Your dog's skin and coat blocks elements from leaving his body (such as water or heat) or entering his body (such as viruses and bacteria). His fur insulates him from the elements, protects his skin from injury and acts as an indicator of good health. Diet, illness, grooming, changing seasons and life stage can all affect the condition of your dog's skin and coat.

A high quality, complete and balanced diet is one of the most effective ways to maintain your dog's healthy skin and coat. Nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are important players in skin and coat health.

Follow these three tips to keep your dog's fur in tip-top shape:

1. Regularly check your dog's fur

Your dog should have glossy, mat-free coats. A lusterless, brittle coat can be an indicator of illness or other issues. Call your veterinarian if your dog's fur looks dull, breaks easily or starts falling out excessively, leaving bald spots. Detecting skin and coat problems early on is the best way to prevent certain issues from developing or getting worse.

2. Regularly check your dog's skin

Check your dog's skin periodically by gently separating his fur. Look for anything unusual, including bumps, rashes or discoloration. Flakes, scabs, odor or a greasy feel can also indicate a skin problem. If you notice any of these abnormalities, or if you notice your dog licking, chewing or scratching at his skin, check for skin sores and have your veterinarian examine him to find the cause.

Your dog's skin is thinner than our skin, and comes in a variety of colors. When your dog isn't feeling well, his skin may change color or appear dry and patchy. Dry skin is especially common in puppies and can be caused by several things such as inadequate nutrition, gastrointestinal parasite infections or external parasites like mange.

Dogs that relentlessly lick their skin (typically their front legs) usually have allergies and the licking can create sores called "lick granulomas"; that resemble calluses. Take your dog to a veterinary dermatologist to determine the underlying cause of the excessive licking.

Raw, infected sores called "hot spots"; can occur in a matter of hours if your dog bites or chews his skin to ease an itch. Serious conditions that cause skin sores on your pet include allergies and other immune-system disorders and cancer.

Regularly check your dog for fleas. Also look for fine, black specks. These specks could be "flea dirt",which is flea waste. It will turn red when water is applied to it and is a sure sign your dog has been infested. Not only can fleas make your dog miserable, they can give your dog tapeworm. If you find fleas or flea dirt, work with your veterinarian and take steps to treat him and his environment right away.

3. Regular grooming is key

Regularly grooming your dog with brushes, combs and deshedding tools will help keep your dog feeling good and looking great. Your dog has natural oils on his skin, and regular brushing spreads those oils throughout the coat and keeps it shiny. Brushing removes loose dirt from your dog's coat, and gives you a chance to check for lumps, bumps and sensitive areas. It also allows you to check for any abnormalities, such as fleas and ticks, injuries or hair loss.

Shedding is a year-round event, but you might not notice it more often during the longer and warmer days of spring and summer. Regular brushing keeps the flyaway hairs under control–and off your couch–and prevents matting, which can trap moisture and bacteria next to your pet's skin and cause irritated, itchy patches.

Regularly checking your dog's skin and fur, as well as regular grooming session, will go a long way to keep him healthy and happy.

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