In my early years of showing ShihTzu, one major critic most judges gave on my show coat was “low undercoat could be improved”. This constant critic drove me to look for better ways to keep my dogs coat and grow more undercoat. In my case the driving cause for this low undercoat were my ignorance in using slicker brushes instead of pin brushes to brush my dog fur in addition to my lack of ability to grow long coats without mutts and so I had to every now and then cut the coat down.
In this writeup I will focus on the following areas;
Makeup of Dog Coat and its function on the dog wellbeing
“Your dog’s coat’s primary function is to protect their skin from the sun, keep them warm or cool, and to keep dirt and water away,” days Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. It sounds simple, but dog hair is actually beautifully complex. It comes in a stunning array of colors, patterns, lengths and textures that tell a genetic story about your dog, and works in a number of amazing ways to safeguard your dog’s health and comfort.
Most dog breeds have three different types of hair on their bodies: guard hair (aka primary hair, or topcoat), undercoat (secondary hair), and whiskers (which have special powers).
The undercoat is the part of a dog’s coat that grows closest to their skin. It’s got a softer, downy texture suitable to its primary function—providing insulation. The last time you brushed your dog’s hair, you may have noticed a bunch of shorter pieces of hair come out in clusters. These hairs are likely the undercoat. A trend is creeping in among groomers and pet owners in Ghana and most part of Africa where most double coated dogs coat are constantly shaved off because of matt or owners worried the dogs feel hot. This is not a good practice because shaving your dog fur off causes it to lose the undercoat whose primary function is to keep your dog skin cool on sunny days and warm on cold days. Constantly shaving your dog coat down exposes your dog coat to direct sun rays, dirt and actually can cause potential health hazards that does more harm than good to your dogs.
Soraya Solo Per I Tuo Occhi is the daughter of a World Champion ShihTzu and doubles as the Best ShihTzu and companion dog in Ghana as well as best female ShihTzu in Nigeria-Soraya is an example of a double coated dog, currently pregnant and expecting a litter from her in our breeding program
Dogs without that undercoat, or single-coat dogs, are the ones known as having hair coats. These breeds, which include the boerboel, the poodle, Maltese, pug, some chihuahuas, and others, have a longer cycle of hair growth which makes it seem as if they do not shed, or shed lightly. In contrast, most double-coated breeds leave a bit more hair around the house, and some “blow,” or shed their entire undercoat, seasonally.
Guard hair or topcoat is thicker and grows longer than the undercoat. Essentially, when you look at your dog, most of the hair that you see right away is their guard hair.
Guard hair is important because it protects the rest of your pup’s skin from foreign objects; it also serves as an extra layer of protection against cold weather, and injuries. “The topcoat is used to repel water and keep dirt from reaching the skin
And then there are whiskers, the long, coarse hairs that serve the critical function of helping a dog sense the space, and the world, around them. Whiskers, or vibrissae, grow near the dog’s eyelids and muzzle from deep-rooted follicles that are full of nerve endings. These nerves send important messages to the dog’s brain, which is why you may notice a dog reacting immediately to whatever touches their whiskers. Whiskers on the dog’s muzzle typically grow to a length equal to the width of the dog’s head or body, which helps with spatial awareness. These amazing hairs can detect changes in air currents, which help dogs, who are naturally far-sighted, “see” objects that are nearby, and move around in the dark.
Whiskers are an important part of your dog’s sensory toolset which means you should avoid cutting or removing them during grooming.
A Caucasion shepherd groomed at the Hydra Experience Moment with Shiny & Healthy Coat
What does a dog’s coat say about their health?
A dog’s coat can give clues about their health in two main ways. The dog’s coat color or pattern could tell you that the dog may be predisposed to certain genetic disorders. For instance a powdered coated boerboel implies the dog has low or or pigmentation and not a desirable trait in the breed
A dog’s coat can also exhibit specific symptoms, such as patchiness, oiliness, balding, itching or thinning, that signify health issues.
To determine what your dog’s coat might be telling you, it’s important to know what their coat should look like. If your dog has a healthy coat and a generally good bill of health, their coat will be soft to the touch and generally feel smooth, even on wire-haired breeds (it should be easy to spot the difference between wiry and brittle). It should look a little shiny.
What your dog’s coat shouldn’t look like: it shouldn’t be excessively oily, have a strong, foul smell (this is an indicator of bacteria or yeast build-up), and it should not appear greasy, dusty, dry, balding, or loose (meaning big chunks of undercoat hair coming out on their own).
An irritated, abnormal coat could imply allergies, hormone problems including thyroid or elevated cortisol, secondary infections, a genetic problem, or other issues. If issues with your dog’s coat persist after addressing diet, consult your veterinarian.
The Role of Nutrition in your dog coat development
The short answer is: nutrition has a huge impact on the health and appearance of your dog’s skin and coat.
“Dry skin and hair coat can be due to a nutritional issue, allergies, or a medical condition,” explains Dr. Gary Richter, DVM. “Conversion to a fresh, whole food diet frequently improves skin and hair coat.” When a dog’s diet is missing something important–like protein, fats, moisture, and sufficient nutrients in the right balance–it manifests in a variety of ways, from dry skin and a dull coat to patches of hair loss.
Healthy fats are another ingredient for overall health, and skin and coat health. Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation, while Omega-6s increase inflammation, which plays a role in immunity, and cell growth. A healthy balance of these two essential fatty acids provides a range of health benefits including a lustrous coat.
If you’re feeding kibble, which tends to be higher in Omega-6 acids, your dog might have an imbalance which can contribute to chronic inflammation.
If you’re feeding a fresh diet, you shouldn’t need to add extra supplements to achieve a shiny, healthy coat. However, if you want a boost of healthy fats for coat, and overall health, whole sardines are a great source, and a great snack, in moderation.
Dr. Richter says while inadequate hydration and nutrition are usually the issue when it comes to coat issues, if your dog is displaying additional symptoms, it’s worth a trip to the vet.
“If [your dog] is not feeling well, is excessively itchy, or if fish oil didn’t work, consult with your veterinarian about the next steps,” he says.
Grooming a dog’s coat
Nutrition can either positively or negatively affect a dog’s coat, as can external sources such as mites, fleas, and allergies, but grooming is an essential part of taking appropriate care of your dog’s coat.
Pet grooming is essential for both your pet’s good looks and his health. However, doing these tasks at home may be complicated, so you might want to consider the benefits of professional dog grooming.
Adanfopa Pet Grooming Services offers a wide range of grooming services available for all budgets, dog types, and preferences.
Our 3 main grooming packages are available to pet parents who want to either walk into our grooming saloon or schedule us for a home visit. We have the Pay as you go package-https://adanfopa.com/4069-2-copy-copy/
The Maintenance Package-https://adanfopa.com/4069-2/
And the Spa Package-https://adanfopa.com/4069-2-copy/
Brushing your dog
Brushing your dog keeps them looking great, but also serves some other important functions.
Regular brushing helps to distribute the coat’s natural oils, keeping your dog’s coat shiny. If your dog has an undercoat, regular brushing can help keep them cooler—it prevents this downy hair from getting impacted against the skin to promote the flow of air. This up-close experience can also help you spot anything unusual on or about your dog’s skin, like lumps, or parasites.
Brushing also prevents matting, which isn’t just an aesthetic issue. If your pet’s hair gets tangled and matted, this can pull on the skin, causing pain and inflammation,”. Also, these mats can also trap bacteria and dirt and debris on the skin. This can damage your dog’s skin and cause it to become infected.It may also cause a foul-smelling odor, as bacteria build-up has a distinct and unpleasant scent.
Brushing is great for you, too. It builds the bond between you and your dog, and the more you brush, the less hair will land in all corners of your house.
It is recommended that double coated dogs are brushed with pin brushes and legs brushed with slicker brushes. Both single and double coated dogs can also be brushed with combination combs to check for matts.it is also acceptable to brush a single coated dog with a slicker brush so far as you are gentle with your brushing strokes.
The general rule for keeping dog coat healthy and avoid matts is to always keep your dog coat clean and the way out is to regularly bath the dog with quality shampoos and conditioners. At Adanfopa petcare we recommend double coats are bathed at least once every week
Your dog coat is important to its general health thus pet parents are advised to keep their dogs fur in good shape and should not stick to the penchant of always shaving off the entire coat of the dogs. I have demonstrated in this writeup that irrespective of the kind of coat your dog has, it is important you keep it well trimmed and healthy and not completely shaved. Complete shaving should be the last resort as it does more harm than good to your pet health. However, feeding your pet with the best of nutrition as well as using professional shampoos and conditioners coupled with professional groomers can help ensure your pets have the right adorable physical appeal and healthy coat.
Author – Emmanuel Asare
Chief Associate, Adanfopa PetCare
President,ShihTzu Club of Ghana
Dogs have been our loyal companions for thousands of years, but did you know that…
Dogs have long been regarded as man's best friend, and for good reason. Not only…
In the framework of social and animal welfare, the Shih Tzu Club of Ghana is…
As our beloved furry friends age, they require special attention and care to ensure they…