Edited by: Mike Powell
We all want our pets to be healthy and happy, and it’s no secret that a happy pet means a happy owner too. Excessive fur loss and dry, itchy skin can lead to a very uncomfortable, unhappy dog. Shedding and dry skin go hand in paw, so if your dog is suffering from one, the other is likely to pop up as well. Your pet’s diet can go a long way to providing some relief from these conditions.
A dog food filled with low-quality, allergy-promoting ingredients can contribute to fur loss and flaky skin, while a high-quality, natural ingredient food with healthy Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids can nourish the skin and hair and prevent over-shedding. Vitamins A, B, D, E, and K are great additions for a healthy coat and skin.
We will compare 10 different foods that would be great to consider if you’re looking for the best dog food for shedding. You’ll get a good idea of why these foods are good for this particular problem, and what benefits they can provide for your dog (and in turn, for you, the pet owner).
Table Of Contents
- 1 Featured Recommendations
2 Best Dog Food For Dog Shedding
- 2.1 1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Dry Dog Food
- 2.2 2. Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- 2.3 3. Honest Kitchen Human-Grade Organic Dehydrated Dog Food
- 2.4 4. Instinct Original Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
- 2.5 5. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dog Food
- 2.6 6. Instinct Be Natural Recipe Dog Food
- 2.7 7. Natural Balance LID Dog Food
- 2.8 8. Stella & Chewy's Surf 'n Turf Dinner Patties
- 2.9 9. Taste of The Wild Grain-Free Premium Food
- 2.10 10. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe Dog Food
- 3 Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
4 Questions & Answers
- 4.1 How much shedding is normal?
- 4.2 What causes excessive shedding?
- 4.3 When is the time to go see a vet?
- 4.4 Can food actually help to reduce shedding?
- 4.5 What are the key characteristics of a dog food made to reduce shedding or skin irritations?
- 4.6 What are the benefits of using dog food for shedding?
- 4.7 How do I properly transition my dog to the new food?
- 4.8 Can I shave my dog to stop shedding?
Best Dog Food For Dog Shedding
1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Dry Dog Food
Best With Chicken: delicious chicken to combat excessive shedding
This would be a great food for pups who need a food to combat excessive shedding but aren’t sensitive to poultry or grains (although the grains in this one are the good kind). It’s also slightly lower in protein than some, which is perfect for dogs who may be on a low-protein diet.
Hidden Poultry Ingredients
Although it’s not a complete no-no to have chicken in foods aimed at reducing shedding, it is one of the most common ingredients that pets are allergic to. In foods that have flavours other than chicken, poultry ingredients can sneak in later down the ingredient list as an extra fat or protein source. If you aren’t reading the list, you may not even realise. Of course, your pet may have no issue with chicken, so if he or she can tolerate it then there’s no reason they shouldn’t try this natural, high-quality food.
This food contains grains, but that shouldn’t put you off immediately. There are good grains and there are not-so-good grains, and the ones in this food (brown rice, barley, & oatmeal) are the good kind. These are fairly easily digested (much more so than corn, wheat, or soy products), and can provide a good source of fibre as well. As long as your pup is healthy and strong, these grains should be a good addition to their diet and should contribute to more regular, solid bowel movements.
2. Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Best For Large Breeds: Has glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints
This food from Merrick is a high-quality dog food made from quality, whole, fresh ingredients.
No grains are present, and they use good protein and Omega fatty acid sources. It is high in protein, sitting at 34%, and with 383 calories per cup. Because of that, this food would be best for large breed pups, and mediums who are quite active and can burn those calories off during their day. It also contains great numbers of Omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, one of the highest we’ve reviewed.
The amount of calories needed per day depends on a few things – your dog’s breed, activity level, and general health, to name a few. This food may not be suitable for small breed dogs unless they are very active. It is recommended to feed this to large breeds who shed a lot, as they naturally need more calories than the smaller pups. The dash of glucosamine is also great for large breeds’ joints. If you do choose to feed your small or medium breed Merrick, you’ll need to make sure they get plenty of exercise.
Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids
This food has one of the highest levels of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids that we’ve reviewed. Omega-6 comes in at 4%, while Omega-3 sits at 1%. The sources of these include salmon and whitefish, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and sunflower oil. This makes it a great choice for active large breeds who shed too much or suffer from skin problems, as it should help nourish and soften fur and skin to provide some relief from these conditions.
3. Honest Kitchen Human-Grade Organic Dehydrated Dog Food
Best For Senior Dogs: Works great for active seniors
We love the great quality of the ingredients in this food.
They’re dehydrated, which keeps the nutrition locked in and stays fresh for longer. The only downside is that it is somewhat lower in essential fatty acids than others. It does contain flaxseed, which is a good source, but in general there are fewer ingredients containing essential fatty acids than other foods. It does have a pretty decent vitamin and mineral content and contains no by-products or artificial stuff. You may not see as drastic an improvement in your pup’s hair and coat as with other foods, but it would work great for active seniors who have mild shedding problems.
Hydrating And Nutritious
One of the things that can have an effect on your dog’s skin and fur is if they aren’t drinking enough water during their day. Dehydration can wreak havoc in many ways, one of those being a dry, scaly skin and brittle, dry fur. This food would be a great option for dogs who struggle to keep their water intake up during the day and need a little extra hydration in their meals. It’s also fantastic for older dogs who have trouble chewing kibble, as it’s soft and easy on the mouth, although it can be a little high in calories if they are inactive. Be sure to select a flavour without chicken if your pup is sensitive to poultry!
Seniors or Brachycephalic Dogs
As dogs get older, they can start to suffer from dental issues which makes it tough for them to crunch kibble like they used to. Brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced or short-nosed dogs) can have the same problems, due to their mouths and teeth being cramped and sometimes a little deformed. This food takes away that problem, and allows these pups to eat a wholesome, healthy meal without the struggle. If you have a brachy or a senior who suffers from excessive shedding, this food would be a super option for them.
4. Instinct Original Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
Best Wet Food: For senior dogs who can’t handle kibble anymore
We’ve reviewed a wet food on this list as well.
If you have a senior who can’t handle kibble anymore, then you may have to transition them over to a wet food. It can also be used as a kibble-topper for young, healthy dogs who may get bored or fussy. Adding this food to your pup’s kibble will give them an extra little dose of vitamins and minerals, as well as a bit of extra hydration. This can help moisturize the skin and keep fur soft and healthy, meaning less shedding overall.
Carrageenan In Wet Foods
Carrageenan is an additive that features in many wet dog foods. Its purpose is to thicken the food but it’s actually indigestible and has zero nutritional value to a dog. It can contribute to allergies and digestive troubles, so it’s always a good idea to avoid a wet food that contains it. There are natural alternatives such as guar gum that are much better ingredients, and this food from Instinct makes sure there are no allergy-promoting ingredients in it.
Adding Wet Food To Your Pet’s Diet
Wet food isn’t recommended as your pet’s only food as it tends to be low in protein and high in calories (especially when added on top of an already high-calorie kibble). Of course, this can work for dogs who need a low-protein diet, provided they get enough exercise to counter the high calorie number. If you have a large breed dog who naturally expends more calories, you can use canned food as a treat during the day. This particular food is top of the range when it comes to quality ingredients and being free from allergens, so it’s worth a try.
5. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Best Low Protein: Single source of protein to keep protein count down
Sometimes, excessive shedding can be a side effect of other health concerns.
If your dog has health problems that require them to be on a low-protein diet, this food would be great to keep their protein count down and still get a great dose of essential fatty acids to keep skin moisturized and fur soft. It’s limited ingredient and formulated especially to reduce allergies, which helps quite a lot to reduce shedding as it limits the ingredients that could contribute to dry skin and fur while keeping the Omega-3 and -6 numbers at a good level.
Single Source Protein
Many dog foods out there contain multiple sources of protein, and while there’s nothing wrong with this, single source protein foods are great to alleviate or avoid allergies. If you know what food your dog is sensitive to, single source protein foods can be great to provide them with enough high-quality protein without them having to deal with side effects from certain ingredients. While there’s nothing wrong with mixing proteins, sticking to one also means the properties of that one are compounded. In this case, sticking to salmon as a source means the essential fatty acids are also increased.
Vitamins and minerals are important additions to foods, and it may not be quite apparent to you where they are on the ingredient list. Minerals that are chelated have been bonded to an organic molecule (usually an amino acid) through a process called chelation. This process actually happens in your dog’s digestion, but creating the mineral already chelated makes it easier to digest. Minerals that end in “-ate” are chelated, such as zinc proteinate, copper sulfate, or calcium carbonate. These are great to have in a dog food as it aids digestion in dogs who may have digestive issues.
6. Instinct Be Natural Recipe Dog Food
Best With Grains: Great vitamin and mineral additions
This food from Instinct contains some good grains (brown rice, oatmeal, and barley), and although these grains are gluten-free, if your pup has demonstrated a sensitivity to one of them it may be best to go for something else. If your dog is healthy and tolerant of grains, though, they add a great source of fibre and energy-packed carbs.
Grains such as corn, wheat, soy, and brewer’s rice are low-quality and contribute almost nothing nutritionally to a dog’s diet.
Thy can also be harder to digest, leading to gastrointestinal problems and food allergies. Rice, oatmeal, barley, and millet are also grains, but they don’t contain gluten, which makes all the difference. This would be a super food for your dog if he or she needs some extra fibre in addition to the fur and skin nourishing properties.
Raw Coated Kibble
As Instinct are very big on raw diets, this kibble has a freeze-dried raw coating.
This is a great food to buy if you want to introduce your dog to a fully raw diet sometime in the future, to begin transitioning them to getting used to raw.
7. Natural Balance LID Dog Food
Best Limited Ingredient: For dogs who are prone to allergies
A limited ingredient diet is a fantastic idea for dogs who are prone to allergies or developing allergies to certain ingredients.
Salmon, Menhaden fish meal, and salmon oil make up the protein content and all three of these are also great fatty acid sources, along with canola oil and flaxseed. The actual numbers are low compared to some other foods, but the nutrient list also shows DHA as a separate essential fatty acid, which isn’t included in many foods. This has many functions, one of which is fighting inflammation in the skin. This food would be great for dogs who have dry, itchy skin and suffer from food allergies.
Lower Protein Content
According to AAFCO, dogs need between 18 and 24% protein on average, so 21% may not necessarily be seen as being very low. It is perfectly adequate, even though most foods tend to have between 24 and 30%.
Of course, more active dogs will do better with a higher protein count, as will puppies and large breeds. Sometimes, though, a vet will recommend something a little lower protein, and this food would be perfect for those dogs on a limited ingredient or lower protein diet.
DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid
DHA is an essential fatty acid that isn’t produced by your dog’s body, but is an important part of maintaining health.
It’s found in eggs, some meat, and fish. The high fish content in this food means that it has a great dose of DHA. It helps promote brain and nervous system development, which makes this a great food for pregnant dogs. It is a little too low in protein to be beneficial to puppies. DHA is also great for reducing allergies, so it will soothe your dog’s skin and nourish their fur.
8. Stella & Chewy's Surf 'n Turf Dinner Patties
Best Raw Food: Can alleviate and even eliminate allergies
Dogs who suffer from allergies can sometimes benefit from a “biologically appropriate” diet, which means eating what they would have eaten in the wild.
This includes things like animal organs, blood, and bone, which may sound awful to us humans, but can be quite beneficial to a dog. Stella & Chewy’s food was developed specifically to improve the health of a pup named Chewy, and when he thrived on a raw diet it was made available to others. For some pups, a raw diet can alleviate and even eliminate allergies entirely. If your pup has reacted badly to more than one commercial dog food, or their skin and coat problems have not improved, give Stella & Chewy’s a try.
The logic behind a raw diet is that once upon a time, wild pups would eat raw meat, organs, cartilage, and bone, as well as raw vegetables and fruits found in nature.
Being minimally processed is a key feature of this food, which preserves the integrity of the ingredients. There are no added hormones, as per federal regulations, no grains, no gluten, and only organic vegetables and fruits. Probiotics have been added, though, to aid in digestion, although raw ingredients tend to be quite easily digested. Raw diets have been said to drastically improve health in many cases, so if your pup is one who has many food sensitivities, it may be worth seeing how they do on a minimally-processed, raw food diet.
Fatty Acid Content
The Omega-3 and -6 content isn’t shown on the guaranteed analysis list, but salmon appears to be the only real ingredient that would contribute to the levels of essential fatty acids.
However, considering the ingredients are not processed much, your dog’s skin allergies and fur loss could quite well improve simply due to the superior quality of the ingredients and going back to the original dog diet. If your dog suffers from a lot of food-related allergies, raw could be the way to go.
9. Taste of The Wild Grain-Free Premium Food
Best For Digestibility: Contains species-specific probiotics
This food has great protein and fat numbers – not too high and not too low, at 25% and 15% respectively.
It has some really nice protein sources that also contribute to the Omega-3 and -6 fatty acid content, which is great for dogs with brittle or dry fur and skin. There’s a nice dose of vitamins and minerals in there too, which will go a long way towards keeping your pup’s hair and skin healthy as they help with cell rejuvenation.
The fact that this food has only fish as its protein sources makes a big difference.
Fish is naturally a little higher in oil than other proteins, giving this food an advantage already, as your protein source and fatty acid sources overlap. The Omega-3 and -6 numbers are higher than many others, which is great for dogs with skin allergies as it means the coat and skin should get enough nourishment to keep healthy and smooth.
Worth The Cost?
This food is one of the more expensive that we’ve reviewed.
It is a great, all-natural, protein and fatty acid-loaded food, and the absence of grains and chicken means that the chance of allergies is greatly lessened. If you can afford to spend a little more on a high-quality dog food, this one is a fantastic choice. If you would prefer something more affordable, this one may not be for you.
If you are going to spend the money on a high-quality food such as this, it is worth buying it directly from the company and not from a reseller or stockist. There have been reports of customers receiving lower quality food when buying from others, and there can be no telling what nutritional value the “fake” food has.
10. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe Dog Food
Best Multi-Protein: Various protein sources
This food contain multiple sources of protein, which is not a problem at all as long as your dog has no allergies to any of them.
They do avoid chicken, which is helpful as it’s the most common meat allergen. Their first ingredient is pork meal, which isn’t real meat but it’s high in protein and quite healthy and easily digestible. They are fairly limited ingredient, other than the multiple proteins, but should be quite easily digestible and work great for dogs with more sensitive tummies who have mild shedding problems.
Pork meal is ingredient number one, which adds a great dose of protein and is easy to digest.
Other proteins include pork, beef, and lamb, which are a little further down the list. The further down the list they are, the less of the ingredient is present, so although there are a few proteins here the protein count remains quite average, at 26%. They are all healthy, good sources, so your dog should have no problem with this food even if their tummy is a little on the sensitive side.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are present in this food in the form of pork fat and salmon oil.
The content details are not shown on the guaranteed analysis list, but we can assume it’s a little less than others as the sources are fewer. If your pet’s shedding is severe, this may not be the best food for them. If they have light shedding or dry skin that comes and goes with the seasons or weather, this food would be a good option.
Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
Criteria 1 – Ingredient Quality
As always, this is the first thing to look at in a dog food. Natural, wholesome ingredients are more easily digested and far more nutrient-dense than anything artificial.
Real meat is always a winner, and fruits and vegetables are great carbohydrate additions. Ingredients that can contribute to allergies should be avoided, although this does depend on your pet specifically. Gluten is a common culprit, so a food without grains is recommended, although brown rice and oatmeal are gluten-free grains and should be less likely to cause allergies. Poultry is another ingredient that many pets are react badly to, so it’s best to try to stick to other protein sources. Often, poultry can sneak into the ingredient list even if the main meat source is something different. Avoiding meat by-products (bone, blood, offal) is also something we have looked at.
Criteria 2 – Fatty Acid Content
Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are healthy fat sources that go a long way towards keeping your pup’s coat shiny and their skin healthy and supple.
Fatty acids play an important role in the building and maintenance of cells in the body, so it’s essential to have healthy sources in foods. Salmon and salmon oil are two of the best sources of Omega-3, and have a nice dose of protein too! Other things on an ingredient list that get a thumbs up include canola oil, flaxseed, and animal fats (with the exception of chicken in this case, as we are avoiding common allergens). It’s important to contain a good balance of both, and the AAFCO standard is a maximum Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 30:1.
Criteria 3 – Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have a wide range of symptoms, and can definitely contribute to shedding, itching, and dry skin. It’s essential that your pet gets a daily dose from a natural, healthy source.
While vitamin and mineral supplements can be added to your pet’s diet, it’s advisable to get as much of these from their daily kibble as possible. Many vitamins can be found in whole foods, and others are added later to the food. The less processed a food is, the more vitamins are likely to retain their properties. The essentials for a dog food are vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. These contribute towards many bodily functions, including growth, immune function, energy regulation, enzyme function, fat metabolism and blood clotting. All of these things contribute towards the health of your pet’s skin and coat!
Criteria 4 – Digestability
This refers to the percentage of the food that is absorbed and utilized by the body once ingested. It goes without saying that if more is being excreted than is being absorbed, it’s likely a low-quality food!
This info is not readily available on food packaging or websites, but the health and wellbeing of the dogs eating the food gives a good indication of how digestible it is. Stool quality is another good sign of how digestible a food is. Naturally, the more good stuff going into your pup’s body to be used for various functions, the better. Grains can be hard to absorb, so grain-free is usually more easily digested, although this depends largely on your dog’s disposition.
Criteria 5 – Affordability
Great, healthy nutrition doesn’t have to cost a fortune! While buying the best food for your dog is important if you want him to be happy and strong, it’s also not always possible to get top of the range products on a consistent basis.
There are, however, high-quality foods out there that don’t cost an arm and a paw. The foods we’ve reviewed are high-quality, and vary in affordability so there’s something for everyone on this list.
Questions & Answers
How much shedding is normal?
Pets shed – it is part of life! Unless you have a hairless breed, you are going to find dog hairs lying around, especially if your dogs spend a lot of time inside your home. Old or damaged hair gets shed as new hair grows. The amount of shedding that is considered normal varies by breed, health, and also sometimes by season (winter coats are shed in spring).
While it’s hard to get specific about how much shedding is normal, there are some things that indicate normal shedding. It should happen quite evenly, with the possible exception of heavy shedding in spring. You should pay attention to your pet and how heavily they shed from the beginning, so that you’re aware of changes. If there are any drastic changes in the amount of hair your pet is losing, then it may be cause for concern.
What causes excessive shedding?
If you’ve noticed that your pet is suddenly losing more fur than usual, there can be a few reasons for it. An imbalanced diet is a common factor, as are food allergies, using the wrong shampoo, stress, skin parasites, hormonal imbalances, and underlying diseases. If this is something that has popped up suddenly, you should take your pup to the vet to find out exactly what lies beneath the issue.
It’s also important to remember that shedding can have as much to do with the skin as it does with the fur. The skin is an organ, and if there is an issue with it, that can affect other areas too. It’s a good idea to carefully analyze your pet’s lifestyle to try and get an idea of what is causing excessive shedding.
When is the time to go see a vet?
While shedding is a normal thing, when it becomes excessive or abnormal it is a good idea to take a trip to the vet to get a better idea of what’s behind it. If your pet starts shedding noticeably more than usual, sheds only on certain parts of their body, loses fur in clumps, reacts badly to being touched or held, or begins to have discolouration on the skin, it’s time to get them examined by a veterinarian.
If your pup has one or more of the above symptoms, and is also experiencing changes in appetite, excessive thirst or urination, vomiting, and unusual tiredness, it’s likely that there is something more behind it that can be helped by a visit to the vet.
Can food actually help to reduce shedding?
It can! One of the primary reasons for excessive or abnormal shedding is feeding your pooch an imbalanced and unhealthy diet. Foods containing artificial stuff, low-quality fillers, and common allergens increase the likelihood of abnormal shedding.
The nutrients found in raw, natural ingredients contribute to overall health and wellness, as well as being far more easily digestible. Dogs don’t tend to develop allergies to whole, natural food, so unless there is a different cause for their shedding, tweaking your pup’s diet can help quite a lot. Keep in mind though, that shedding is natural and cannot be avoided totally, so while changing your furry friend’s diet may help reduce excessive shedding, it won’t get rid of it entirely.
What are the key characteristics of a dog food made to reduce shedding or skin irritations?
A dog food made to reduce shedding or relieve skin irritation contains a decent protein count (from high-quality protein sources, preferably real meat), real vegetables or fruit for easy-to-digest carbohydrates, good quality ingredients containing essential Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.
This mix of essential ingredients is best to promote health, nourish the skin and fur, and keep the immune system strong. Of course, the food should also steer clear of artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives.
What are the benefits of using dog food for shedding?
A pup’s gotta eat, so as long as your feeding him, you may as well do it right. Grooming is another essential part of controlling shedding, but if your pooch’s daily meal can make a difference in this area too, why not make sure he’s getting the best dog food for shedding to make life just a little easier for both of you?
The best foods for shedding are high-quality, highly recommended products, so using diet as part of your strategy to combat shedding problems can only be a good thing.
How do I properly transition my dog to the new food?
Changing your pet’s food all in one go can be confusing for them and cause digestive upset, so it’s best to transition them over to the new one slowly.
On day one, add just a little of the new food in with his normal food. Over the course of the next few days, gradually increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food. It should take 7 to 10 days for your dog to be eating the new food without any bits of the old one. If at any point he has a negative reaction, stop feeding the new food and check with your vet before deciding on a course of action.
Can I shave my dog to stop shedding?
Grooming is the other crucial part of maintaining a healthy coat and skin. Brushing your pet regularly will not only get rid of loose hair, but will also give you the opportunity to notice any changes in your pet’s coat and skin condition.
While cutting your pup’s hair nice and short in the summer can be helpful, shaving them bald is never a good idea. Their coats are designed to protect their skin from the environment, so if you get rid of your pup’s hair, you’re leaving their skin open to sun damage, contact dermatitis, and infections. Giving them a close-cut trim can reduce shedding, but nothing can get rid of it entirely. If dog hair is a big problem for you, a dog may not be the best companion for you!