest as skin changes and poor hair growth.

Biotin, or vitamin B7, is an enzyme that is essential in the production of fatty acids in the body. Fatty acids support the skin barrier, preventing water loss through the skin and protecting the body from allergens, or molecules that trigger an allergic response. Dogs with atopic dermatitis, characterised by severe itching and inflammation of the skin and hair loss, have reduced levels of fats in their skin and this is thought to play a role in their disease1.

In addition, biotin has also been used to treat claw disorders in dogs2 as well as having an effect on conditions such as a dull coat, brittle hair and scaly skin. In one study, for example, 60% of dogs affected with such symptoms showed a complete cure after treatment with biotin, and in another 31% of dogs, symptoms were reduced3.

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, deficiency can also affect skin health, resulting in flaking skin on the abdomen and inside the hind legs, as well as increased shedding of hair.

Two other significant B vitamins are B3 (also called niacinomide or nicotinamide) and B5 (pantothenic acid or pantothenate). They also form part of the skin barrier which shields dogs from substances that can penetrate the skin and cause disease. A study conducted in the UK showed that a treatment that included both pantothenate and nicotinamide helped to maintain the skin barrier in dogs4.

How to improve your dog’s B vitamin intake

If a supplement is needed, supplements containing brewer’s yeast can be very useful. It’s a good source of biotin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid which will all contribute to a healthy coat. An appropriate dose of brewer’s yeast for dogs is 200mg per kilogram bodyweight per day5. Brewer’s yeast is safe and shouldn’t cause any adverse effects, but if your dog is given too much, then you might see signs of gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhoea.

What about shampoo?

The shampoo you choose can also play an important role in keeping your pooch’s coat healthy. Bathing too frequently with the wrong shampoo can result in a dull dry coat and even itchy skin. Most dogs benefit most from a gentle soap-free shampoo, used only when necessary to clean their fur. Additionally, medicated shampoos should only be used with veterinary advice because they can be very drying to their coat.

How can I tell if a dull coat is flea-related?

Fleas are a major source of annoyance for dogs. They are blood-sucking parasites and their bites cause severe skin itching and inflammation. As your dog scratches their itchy skin, they’ll damage their fur, particularly over their rump and down their hind legs. The undesirable effects of fleas aren’t just cosmetic, either. These little insects can drink enough blood to cause anaemia and they also spread tapeworm. Fortunately there are many flea treatments to choose from, and your vet can advise you on what products you can use to keep fleas at bay.

Key points

Overall good health and wellbeing in dogs is reflected in a glossy coat. You can keep your dog’s fur in tip top condition by using effective flea control and by bathing them appropriately. However, don’t overlook the importance of diet. Nutrition is not only essential in maintaining their coat but also in keeping your dog in the best of health and providing the energy they need for their day to day activities.

1 Popa I, Pin D, Remoué N, Osta B, Callejon S, Videmont E, Gatto H, Portoukalian J, Haftek M. (2011). Analysis of epidermal lipids in normal and atopic dogs, before and after administration of an oral omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid feed supplement. A pilot study. Vet Res Commun. 35(8):501-9. 2 Rhea V. Morgan DVM. (2007) Handbook of Small Animal Practice. 5th edition, Chapter 90. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders 3 Frigg M, Schulze J, Völker L. (1989). Clinical study on the effect of biotin on skin conditions in dogs. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. 131(10):621-5. 4 A L Watson. (2006). Dietary constituents are able to play a beneficial role in canine epidermal barrier function. Exp Dermatol. 15(1):74-81. 5 Ned F. Kuehn. (2015). North American Companion Animal Formulary. Hensall, ON: North American Compendiums, Inc.

Author info: Dr Audrey Harvey is a graduate of the University of Queensland, Australia, and has worked in small animal practices for 25 years. She is particularly interested in obesity management and the role of exercise in resolving behaviour problems in dogs.

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