When it comes to dogs, how they look on the outside can tell you a lot about how they feel on the inside. While there is plenty of focus on how their fur looks and how soft it is (or isn’t), the answers to those questions can also indicate how healthy your pet is as well. What else can dog fur tell us, and what can be done with that information?
Learn more about the importance of your dog’s fur with WINPRO Pet.
What Exactly Is Dog Fur?
Some animals have hair, while others have fur. But what is the difference?
Essentially, there really is no functional difference between hair and fur. In fact, human hair and dog fur have a lot in common. Both are made up mostly of the same protein, known as keratin.
Keratin is found in the cells of the skin, and is a protein that creates not only the structure of the hair (or fur) but also the skin and nails. It is also the main component of wool, feathers, claws, and hoofs, making it one of the most multifaceted types of cells out there.
Hair and fur both grow out of follicles, which are little tunnels shaped structures (sacs) that are also located in the outer layer of the skin. Where the two differ is that human hair only grows with a ratio of one hair to one follicle, while dog fur can grow several hairs out of a single follicle.
In both humans and dogs, hair follicles also have oil glands that open into them, which are called sebaceous glands. These glands release a very important substance into the follicle, known as sebum. It’s responsible for keeping both the hair and the skin soft and protected.
Genetically, different breeds of dogs can have various amounts of natural sebum they can produce. Dogs who are bred for water, like water spaniels and even labrador retrievers, have sebaceous glands that are most active, which is why their fur is considered to be “waterproof.”
What Is a Double Coat?
Dogs are special for many reasons, but one of the most interesting is the fact that some of them can have what is known as a “double coat.”
These dogs, which include breeds like the husky, pomeranian, newfoundland, and golden retriever, have an undercoat that is made out of short, wooly hairs that protect them from extreme temperatures. The top part is made out of longer hairs known as guard hairs, which repel dirt and moisture.
These dogs do require more work in terms of grooming and maintaining, but they are definitely unique dogs. The good news is that they have plenty of grooming tools that you can use at home to help keep them tangle free and looking their best.
Common Dog Fur Issues
Our dog’s fur, and the skin and glands directly underneath it, can be vulnerable to a few different, potentially serious health conditions.
At the very least, they can make your pet uncomfortable and decrease his or her quality of life. Learning more about them, and how to identify them, can help you catch them early and get them treated before they can get worse.
Just like people, dogs are susceptible to developing allergies. While it’s not quite as easy to truly figure out the source of a dog’s allergies, being able to narrow it down can help you make changes to deal with them.
Common triggers of allergies in dogs include diet, fleas, and even other pets, and those allergies can show up as excessively itchy skin, hair loss, dry, flaky skin, obsessive chewing of the feet, and chronic ear infections.
Dealing with skin allergies in dogs can be tricky, but generally involve treating the symptoms by hitting them at their source and attempting to identify and remove the trigger. Supplements like WINPRO Allergy can help reduce inflammation to provide relief while promoting healthier skin and dog fur.
Although it is called ringworm, this common skin condition is actually caused by a fungal infection. Unfortunately, ringworm is also considered “zoonotic,” meaning that it can be passed from dog to human, causing similar symptoms. The fungi actually feed on the keratin cells, causing that telltale hair loss that occurs in patches all over your pet.
Treatment usually includes an oral and a topical component, as well as symptomatic treatment if it has spread to you or anyone in your family. This can also be an incredibly itchy skin condition, so avoiding it is preferable.
Some dogs can also be “asymptomatic” carriers, meaning they can pass the fungal infections to other pets and people in the house, even if they aren’t showing symptoms themselves.
A Dull Coat
If your dog’s coat just seems less shiny and soft than before, especially if it has happened suddenly, it is definitely worth a trip to your dog’s veterinarian.
There are a variety of different reasons as to why this can happen, most of which will require blood work to really be able to diagnose and treat. Things like a thyroid imbalance, vitamin deficiency, parasites, and even more serious issues like cancer can show themselves visibly as a dull coat.
Dull coats can also be caused by overbathing your dog. Dog’s coats naturally produce the right amount of sebum (oil) to keep it healthy and balanced.
When you bathe them too much, you also strip off the natural oils and cause the skin to overproduce them, leading to dog fur that feels oily and looks dull. While we understand wanting to have a good smelling dog, bathing your pup too much can cause worse issues.
Ways To Maintain A Healthy Coat
To help your dog maintain a healthy coat, there are a few things you should focus on.
First and foremost, you need to make sure to feed your dog a balanced, healthy diet. Dogs require a lot of different, specific vitamins and minerals. Many of the more upscale pet food brands do a nice job of including them, but not all of them. The same goes for brands that can be found in the grocery store.
Sometimes you trade price for quality and, unfortunately, this can also impact the health and appearance of the dog fur.
Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on how to make sure your dog is getting everything that he or she needs to stay as healthy as possible. However, when it comes to your pet’s coat, the vitamins that are most important to focus on are biotin, selenium, copper, zinc, and vitamin A.
You’ll also want to brush your dog regularly, even if he or she has shorter hair. This helps stimulate the natural oils, gets rid of tangles, burs, and other debris, and is a bonding experience for both of you! It can also help you make sure your pet isn’t dealing with any fleas, which can be a huge problem for the entire household.
To Sum It All Up
Maintaining a healthy coat for your dog is much easier than you think! In general, dogs are naturally able to manage the right balance of oils on their skin and hair to keep their coat looking shiny and feeling soft.
However, if you’re noticing any issues or changes with your dog’s fur, always make a trip to the veterinarian to rule out any major problems. Try WINPRO Allergy supplements to help manage itching and keep your pet looking and feeling his or her best!