Recently a fellow natural rearing acquaintance was lamenting that her dog’s fur did not appear as shiny as that of some dogs fed commercial feed. Might I suggest when this is the case, consider studying the ingredients of the commercial feed (even the chemicals). By asking and working with commercial feeders in an exchange of ideas a dialog of mutual respect and study is established. This is usually more beneficial than merely discounting the choices of others.
Research and compare how/if each of the commercial ingredients are present naturally in the raw diet being fed. Strive for variety and balance as found in the wild. Be sure you are feeding a complete amino acid profile for canines. Raw feeding of only chicken or fowl will not accomplish this. Red meat is required by canines for full nutrition. Consider adding fish, fish oils, fats, raw free-range eggs, minerals (sea veggies), chlorophyll (green tripe) and/or fermented greens. I find that chlorophyll is a commonly overlooked dietary ingredient important to living creatures for cellular oxygen, digestive health and color.
Many raw feeders do not follow a whole prey model of consumption. Rather, they pick and choose among lean, skinned meats from the grocer’s counter. Doing so may mean that the dog is not getting enough fats and oils. This is simple to remedy by adding a small amount of fats. Please, a very small amount, too much is not better.
Consider the bathing and grooming protocol. I had problems with my own dogs before I became more careful about this. Dogs should be lightly brushed at least once per day. While people gently brush their own hair daily, I see the same persons brushing their dogs as though they are attacking an unseen enemy. Be gentle with the fur and, especially, the skin of your dog. A quick brushing does not necessitate a harsh brushing. Pay attention to the force you are using on the fur and the skin. Always spritz the fur or the brush with distilled water before brushing. This prevents excessive pull, helps the grooming tool glide along the hair follicle and facilitates effect distribution of oils. It mimics the action of rain and dew on the beautiful coats of wild dogs.
The soap or shampoo used for bathing is critical to the health of the skin and fur. Products made for human use (even natural, gentle ones) are not suitable for use on dogs. The extensive research I have put into the development of Prima Natural Soap has made me acutely aware of this. I am currently doing research to develop a canine cleanser. However, this may take 1-2 years more for thorough testing.
The pH of a dog’s skin is basic. The pH of human skin is acidic. Generally, this is not considered by the makers of pet soaps and shampoos. Furthermore, the pH of dog skin varies from breed to breed. The German Shepherd has the highest, most basic skin pH as they are closest to the wild wolf canine body type. This explains why owners of German Shepherds, especially conventionally kibble fed dogs, encounter problematic skin. The diet and grooming of each breed requires careful consideration.
Most soaps in conjunction with aggressive scrubbing leave the scales of the hair shaft slightly opened. This produces the coveted fluffy look. Hair shaft scales being open produce volume but reduce the capacity for refracting light and dull the fur. This situation also leaves the hair shaft subject to damage and fray. Experiment with different pet cleansers, or research and make your own. The objective is to leave the hair shaft scaling smooth and closed. Healthy fur will refract light like a mirror producing an awesome shine. Furthermore, smooth hair shafts allow skin oils to flow easily away from the skin. This is the natural and healthy way to keep the skin clean with pores open and correctly functioning. The conducted oils also enhance the shine of the fur and further protect the fur coat…not to mention eliminating the dreaded “dog smell” from the undercoat or skin.
Every dog is different. My own same color animals of the same breed often require different cleansers for their fur. This is true even for those of the same lineage. What helps one dog to shine may leave another’s fur slightly ratted and vice versa.
The effects of flea and tick preventative pesticides are horrid for proper skin function. The so called “spot” type applications are especially awful for they have prolonged systemic action. All of these can cause issues with the functioning of the pores and hair follicles…not to mention potential toxic effects on the entire body. It is my belief that such action leaves the fur slightly dulled and the skin more prone to hot spots, itching, infection and, surprise, easier attack by the very pests it is meant to deter or kill. It is far better to make your own herbal spray specific for the pests in your area. This is as easy as infusing aromatic herbs in distilled water and is actually a safer alternative for the dog and all with whom it comes in contact. If it works for my farm dogs who spend the day in the fields and the woods, it seems it would work for any dog.
The effects of fur “reddening” or “bleaching” by the summer sun will also be significantly reduced or eliminated when the fur is healthy with smooth scaling along the hair shaft. In this intended healthy way, smooth scales block individual hair shafts from the sun. Open , fluffed or damaged hair shafts allow the sun rays to penetrate. The light penetration causes color distortion. This is most easily seen with black fur as it will have a reddish tinge with sun exposure. But, it happens to all fur colors. I’ve heard of show breeders who keep their dogs totally indoors or covered so that their fur is not exposed to the sun! How silly this is as such practices prevent sufficient exercise and sun exposure necessary for health. The sun causes natural chemical processes in the skin required for proper bodily function. That is another topic beyond the scope of shiny fur.
Some show participants utilize artificial colorants, dyes and sprays to produce a temporary and artificial appearance of health and shine. Might it not be better and more economical to practice natural, common sense animal husbandry and reap the benefits for yourself and your loved animals?
It is always nice to be approached by strangers, even show ring handlers, admiring the’ shiny, reflective fur coats of my working and farm dogs. Unfortunately, the only question the admirers ask is, “What do you feed?” I encourage a natural, whole prey model raw diet. Health and vitality starts with a clean, properly functioning digestive tract. But, we should not ignore the important aspects of proper, extensive exercise and grooming.
Bee healthy, Bee well,
Heidi & the gang
Candle Bee Farm
Prima Natural Soap