What To Look for in a Skin and Coat Dog Food

What To Look for in a Skin and Coat Dog Food

Healthy skin and coat are often signs of good overall health and wellness in a dog. If your pup's fur feels soft when you pet them — and if their coat appears shiny and full — these are great signs. However, if your dog's fur feels brittle, appears sparse, and is constantly shedding, these could all be signs of an underlying issue. The same applies if your dog appears to be scratching, licking, or biting at their own coat excessively.

If measures like regular grooming appointments and ensuring proper hydration aren't giving your dog relief from ongoing skin and coat problems, you should consult your veterinarian. But, because many skin problems relate back to nutrition, there's a good chance your vet will recommend some changes to your pup's food.

So, what should you be looking for in pet food formulated for a healthy skin and coat? We've got some recommendations to help you get started — including one of our most popular dog food topper recipes, specifically formulated for skin and coat!

What To Look For in a Skin and Coat Dog Food

As you explore dog food options to support skin and coat health, there are some specific ingredients to look for that can make all the difference.

High-Quality Animal Protein

First and foremost, did you know that your dog's coat is mostly made up of protein? If your canine companion isn't getting enough quality protein in their diet, there's a good chance their fur will become weak and brittle. A dog's skin is also made up of cells that require protein to keep their membranes strong and healthy, so high protein intake is vital to skin and coat health. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), adult dog food should contain at least 18% protein.

Of course, not all protein is created equal regarding nutrition in dogs. While protein can come from both plant- and animal-based sources, it can also come in the form of a byproduct in foods made with wheat and soy. For the best results, pet owners should stick to dog food that contains an animal-based protein source as its main ingredient. This can include anything from cage-free chicken to ranch-raised beef and wild-caught fish.

Contains Healthy Fatty and Amino Acids

Fatty acids and amino acids are also essential parts of a diet that promotes skin and coat health in dogs. Specifically, omega fatty acids (derived from both animal- and plant-based ingredients) are absorbed by the body's skin cells and used to maintain healthy skin and a full, shiny coat. Just as with protein, however, not all fatty acids are created equal.

When shopping for a dog food that will best support your dog's skin and coat health, look for one formulated with essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as linoleic acid (which dogs are incapable of producing on their own), omega-3 fatty acids (such as DHA), and omega-6 fatty acids. Proper amounts of these EFAs can protect against common skin and coat issues in dogs, such as skin inflammation, greasy skin, overly sensitive skin, and fur loss.

Just as important as healthy fatty acids in a dog's diet are amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These are responsible for helping your dog's body build and repair tissues, transport nutrients, and maintain a healthy coat and skin. In general, there are 20 different amino acids that dogs need — but only 10 of them can be produced naturally within the body. The other 10 (including arginine, lysine, and valine) must come from food.

Vitamin A

A balance of key vitamins and nutrients is vital not just to your dog's skin and coat health, but their overall health and wellness. Your dog's skin and coat both require vitamin A for proper function — so if your pup's fur feels brittle or weak (or if your dog seems to be shedding more than usual), a vitamin A deficiency may be to blame.

According to AAFCO, adult dog food should provide 5,000 IU of vitamin A per kilogram of food. Some dog foods, such as those using whole grains and veggies in their mix, can provide your dog with their daily recommended allowance of vitamin A without adding additional foods.

However, if your dog’s food doesn’t provide 5,000 IU of vitamin A per kilogram, there are many excellent sources of vitamin A that you can add to your dog’s food, including:

  • Whole grains
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  • Fish oil

Generally, it’s more cost effective to find a food that meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Furthermore, when incorporating vitamin A into your dog's diet, be careful not to overdo it. Too much vitamin A can actually be toxic to your dog. 

In addition to following AAFCO recommendations for daily intake of this vitamin, you may want to consult with your veterinarian for a more specific recommendation that takes into account your dog's breed, age, and other factors.

Omega Biotin

You've probably heard about biotin and its benefits for your skin, hair, and nails. In humans, for example, biotin can be used to treat hair loss and even strengthen weak or brittle nails.

Believe it or not, this complex B vitamin can be just as beneficial to your pup (in proper amounts, of course). Also commonly referred to as vitamin B7, biotin can help to heal dry and itchy skin while adding shine to a dog's coat. In addition to supporting skin and coat health, omega biotin can offer some added health benefits, such as improved digestive health and easier regulation of blood sugar levels.

Common sources of biotin in dog foods include fish, nuts, leafy greens, and even eggs. However, because biotin can cook out when dog food is processed at high temperatures, it's generally best to stick with a food that has been minimally processed so that your dog gets enough of this vitamin. Many dog foods also contain biotin as an added ingredient, so this is something to look for as well.

The good news about omega biotin is that it's non-toxic and water-soluble, so you don't have to worry about your dog getting too much of it.

Vitamin E

If your dog suffers from dry skin, flaking skin, or even visible lesions or abrasions on the skin, these could all be signs of a vitamin E deficiency. Specifically, vitamin E refers to a fat-soluble vitamin that is known for supporting skin health and a shiny coat. For adult dogs, the AAFCO recommendation of daily vitamin E is at least 50 IU — but finding this in a dog food can be challenging. Some natural sources of vitamin E in dog food may include:

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower oil
  • Canola oil
  • Peanuts (and natural peanut butter)

Unfortunately, some dogs may suffer from an allergic reaction to ingredients like eggs — which is why it's so important to know your dog and choose the formula your dog needs. In some cases, when a dog isn't getting enough vitamin E from their kibble alone, a daily supplement may be recommended.

Much like vitamin A, however, it's important for dog owners to understand that too much vitamin E can be toxic to dogs. Be sure to monitor your pup's intake appropriately to avoid long-term health consequences.


Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in many of your dog's bodily functions, such as building immunity and healing wounds. What many dog owners don't realize, however, is that your dog's skin actually has the third highest abundance of zinc in their entire body. This is important because zinc has been found to stabilize the membrane structure of the skin, which can help to prevent and even treat common skin conditions in dogs (such as dry skin and pigmentary disorders).

The AAFCO recommendation for zinc in dogs is 120 mg daily. If your dog isn't getting enough zinc in their diet, you might notice issues such as patchy bald spots and dry skin. By looking for a dog food that is formulated with the daily recommendation of zinc, you can support not just your pup's skin and coat health, but their immune system function as well.

Oysters, red meat, and poultry are the best sources of zinc.

The Honest Kitchen Solution for Better Skin and Coats

As you can see, there's a lot to look for when shopping around for the best dog food for your dog's skin and coat. In addition to looking for options with the above ingredients, you'll also need to consider whether you prefer dry dog food, wet dog food, or dehydrated (or freeze-dried) recipes. Meanwhile, if your dog has a sensitive stomach or food sensitivities and allergies (such as gluten), you may need to keep these in mind as you shop.

Many dog foods are also formulated for different life stages, ranging from puppy and young adult to older adult and senior. With so much to think about, narrowing down your top picks to support your dog's skin and coat may seem challenging — but it doesn't have to be.

Below, we’ll highlight one of our most popular dog food topper recipes — designed specifically to help your pet maintain a healthy, shiny coat.

Salmon Stew Pour Overs

The Honest Kitchen's Salmon Stew Pour Overs are designed to support your pup's skin and coat with a boost of omega-3 fatty acids (min. 1.0%), biotin (min 1.0mg/kg), and vitamin E (min 550 IU/kg). This pour over can be fed directly to your dog as a special treat or as a daily topper on your dog's wet or dry food.

Our Salmon Stew Pour Overs are made from 100% human-grade ingredients and are a line extension of our best-selling Pour Over line. Crafted with help from a veterinary nutritionist, you can feel good serving this up to your dog while being proactive about their skin and coat health.

Why Your Dog Will Love It

Dogs love our grain-free Salmon Stew Pour Overs because they're made with the highest quality ingredients, including fish bone broth, real salmon, savory butternut squash, fish oil, carrots, and wild-caught whitefish. In addition to these delicious ingredients, we also supplement biotin, vitamin E, and zinc for an added boost to your pup's skin and coat health.

And, of course, when you treat your dog to anything from The Honest Kitchen, you can rest assured that your dog is never getting artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, byproducts, or fillers. Our recipes are designed with your dog's best interests and dietary needs in mind.

Switch to Food That Supports Healthy Skin and Coat Today

Making sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition is the best way to support skin and coat health. This means choosing a dog food loaded with essential proteins, fatty acids, and amino acids — and looking for added biotin, zinc, and vitamins when needed. 

At The Honest Kitchen, our goal is to make human grade, high-quality pet food more accessible to hard-working dog owners who care about their canine companions' health and wellness. Shop our selection of pet food today to find the right recipe for your pup, and feel free to reach out to our knowledgeable and friendly team with any questions you may have.

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

Back to Blog