Expert advice from Baileys’ canine nutritionist on feeding a Flatcoat Retriever for optimum condition

Q: My eight-year-old Flatcoat Retriever looks well and is full of energy, although he is a pet and not a working dog. However I am concerned as his coat has lost its shine and now looks dull and lacklustre. He is fed on frozen tripe mix together with a cereal biscuit and I add a tablespoon of sunflower oil daily. Do you have any suggestions to help improve hair condition?

Baileys’ nutritionist Liz Bulbrook replies: The lacklustre appearance of your dog’s coat can frequently be associated with an imbalanced diet beingfed.

You do not mention how long you have been feeding the diet of tripe and cereal biscuits, but it is possible that if it has been over a period of months then your dog may have become deficient in some of the key nutrients that are required for maintaining healthy supple skin and hair coat.

It can take months for a dietary deficiency to show itself, particularly if the levels fed are only just falling short. You are more likely to notice the shortfall when your dog is moulting and changing his coat.

A good balance of vitamins and minerals is essential to any diet, as these nutrients have many roles to play in the general metabolism and health of the dog.

However, as your dog seems full of energy andgenerally OK in himself, it is more likely that the dietary shortfall that has arisen due to insufficient levels of essential fatty acids in the diet i.e. fat content.

Signs associated with a deficiency include dull, scurfy coats and in some cases hair loss. Tripe is generally a low protein, low oil and high moisture product when compared to meat products, chicken and lamb, or commercially prepared diets.

Mixing with the cereal biscuits will add additional fibre and carbohydrates but unless these biscuits are fat coated the dog’s oil intake is still likely to be low.

Many cereal biscuits are now fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, however if this is not the case then consider a vitamin and mineral supplement.

You mention adding a tablespoon of sunflower oil, unfortunately this quantity is insufficient to make up the fat shortfall and will not be rich enough in the essential fatty acids required for the coat health.

Commercially prepared diets have fat contents ranging from 8%- 15% depending upon the activity level of the dog that is being fed.

It is important that a good ratio of essential fatty acids (omega 3 oils) are provided, with the essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic, playing an important part in hair coat quality.

If you want to keep the dog on his tripe and biscuit diet then consider adding oils such as wheat germ oil and / or evening primrose capsules as these provide essential fatty acids usually alongside some additional Vitamin E.

A Labrador is likely to require 3-4 capsules per day. Alternatively you may want to consider switching to a commercial prepared diet either a poultry fat coated diet such as Baileys Working Dog mix or the dry dog foods that will have oil / fat levels combined into the dry kibble.

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