How Do Food Allergies Affect My Pet's Coat and Skin?

A lustrous, smooth coat of fur and supple, clear skin can indicate how healthy a dog or cat is. Conversely, it’s clear that pets with brittle or coarse fur and greasy, flaky or bumpy skin often have underlying health concerns. Among the most common culprits for skin conditions in dogs and cats are hormonal imbalance, environmental critters like fleas or ticks, and food allergies.

Food has a huge effect on your pet’s appearance, behavior, and overall health. To stay healthy, your furry family members need a diet that contains highly digestible proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. The food must also provide enough calories to sustain your pet’s energy needs. Here are a few ways pet food allergies can affect how your cat or dog looks and feels:

Dog & Cat Skin Conditions caused by Allergies

Your pet’s coat should be soft, smooth, and shiny. An inadequate diet for your cat or dog can lead to skin conditions such as dull, dry fur and shedding. Pet food allergies often lead to more obvious changes in appearance, including:

  • Baldness: Food allergies can make your furry pal itchy, which results in excessive scratching. This can lead to self-induced baldness or patchy hair loss.
  • Hot spots: Changing your pet’s diet too fast can create this painful skin condition in dogs and cats. Hot spots are inflamed bald patches that resemble a lesion and can involve broken skin and oozing fluids.
  • Hyperpigmentation: This skin condition is relatively common among dogs with food allergies and results in a patchwork of dark and thick skin.

If you’re concerned about the condition of your pet’s skin and coat, visit a veterinarian. Only a vet can properly diagnose your pet and offer custom solutions. Some suggestions they may make include:

  • Cutting back on diets rich with starch and carbohydrates
  • Cortisone injections or hydrocortisone creams
  • Anti-itch spray
  • Occasionally including up to a teaspoon of vegetable oil, flaxseed oil, or sunflower oil
  • Gradually changing diets to include more raw, natural ingredients
  • Oatmeal baths (for dogs)
  • A protective head cone to prevent nipping, licking or scratching

If your pet’s fur already looks great, keep it up by brushing them regularly. A steady brushing cycle combined with a healthy diet stimulates the skin and hair follicles. This increases the natural production of skin oils that give their coat luster.


Keeping your pet healthy often comes down to three simple things: diet, exercise and environment. A proper diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. These ingredients are essential in caring for your pet’s skin and coat.

Fatty acids

Healthy fats play an important role in keeping your pet’s coat in good condition. Pet food rich with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, zinc and B vitamins help nourish and protect your dog or cat from skin conditions like dryness and inflammation.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA help combat inflammation by blocking arachidonic acid. Fish, algal oils, and flaxseed are great sources for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, helps prevent cat and dog skin conditions such as dry, flaky skin, and shedding. Corn, soy, flaxseed, and other nuts are rich in linoleic acid.
  • Zinc prevents skin conditions in cats and dogs by keeping your pet hydrated and preventing excess water loss through the skin. A healthy amount of zinc may also support skin infection treatments, maintain hair growth and prevent your pet’s fur from looking dull or tattered.
  • Biotin and B vitamins are cofactors in the body’s metabolic processes and help keep the epidermis and dermis healthy. Avocados are a great source of B vitamins.

Talk with your vet before changing your pet’s diet to include more or less of these substances. If your pet is allergic to his/her food or is suffering from a dietary deficiency, their fur can take on a dull sheen, become brittle or feel greasy. Protein deficiency and vitamin deficiency are the two biggest culprits.

Protein deficiency

Your dog’s hair is 65-95 percent protein, and up to 35 percent of his/her daily protein intake is used to maintain the skin and coat. A lack of protein in a dog’s diet can result in dog skin conditions, as well as brittle and rough hair too.

Vitamin deficiency

If your pet’s food is lacking vitamins, this can be the cause of many abnormal dog and cat skin conditions. Each vitamin is essential for healthy dog skin, and most natural pet foods will contain the proper amounts. Here are a few common vitamins in pet food your cat or dog needs.

  • Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A): Vitamin A is a fat soluble nutrient found in sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and leafy greens. Signs of a deficiency include weakened immune system, nighttime blindness, and dry skin.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Whole grains, vegetables, and leafy greens provide a good source of Vitamin B2. Deficiency symptoms include flaky skin, stunted growth, eye concerns, and fainting. B2 supplements are often provided if your pet is on antibiotics.
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6): Vitamin B6 is found in bananas, peanut butter, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. Deficiencies include severe health issues. Always ask your veterinarian before increasing B6 intake. Too much of it can damage your pet’s nervous system.

A happy pet makes for a happy home. Well healthy, clear skin and fur make for a happy pet. So remember, always talk with your vet before changing your pet’s diet plan.

Curious how AvoDerm meets your pet’s dietary needs? Read about our super-food ingredient avocados here.

Inside the Grove - Dog & Cat Blog - Healthy Pet Food | AvoDerm Natural