How to Improve a Dog’s Coat That Is Dry and Brittle

by Stuart | Last Updated:   March 19, 2020
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When it comes to brittle and dry coats in dogs, any number of things could play a factor in making their fur look less than its best. Luckily, once the problem is identified, it’s not too difficult to bring life and colour back into their fur.

So, how do you improve a dog’s coat that is dry and brittle? Nutrient deficiencies and allergies are the primary causes of a dry and brittle coat. In order to improve your dog’s coat, you should try to alter their diet to one that is more nutrient-dense, see a veterinarian about potential allergies, and just take general care of your dog’s coat via adequate grooming.

In this post, we will be going over how to prevent a dry and brittle dog coat, which diet is best for dry and brittle coats, how to groom your dog properly, and other general care tips to help keep your doggie’s coat in tip-top shape.

Close up of dog's dry and brittle coat

Is Your Dog’s Coat Dry and Brittle?

Here, we’ll be taking a look at the characteristics of a healthy and unhealthy coat. 

Characteristics of a Healthy Coat

You know that your dog has a healthy coat if it is:

  • Soft to the touch
  • Not overly pungent
  • Full — without any bald or thinning patches
  • Not experiencing breakage
  • Shiny — somewhat reflective of light

That said, some dogs do have more coarse fur than others. For example, if your wire-haired poodle’s fur isn’t as slick or shiny as your neighbour’s

Boston terrier, that doesn’t mean your poodle’s coat isn’t what it should be. Know how your breed of dog’s coat should look and go from there when deciding if it’s healthy or not.

Characteristics of an Unhealthy Coat

Your dog’s coat is unhealthy if it is:

  • Dry and brittle to the touch
  • Broken
  • Smelly
  • Irritating to your dog
  • Dirty
  • Balding or patchy
  • Flaky

If your dog is experiencing extreme irritation or discomfort with their coat, be proactive by taking them to the vet so that they can properly address the issue and provide you with the means to make the situation better.

Other Signs of a Brittle and Dry Coat

Aside from the above signs that your dog’s coat is unhealthy, there are a few other signs to watch out for that are telltale to the condition of your dog’s coat health. In this section, I’ll also be expanding on what some of the above signs mean for your dog.

Pungent Coat

It should go without saying that a dog should not stink to the point where it is undeniably noticeable. An odour could come from a couple of different sources: infected or diseased skin or general debris from the outside world. If your dog’s coat smells, that’s usually a sign that they need to be brushed and bathed more often.

  • In general, a dog should be bathed once a month, depending on its level of activity and exposure to the outdoor elements. 
  • Increase that to once a week for particularly adventurous pups
  • If they’re more of an indoorsy dog, you may be able to decrease bathing to once every two or so months.

Be careful not to bathe your dog too often, as this could dry out their skin and exasperate irritation. 

If you suspect that your dog’s smell comes from an underlying skin disease or breaks in the skin, make a trip to your vet as soon as possible to get a diagnosis.

Excessive Shedding

Shedding is a normal process for dogs but shedding too much could be a sign that your dog’s coat isn’t as healthy as it should be. This is especially true if it’s during the winter months when your dog’s shedding should be little to none.

Unlike a stinky coat, excessive shedding is usually a sign of a much more serious problem

Underlying skin diseases, an infestation of fleas, and seasonal allergies could all be the culprit. Pay a visit to your vet to see what needs to be done. Avoid bathing or brushing your dog until you’ve been to the vet, as mechanical movement, hot water, and shampoos may make the problem worse.

Diet and Your Dog’s Coat Health

If your dog’s fur has split ends and feels brittle and dry to the touch, then they may be lacking essential nutrients in their diet. The proper amount of protein and fatty acids from healthy, responsible sources are key to having a shiny, soft coat. Combine that with proper grooming, and your dog should be good to go in no time.

As we mentioned above, the key nutrients for a plump coat are essential fatty acids and protein from clean meat sources. 

Low-fat diets are not ideal for dogs and can make your dog’s coat dull and brittle. Look for dog foods that are high in Omega 3s and low in Omega 6s. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Stomach Dry Dog Food formula is a great option for a dog’s coat health. It uses salmon as its first ingredient, which means it’s rich in the fatty acids your pooch needs.

Hill’s Science foods are highly recommended by veterinarians. While this food isn’t perfect for all dog’s it can be an excellent choice for some dogs experiencing symptoms from the food they are eating.

Top Pick At A Glance

Hill’s Science

  • Packed with vitamin E & Omega-6 fatty acids to help your grown dog get a lustrous coat and healthy skin
  • Made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust
  • No.1 veterinarian-recommended

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How Allergies Affect Coat Health and What to Do

If your dog has seasonal allergies, this can lead to constant scratching and biting if the problem is not addressed.

 Taking your dog to the vet can result in receiving helpful prescriptions, creams, and shampoos. Alternatively, if the allergy issue isn’t too bad in your dog, bathing frequently can help to rid your dog’s coat of whatever is bothering them.

Just be sure that the shampoo you are using is conditioning to your dog’s skin. 

Choosing the Right Dog Shampoo

When it comes to dogs with a history of dry and brittle coats, you want to be sure you’re using a shampoo that is hydrating. 

Burt’s Bees for Dogs Itch Soothing Shampoo with Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is applied as a botanical extract to the skin in order to soothe itching and inflammation, which makes it a good choice to showcase in an itch-soothing dog shampoo.

The directions for Burt’s Bees dog shampoos are as follows:

Apply to dog’s wet coat. Work from head to tail and rinse, carefully avoiding eyes. Shampoo will have a light lather as this solution is made with only natural ingredients that are safe and effective for your pet. Store in a cool, dry place

This shampoo also has the benefit of smelling great to you and making your dog smell amazing. And even with this nice scent, it’s fairly mild with a pH balanced especially for dogs.

Burt’s Bees

  • Burts Bees Itch Soothing Shampoo cleans, softens, and soothes dry itchy skin
  • All natural ingredients include honeysuckle, which gently cleanses
  • This mild shampoo is pH balanced especially for all dogs and puppies

As an additional precaution, you may also want to consider adding a conditioner to your dog’s bath routine. This will help to nourish your dog’s skin, lock in moisture, and soothe any irritation brought about by the shampoo and scrubbing. 

One of my favourite conditioners for dogs is the Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Oatmeal Conditioner. Like the Burt’s Bees shampoo, it’s nearly 100% natural, does a tremendous job at soothing the skin, and smells like a dream.

It’s also fine for dogs with skin allergies — just be sure that you don’t use any shampoo or conditioner on broken skin unless otherwise instructed by your vet to use a medicinal shampoo.

Proper Grooming for Dogs

dog with dry and brittle coat

No matter what coat type your dog has, it’s imperative that you brush them regularly. 

The mechanical act of brushing helps to evenly distribute your dog’s natural oils all over their coat, locking in the moisture and keeping the grease from building up.

It also removes any trapped dirt, shed skin or fur, and mats in the coat that could potentially prevent your dog’s coat from reaching its full potential.

Inadequate drying can mess with your dog’s coat quality. Make sure to spend the extra time drying them off or consider getting an at-home dog dryer. You can check out our post in a new tab by clicking: Best Dog Dryers for Home Use

Generally, you can get away with brushing your dog’s coat once a week or once every two weeks if they are of a short-haired breed. However, if you have a long-haired dog breed up to twice a week may be needed for the best results.

Dogs with curly or wiry hair may also require frequent brushing, due to the fact that debris can be more easily trapped in their topcoat. 

Final Thoughts

Diet is often a good place to start when trying to improve the health of your dog’s dry and brittle coat. From there, ensuring proper grooming and hygiene are happening for your dog is a must as well.

As always, the best practice is to consult with your veterinarian regarding any concerns you have with your dog, their health and their well-being.

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.