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The essentials

  • A dog’s coat reflects their overall health — An oily, matted, or thinning coat may be a sign of skin or health problems. 
  • There are successful home remedies for a shiny dog coat — While changes in diet or routines may be helpful or even necessary, simply brushing your dog goes a long way.
  • Consult your vet before making major changes — Talk to your veterinarian before giving them a new supplement or switching their food.

Your dog’s coat shields their skin and is a huge part of their overall appearance. A shiny dog coat indicates good health and looks nice, too. Conversely, a lackluster coat serves as a warning sign that your dog’s skin and fur need more nourishment — likely from the inside out.

How to make your dog’s coat shiny

1. Know the signs of skin health and watch for irritation

Your pup’s coat health begins at the skin level. Recognizing the signs of skin irritation, allergies, or topical inflammation will help you catch coat issues before they arise. 

Healthy skin typically looks smooth and flexible without flaking, redness, hair loss, crusts, or obvious irritation. During your afternoon cuddles with your pup, watch for signs of irritation, such as odors or crusty, moist, red, itchy, or discolored skin.

2. Supplement your dog’s skin health with omega-3

Sometimes, your pet’s coat may need a little TLC. Dandruff and itchiness can be signs of hypothyroidism, allergies, or irritation. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil, are a great way to improve your pet’s skin health, and they are also easy to work into your pet’s diet. 

These supplements also have additional benefits for your pup, including reducing inflammation, helping to manage arthritis, aiding cognitive function, and promoting heart health.

Before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to recommend dosage amounts and brands to support your pet’s health.

3. Build in time to brush

Regular brushing keeps your pet’s fur hydrated, soft, and healthy. You’ll spread natural oils from follicle to tip with every brushing session, alleviating itching and avoiding tangles and mats later on. 

Without regular brushing, your dog’s fur can develop irritating knots and tangles, which can keep moisture close to the skin. These can lead to further irritation and hot spots or localized bacterial skin infections.

Coat type Brushes needed How often? Common breeds
Smooth, short coat Rubber brush, bristle brush, boar brush Once a week Chihuahua, Boxer, Basset hound
Short, dense fur Slicker brush, bristle brush , furminator brush Once a week Retrievers
Long, silky coat Slicker brush, Bristle brush Every day Yorkshire terrier
Long hair Slicker brush, Bristle brush Every day Collie, Afghan hound

4. Make a monthly bath routine

The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least every three months to avoid skin irritation, buildup, and oiliness, but some pups may need more frequent pampering. Make sure to give your dog some playtime before the bath to shed excess energy and treats afterward to reward well-behaved dogs for a job well done.

Don't bathe too frequently, though, as that can lead to dry skin

Dr. Liza Cahn


 Here are some other bathtime tips:

  1. Lather your pup from neck to rump, leaving the head area clear of water and suds.
  2. After you gently work the shampoo through the fur, give it a good rinse, and dry it with a soft towel. 
  3. Consider brushing or combing the clean fur after bathing to help evenly disperse the surface oils on the skin.  
  4. Ear hygiene matters, too. Consider investing in a routine pet ear cleaner, such as Epi-Otic for after-bathtime ear cleaning.

5. Consider a change in diet

Your dog’s diet directly impacts their skin health. They need nutrition sourced from vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. During the diet evaluation process, pet parents may realize that their pup’s food isn’t quite hitting the mark.

 If you plan to switch your pet’s diet to a more nutrient-dense option, speak with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to help you choose the best food for your pup and discuss a safe transition to the new diet, such as gradually switching the food over a week to avoid GI upset.

6. Prevent parasites

Skin mites, ticks, and fleas can all affect your dog’s coat, and their presence can have widespread health consequences for your pet. These can range from topical irritation to a potentially life-threatening tick-borne disease, depending on the type of vector.

If you’re concerned about a parasite affecting your dog’s skin and coat, consider reaching out to your vet. They’ll be able to guide you as to what diagnostic tests are needed and the best way to treat them.

You can also preventatively manage the risk of parasites in your pup by taking them to regular checkups and by keeping your dog on year-round heartworm and flea/tick prevention. Regular grooming can help too, as your groomer will also examine your dog’s skin for possible parasites and report any concerns to you.

7. Try an oatmeal bath

Oatmeal soothes itchy, irritated skin. If your dog struggles with eczema, oatmeal is especially beneficial, promoting moisture retention and deep hydration. It’s easy to make a pet-friendly oatmeal bath at home with these steps:

  1. Grind plain oatmeal in your blender to make a fine powder, then pour the blend into lukewarm bath water and stir to combine.
  2. After the bath is ready, bathe your pet and massage the mixture into the skin and coat, then let it sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Afterward, rinse, dry, and brush your pet’s coat.

You can also purchase over-the-counter oatmeal-based pet shampoo options for a more convenient way to soothe your pet’s skin. Oatmeal baths are safe, but dogs shouldn’t drink the bath water. Discourage this as much as possible throughout.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a shiny dog coat mean?

A shiny coat usually means your pet has healthy skin and a well-balanced diet. It can also mean that your pet is well cared for since a shiny, well-kept coat is a sign of excellent hygiene habits such as brushing and bathing.

What can I feed my dog for a shiny coat?

If you want to support your dog’s coat health, feed them a high-quality and well-balanced diet. If your dog’s food doesn’t already contain a rich supply of Omega 3s and 6s, ask your vet about a supplement such as Good Growlies.

How can you tell if a dog’s coat is healthy?

Every dog’s coat is unique. Common signs of a healthy dog coat include radiance and shine, as well as smooth skin underneath. If you notice hair loss, itchiness (excessive scratching or licking), oiliness, flaking, crusts, or an odor, it’s time to get a checkup. This could be a sign of health and skin problems.

Can coconut oil help a dog’s skin and coat?

Despite the hype, there is no real benefit to applying coconut oil to your dog’s skin or adding it to their diet. A little bit may not hurt, but it can cause an upset stomach and instigate pancreatitis if consumed.

What is the best type of brush for my dog’s coat?

Just like human hair, dog fur requires different brushes depending on the texture. A rubber glove brush or soft boar brush suffices for short, smooth coats. Dogs with dense short or medium coats, such as the Siberian husky, may need a slicker brush or a de-shedding tool such as a Furminator for heavy shedding months when they blow their coat. Dogs with long, silky fur or hypoallergenic low-shedding coats should only be brushed with a slicker, bristle, or boar brush. Deshedding tools rip their fur, so only use those on breeds that shed.