Preventative Dog Skin Care Basics

Following a daily regimen of dog skin care can prevent dry skin, skin infections, matted coats and the discomfort these conditions cause. Following the proper brushing and bathing schedule for your dog's breed, feeding your dog a healthy diet and administering nutritional supplements are measures you can take to keep your dog's skin and coat in top condition.

First Priority Is Checking for Underlying Conditions

Symptoms of serious conditions-like mange, yeast infections, fungal infections, bacterial infections, ringworm and flea bite allergies-often manifest themselves in the coat and skin. Dry skin, dandruff, red patches, infection and hair loss are some of them. Before beginning any general grooming regimen, consult your vet to see if any underlying conditions are in the early stages so medical treatment can begin. If skin disease due to any one of these conditions does develop, any grooming measures you take will treat only the symptom and not the cause.

Brush Your Dog Before and After the Bath

Brushing your dog before the bath rids the coat of excess hair and prevents matting, in which strands of hair become glued together with sweat, dirt and hair products, causing hot spots (dry, red patches of skin) and painful, oozing infection. Daily brushing also stimulates natural oils in the skin, which keep the skin soft and the coat shiny.

Bathe Your Dog with Gentle, Moisturizing Hair Products

No matter how much you brush your dog's hair to stimulate the production of natural oils, bathing your dog too often, using water that is too hot or applying harsh shampoos (especially those made for humans) to your dog's skin can strip it of the body's natural moisturizers. In choosing shampoos and conditioners to use on your dog, be pro-active and pick those formulated for dry skin. Look for products containing the following ingredients:

  • Vitamins A and E, which enhance skin and coat health
  • Humectants, which retain moisture
  • Silk, wheat or oat proteins, which strengthen the texture of coat and skin
  • Chamomile tea
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Safflower oil

After the bath, spray your dog's coat with products containing glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, fatty acids or urea. Also, spot-treat tender areas of the skin with aloe vera juice or lotion. Then, brush your dog's coat after it is dry to remove any hair loosened during bathing and to again stimulate production of natural oils.

A Healthy Diet for Healthy Coat and Skin

Your dog's body does not make Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids-which are necessary for optimum skin and coat health-on its own. Under the advice of your vet, add oils rich in essential fatty acids, like linseed oil and sunflower oil, to your dog's diet.

Nutritional Supplements Enhance Skin and Coat Health

If recommended by your vet, nutritional supplements given to your dog can help maintain skin and coat health. Look for supplements with the following nutrients: fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, fish oil and biotin.

Remember: Report any changes in your dog's skin and coat to your vet, who will prescribe antibiotics and medicated shampoo if necessary to prevent a worsening of external symptoms, as well as check for disease.