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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Has your dog been leaving behind white flakes on the couch? Your dog might have dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Join our Murfreesboro vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs.

Is Dog Dandruff a Real Issue?

Like humans, dogs experience dandruff when dead skill cells flake off at a more prolific rate than usual. In dogs, these dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back (particularly near the tail), and you might even notice them when you're petting or scratching your dog.

A dog's skin has glands that produce oil (sebum), which assists in keeping the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands over-produce sebum, this can lead to imbalances and dandruff. Dogs can experience both forms of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sica (dry) and seborrhea (oily).

Causes of Dog Dandruff

All breeds of dogs can experience dandruff, and it can stem from a number of causes including genetic conditions (e..g primary seborrhea, seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels), but is often caused by factors impacting the dog's environment or health.

Here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Like humans, dogs are more prone to dry skin in the winter months. In areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of heating the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause.

Diet 

An unbalanced or improper food or overall diet can affect your dog's skin and coat. To keep your pet's skin and hair in good shape, foods with fatty acids (e.g. omega-3s, omega-6s) are important. Consult with your veterinarian to know if your pet's diet is the cause of the issues. They will let you know if it requires supplemental nutrients.

External Parasites

Dogs might itch from dry skin, but there are also a number of external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and make them very uncomfortable. Parasites like the Cheyletiella mites are large enough to see without a microscope and look very much like white flakes of dandruff also known as 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' are moving on their own - go to your vet for parasite prevention right away. Some parasites are easily transmitted to other pets living in the household.

Skin Infections

Skin bacterial and fungal infections can also be the cause of dandruff on your dog. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue.

Allergies

Skin problems are usually one of the first signs of an allergic reaction to food or something in your dog's environment. Dogs with allergies may be flakier and itchier at different times of the year, and dandruff usually appears alongside other symptoms like recurring ear and skin infections.

Hormonal Conditions

Diseases like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can affect your dog's skin health, which, along with a compromised immune system, can make them more susceptible to secondary infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the cause of your dog's dandruff can't be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dogs with dry, flaky skin can be effective, the underlying cause might not be identified. Your vet will be able to give you more advice on the management of your pet's condition.

Although dandruff is annoying but if it is mild or seasonal it is usually not a cause for concern. If, however, your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin along with these symptoms, head to the vet for a physical examination:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin odor
  • Excessive licking of paws or legs
  • Excessive dandruff
  • Loss of hair/fur
  • Irritated, red skin
  • Signs of feeling unwell or being uncomfortable

Your vet's findings will determine the next course of action, which could include further diagnostic testing to confirm any issues such as underlying health problems, allergic reactions, or potential parasites.

Treatment for Dandruff in Dogs

Most milder cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home with a combination of instructions and guidelines from your primary vet, and these helpful tips:

  • Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and removes dead hair. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
  • Bathing your dog can help for dandruff outbreaks and bacterial and fungal skin infections but don't over-bathe your dog, as this could make the dandruff worse. Your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; follow the instructions carefully. 
  • Supplements can be helpful, but ask your vet for recommendations.
  • Use a humidifier in your home if the air is dry. During winter months especially, your dog (and your family!) could find this helpful for preventing dry skin.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

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