Most dog owners think of healthy skin as being that which doesn’t leave white flakes on the coat and isn’t scaly to look at. True enough, those two things are signs to look for, but how do you get there?
We know that the skin is an organ and it needs proper nutrition, but we don’t often connect this to water intake. Healthy skin minimizes the migration of moisture upward from deeper dermal tissues. Fatty acids in the skin do a good job of preventing water loss. In contrast, fatty acid deficiency can lead to a poor barrier, encouraging water loss, so the dog might drink a lot more water to compensate.
Protein is required for development of new skin, and while some diets provide ample amounts of protein, the quality matters. For example, protein from sources other than eggs, milk, fish or meats are of inferior quality.
Some of the protein in raw meaty bones is derived from collagen. That sounds healthy and it’s fine to a point, but collagen is broken down mostly by bacteria in the bowel and a lot of it is simply excreted in the stool. The high fat content of most raw meaty bones can help to make a dog’s coat glisten, but when it comes to skin health, high quality protein shouldn’t be ignored.
Vitamin B deficiencies are more common that you might think. Commercial diets are very well fortified with these vitamins, but home-prepared diets provide only what the foods themselves have to offer. Even diets based on red meats are too often deficient in vitamins B1 and B2 at minimum and if you feed poultry, chances are the diet is deficient in Pantothenic acid and B-12 as well. Why the focus on B vitamins? Because they play vast roles for all body functions including metabolism of fats, proteins, carbohydrates and healthy skin.
Experimentally induced vitamin E deficiency has produced skin lesions, so you want to make sure that your dog receives some vitamin E and especially so if the diet is high in fat.
In a nutshell, skin health requires a balanced diet, but is also based on high quality protein, essential fatty acids like those in wild salmon oil and primrose oil, B vitamins and vitamin E. Skin should be clear, clean and supple.