What does a healthy dog coat look like?

healthy dog coat

Did you know that your dog’s coat can be a powerful indicator of their overall health and even their mental well-being? So, knowing what a healthy dog coat looks like is really important.

In a recent interview with Dr. Nicole Rous from the Mont Albert Veterinary Surgery, we learned about the fascinating insights a dog’s coat can provide.

In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the topic and explore the various aspects of a dog’s coat, its relation to their health, and what you can do to ensure your canine friend always enjoys a shiny and healthy dog coat.

The coat is a mirror to their health

Many owners often overlook the significance of their dog’s coat, unaware of it’s ability to convey crucial information about their health. If we make a correlation to our own skin, we know that when we drink enough water and eat well our skin is less dry.

Some people with allergies get itchy flaky skin when they eat the wrong thing or their psoriasis may flare up for example. The condition of the coat can indicate various underlying issues, such as nutritional imbalances, allergies, infections or stress so striving for a healthy dog coat is really important.

Hair loss and discoloured patches can also signal underlying health issues. Dogs, like humans, can experience stress and anxiety. Constant licking leading to hair loss could be a manifestation of such emotional distress. For instance, separation anxiety, changes in the household, or traumatic events can lead to excessive grooming and hair loss.

Dry, flaky skin

Dry flaky skin is common and often a reflection of poor oil quality or quantity in diet. I see kibble fed dogs daily that have that dry, scurfy skin. Even if they’re not open to switching to a raw or fresh food diet, improving the omega quality and quantity can help dramatically.

Dr. Rous recommends improving the omega-3 content by adding fresh food or raw diet options to the dog’s meals. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can have a significant positive impact on the skin and coat health of dogs. A tin of sardines, rich in omega-3, can work wonders for your dog’s skin health and overall well-being and help to promote a healthy dog coat.

Smelly skin

Contrary to popular belief, a dog’s skin should not smell. If you notice an unpleasant odour emanating from your dog’s skin, it could be an indication of an underlying issue. For instance, the notorious ‘popcorn feet’ may indicate a yeast overgrowth secondary to allergies or excessive licking.

Such odours should not be ignored, as they can be a sign of infections or problems. Regularly inspection your dog’s ears, paws, and other areas prone to moisture accumulation can help detect early signs of yeast or bacterial growth.

Pay close attention to any redness, swelling, discharge or increased sensitivity. If you notice your dog shaking their head excessively or tilting their head promptly consult your veterinarian so they can help identify and address issues before they escalate.

Dr. Rous advises pet owners to use the comparison technique when comparing feet and ears. Use one ear or foot and compare it to the other. Oftentimes only one is affected (or infected!) so you can compare smell, discolouration and swelling easily when there is a ‘normal.’

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is a common problem in dogs and can be caused by various factors. While occasional scratching is normal for dogs, excessive and persistent itching is not. Understanding the normal frequency of itching can help you determine if your dog’s scratching is within a healthy range or if there might be an underlying issue that needs attention.

When licking is excessive

Sounds straightforward? Well, unfortunately the ‘normal’ frequency can vary between individual dogs and certain breeds, but there are some general guidelines to consider. Dogs may scratch or lick themselves occasionally to groom or alleviate minor irritations. However, they shouldn’t scratch, bite or lick excessively or frequently throughout the day – this can be a sign that something is amiss.

The causes of itching in dogs can be diverse but it is essential (or, well, at least ideal!) to identify the root cause so you can provide appropriate treatment and relief to ensure they have a healthy dog coat and skin.


Probably no surprise, allergies are a leading cause of scratching and licking and can be triggered by environmental factors such as pollen, mould, or dust mites as well as food allergies or intolerances to ingredients such as chicken or beef.  For some tip

Insect bites, flea infestations or even allergies to fleas (saliva), known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis, can also result in intense itching and discomfort. Additionally, some parasites like mites can cause itchiness and irritation which can hinder your dog having a healthy dog coat.

For some tips on treating a dog with sensitive skin, click here.

The role diet plays in a healthy dog coat

Dr Rous advises one of the keys to supporting the skin of allergy dogs is through a diet that supports a healthy gut microbiome. Ideally this is through an unprocessed diet as well as a quality probiotics.

A balanced and nutritious diet plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and can significantly improve your dog’s skin health, reducing itchiness.

Groom regularly for a healthy dog coat

Regular grooming can also help keep your dog’s skin healthy and reduce the risk of irritants building up on their coat. Brushing your dog regularly can remove loose fur, dirt, and potential allergens, while bathing can help keen their skin clean and free from irritants.

So, what does a healthy dog coat look like?

How can you say that your dog’s coat is optimum? After understanding everything we have gone through, Dr. Rous concludes with her key signs of a healthy dog coat.

1. Smooth and flake-free: smooth and flake-free signifies a well-hydrated and healthy coat.

2. Minimal shedding: moderate shedding is normal (in most breeds) and can vary throughout the year, but excessive or patchy hair loss is not normal.

3. No foul odour: as we have discussed, a healthy coat should not emit unpleasant ‘doggy’ odours.

4. Minimal itching: occasional scratching is normal, but persistent itching may indicate underlying issues


Dr. Nicole Rous is a holistic veterinarian and the founder of Shy Tiger, an Australian owned pet care company. With a passion for natural and holistic health practices, she operates Mont Albert Veterinary Surgery in Melbourne, providing modern, professional and affordable health care for pets. More at Shy Tiger and Mont Albert Vet.

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