If your pooch is suffering with a bad case of doggie dander, what you feed him may help get rid of those little flakes of dead skin. While fat may not be a friend for your diet, it plays a very different role for your dog and a diet rich in essential fatty acids helps reduce dry, itchy skin and the amount of dander your dog sheds.
Dog dander is similar to human dandruff, only smaller. As your dog’s skin renews itself, dead layers, or dander, flake off into the air. This renewal process occurs every 21 days on average. However, skin conditions or a poor diet can increase the rate at which the skin cells die, creating more dander.
Essential Fatty Acids
When it comes to your dog’s skin and coat, essential fatty acids play a large role. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids help to replace the oils in your dog’s skin. The recommended ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 are between 5 to 1 and 10 to 1. The lower the ratio, the more beneficial it is for your dog.
Foods High in Essential Fatty Acids
As you may assume, oils and meat fats provide sources of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil and in cold-water fish and their oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are in the body fat of chicken, turkey, duck, lean meats, egg yolks, some fish oils and organ meats, such as the spleen, kidney and adrenals. In addition, omega-6 is in corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oil.
When it comes to dander, while certain foods can help, others may be contributing. Food allergies cause itchy skin in many dogs. Constant scratching and skin irritation creates more dander. If your dog is itching, have your vet evaluate him and rule out any food allergies. You may need to place him on an elimination diet to see which foods are producing the allergic reaction. For an elimination diet, you start with a food containing one protein and one grain, often turkey and rice. After a few weeks, you slowly add other foods and watch for allergy signs to appear. Eliminating the food that causes the allergy can help reduce dander.
When choosing a commercial dog food, Sabine Contreras from The Dog Food Project recommends choosing one with at least 2.2 percent omega-6 fatty acids and 0.3 percent omega-3 fatty acids. If your dog is producing a lot of dander, talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s food and increasing the amount of essential fatty acids in his diet. In addition to changing commercial foods, fatty acid supplements are also available. Adding fresh meats or a small amount of oil per meal are options to increase fatty acids in your dog’s diet as well. Your veterinarian will help you determine what is best for your dog.