« Having a silky-haired dog doesn’t matter: as long as it’s healthy! »
That’s what I thought to myself…before adopting Penelope.
Penelope is a Patou cross (you know, big white dogs, like in the movie “Belle et Sébastien”).
And like any self-respecting Patou, Penelope has:
1. long thick fur
2. a woolly undercoat
3. and a tendency to roll around in anything that stinks!
It was while adopting Pénélope that I realized one thing:
The coat and the health of the dog are directly linked.
First, because the coat is an excellent indicator of your dog’s state of health.
For example, a dog with a dull, sparse coat on the sides most likely has intestinal worms.
When I fed my dogs industrial kibble, Penelope tended to have dreadlocks in her lower back, just above her tail – and she smelled really bad.
So bad hair = bad shape.
But the reverse is also true: not maintaining, or badly maintaining the hair of your dog can be dramatic for his health.
First, because the hair is thermoregulatory. It protects from the cold in winter, and from the heat in summer – provided it is well ventilated.
The hair also protects the skin from irritation, scratches, and the sun.
It is therefore primordial to take care of it… And yet, like many ill-informed owners, I made 3 “beginner” mistakes.
3 catastrophic rookie mistakes for dog hair.
Mistake #1: Clipping my dog’s hair (even in summer!)
Seeing Penelope panting under her heavy fur in summer, I was really tempted to mow it. How could she bear this heat, under her thick coat?
Fortunately, I came across this thermal image, of a partially shorn dog:
The back, shorn, reaches almost 31° – while the neckline, protected by thick hair, remains at a stable temperature of 24°.
The hair is therefore thermoregulatory: it keeps you warm in winter, and keeps your body cool in summer.
You must therefore avoid clipping your dog at all costs!
But beware : this thermoregulatory function of the hair only works on one condition:
Mistake #2: Leaving my dog’s hair “natural”
The hair can accomplish this mission ONLY if it is well ventilated.
That is to sayyou have to be able to part your dog’s hair anywhere on its body, and be able to see the skin.
In some dogs, the coat is naturally airy – Maki, for example, is short-haired. No need to brush it.
This was not the case with Penelope a few years ago. His woolly undercoat formed dreadlocks, huge knots, patches of dead hair.
Result: in summer, Penelope ran the risk of recurrent heatstroke.
One pulls: these masses of loose hair took on the humidity; smelled bad; and favored the appearance of fungi, hotspots, and various skin problems.
In some dogs, brushing the coat is essential to keep it healthy. We can’t just leave it “natural”.
Alas, several breeds have such dense hair that brushing alone is complex. Impossible to overcome knots. This is where the diet has to come into play – but be careful, not just any diet.
Mistake #3: Buying special hair kibbles
You can, at most veterinarians, buy special skin & coat kibbles – I’m taking the example of Hill’s “Derm Defense” range here, but be aware that Royal canin or ProPlan have an equally mediocre equivalent.
Let’s look at the list of ingredients for this kibble, sold 3 times more expensive, supposedly excellent for your dog’s hair:
« Ccereals, meat and animal by-products, vegetable protein extracts, oils and fats, eggs and egg products, seeds, vegetable by-products, minerals. » (1)
Where to start ?
Cereals, the first ingredient: shocking for a carnivore ! Especially since many dogs are allergic to it, thus causing repeated dermatitis. We don’t even know if it’s rice, wheat, corn…
Meat and animal by-products: Here, Hill’s does not even bother to specify which animal it is. But when we talk about by-products, these are most often euthanized farm animals, remains of carcasses and crushed viscera…
Et this lack of precision is valid throughout this list of ingredients : “vegetable protein extracts” (which ones?); “oils and fats” (which oils? Fish oil? I suppose it is rather palm oil, otherwise Hill’s would have taken care to specify it…); “minerals”: which minerals?
Short, Hill’s is marketing the same mediocre ingredients as usual, but inflating its prices.
No virtuous food is added in order to improve the quality of the hair: shameful.
So what are the inexpensive, easy and accessible tips for a coat that exudes health?
I brush Penelope at least once a week. Maki: never, and Merlin, especially when he collects thistles in his hair. It all depends on your dog.
2 daily spoonfuls of organic brewer’s yeast
Brushing is good… But sometimes it’s not enough.
If your dog has a rough, fine, woolly, and matted coat, it can be real torture – for him and for you!
Fortunately, there is a few foods that give the hair “pep” – make it silkier, stronger, and easier to detangle.
The one I use first and foremost is brewer’s yeast.
Brewer’s yeast is packed with vitamin B, which nourishes the hair and keeps it in good condition. I give 2 measuring spoons a day to Penelope, especially during the fall and spring moult. (For a dog weighing 10kg or less, one daily scoop is sufficient).
Not only, this made his dreadlocks disappear, but in addition, brewer’s yeast is very palatable : I have to store the jar with care, otherwise Penelope helps herself!
I prefer organic brewer’s yeast, which is also available on my website (I don’t have much left in stock, but I will soon recommend it to my naturopath, because it is an excellent product):
Yes, I want to take care of my hair
dog thanks to organic brewer’s yeast
And finally, last tip:
I supplement shampoo with coconut oil
buy an organic coconut oil in the supermarket, and when bathing, I rub it in my hands to melt it, and apply it to the hair at the same time as the shampoo.
The oil nourishes the hair, but it is also antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic. It protects my dogs and takes care of their fur, at a lower cost!
You now have all my tips for a well-ventilated coat – and a dog protected against cold, humidity, heatstroke, fungus, and all the other hazards of an unhealthy coat.