Nutrients for Skin Health in Dogs

Skin issues are one of the most common issues we are faced with here at My Pet Nutritionist.  The reasons are multifactorial and complex which is why we undertake a full assessment of pet health to establish what may be contributing to the issues.  That said, we notice patterns, and so we’ve decided to share some of the nutrients we consider when supporting challenging skin issues.

Vitamin D

Despite its name, Vitamin D is actually a hormone that promotes calcium absorption. In human health, you will have heard it referred to as the sunshine vitamin as it is produced in the skin in response to sunlight (UV) exposure. In studies of hip fractures in humans, there appears to be a seasonal variation; more occur during winter months and fracture patients often have low vitamin D status. When supplemented with Vitamin D and calcium, incidences of fractures often reduce.

Findings here

So, vitamin D is particularly important in bone health, but we also appreciate its role in skin health.

Vitamin D is a modulator of the sensing dendritic (Langerhans) cells and reduces inflammatory mediators.

What’s super interesting is that Vitamin D levels are inversely associated with atopic dermatitis severity.

What We Know About Atopic Dermatitis

In addition, maternal vitamin D status is often linked to development of allergy.

Vitamin D in Cats and Dogs

Dogs are entirely dependent on dietary sources of Vitamin D as they are unable to synthesise it sufficiently through the skin.

Food Sources of Vitamin D:

Flesh of fatty fish (salmon,tuna and mackerel)
Fish Liver Oils
Beef Liver
Egg Yolks

Vitamin E

Vitamin E includes several compounds, of which the most biologically active and widely distributed is alpha tocopherol.

Vitamin E functions as an important antioxidant within cells, protecting lipids, particularly the polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes against oxidative damage caused by free radicals and active forms of oxygen that may be generated during metabolic processes.

The dietary requirement for vitamin E is influenced by the intake of selenium because of its role in glutathione peroxidase, with one nutrient partially able to spare a deficiency of the other. It is also influenced by the PUFA content of the diet and increasing this leads to an increase in vitamin E requirement.

It has been recommended that the dietary ratio of alpha tocopherol:PUFA (mg/g) of 0.6:1 is maintained as a minimum to protect against PUFA peroxidation.

Vitamin E therefore supports the health of skin tissues and protects it from damage. It accumulates in the mitochondria within skin cells and promotes collagen and fibroblast synthesis and decreases MMPs (compounds which can break down proteins like collagen).  It also protects essential fatty acids from oxidation.

Vitamin E is absorbed from the small intestine by non-saturable, passive diffusion into the intestinal lacteals and is transported via the lymphatics to general circulation.

Sources of Vitamin E:

Plant based oils
Dark green veggies
Red bell pepper

Rancid fats are particularly destructive of vitamin E, so these should be avoided in diet.


The skin has the third highest abundance of zinc in the body. Its concentration is higher in the epidermis than the dermis. Zinc stabilises membrane structure which is key to skin health and is regularly used in a range of skin conditions including infections, inflammatory dermatoses, pigmentary disorders and neoplasias.

What is particularly interesting is its role in allergic and inflammatory responses.

Mast cells play an important part in adaptive immunity, they are found in the skin and many other places including the mucosal linings of the gut and lungs.

Mast cells contain many granules which are rich in histamine, heparin and, you guessed it, zinc!

Zinc is crucial to correct mast cell function and deficiencies are linked with the development of allergic disease.

Findings here

Zinc is crucial to effective wound-healing too – which is particularly important if through scratching your dog suffers trauma to their skin.  MMPs are zinc dependent, and whilst their role does involve breaking down proteins, this is a necessary process to ensure skin health – like goldilocks, we want just enough turnover of cells in the skin for optimal health.

Why Zinc is Important For Your Dog

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

We’re likely preaching to the converted, but in ensuring skin health it’s essential to provide essential fatty acids for skin lubrication, sebum production and immune function.

In atopic eczema there is evidence of a lack of conversion of LA to GLA, suggesting an abnormality in EFA metabolism.  This may explain why some respond to GLA supplementation instead (GLA is found in hemp seeds/oil).

Essential Fats for My Dog’s Diet

As we mentioned earlier, skin issues in dogs can be complex and multifactorial. If you would like some support in tackling this challenge, then check out our services to see how we can help.

Thanks for reading,

MPN Team

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