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Diet in canine dermatology part 1: nutrition for skin health and support

02 July 2022
10 mins read
Volume 13 · Issue 6
Figure 1.


Nutrition has a very important role to play in supporting skin and coat health, both in healthy dogs and in those with skin conditions. Key nutrients include protein — which composes 95% of each hair within the coat — omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, zinc, and different vitamins. These nutrients play different roles within the skin, and dietary intake of some or all of them may need to be considered in an individual patient. The role of each of these nutrients will be explored, along with the potential benefits of nutritional modification as part of a multimodal management approach in the support of patients with skin conditions. The article will also look at the role of supplements, and review the latest knowledge about how manipulation of the microbiome may play a role in patients with atopy.

Skin disease is a commonly encountered condition in clinical practice, accounting for an estimated 21% of the caseload for veterinary surgeons in general small animal practice (Hill, 2006). For many pet owners, skin and coat condition is an indicator of their pet's general wellbeing and can often prompt concern if it declines. The most common causes of skin disease tend to be allergies from parasites, particularly fleas, environmental allergies and adverse food reactions (AFRs). AFRs or food allergies generally account for a much smaller proportion of cases of dermatological disease than flea bite hypersensitivity or atopic dermatitis. In fact, food allergies only account for around 1% of dermatological cases (Verlinden et al, 2006), although the perception from many pet owners is that they are much more common.

When considering the role of nutrition in a patient with skin disease, there are two main focus areas. The first is the role of diet (particularly limited antigen or hydrolysed diets) in skin sensitivities suspected to be a result of an adverse food reaction. Second, nutritional modification can play a key role in the support of any patient with atopic dermatitis, skin sensitivities or a poor skin or coat quality, particularly as part of a multimodal management approach. In addition to this, even in dogs considered to have ‘healthy’ skin, as well as for owners who exhibit their dogs professionally, there may be a desire to seek a superior skin and coat condition. This article explores the role of specific dietary nutrients in skin and coat health, as well as their role in some skin conditions. The role of dietary management in adverse food reactions will be the subject of a follow-up article.

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