Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

If your dog's skin is starting to look a little flakey, they likely have dandruff. It's not just an inconvenience, it can actually indicate a potential health problem. Our Kittrell vets are here to explain.

Can A Dog Have Dandruff

Yes, they do! Like their human companions, dogs experience dandruff when dead skill cells flake off at a more prolific rate than usual, settling on the fur or hair on your pet's body. 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. 
 
Just like your own skin, your dog's skin has glands that produce oil (sebum), which helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands overproduce sebum, this can lead to imbalances and dandruff. Dogs can experience both forms of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea (oily). 

What Are The Common Causes of Dog Dandruff 

Any breed of dog 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. 

Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like their human families; in areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

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 unhappy indeed. Infamous parasites Cheyletiella mites are large enough to see without a microscope and look very much like white flakes of dandruff - hence the moniker 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' are moving on their own - get to your vet for parasite prevention right away. Some parasites (like mites) are easily transmitted to other pets living in the household. 

Nutrition Issues

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 - but only your veterinarian is qualified to let you know if your pet requires supplemental nutrients. 

Skin Infections

Skin bacterial and fungal infections can also be the cause of dandruff on your dog, as they are adept at taking advantage of damage or weaknesses in your pooch's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue. 

Allergies

Skin problems are often the first indication that your dog might have allergies to something they ate or even something in their environment. Dogs who have allergies may have flaky skin and show signs of itchiness 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 and can be uncomfortable for many dogs 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
  • Loss of hair/fur
  • Irritated, red skin
  • Skin odor
  • Excessive dandruff
  • Excessive licking of paws or legs
  • Signs of feeling unwell or being uncomfortable

Your dog's symptoms and 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. 

Treating Your Dogs Dandruff

Luckily, 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:

Regular Grooming - grooming your dog as often as possible is a great way to reduce the amount of oil and dead hair in their coat. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog especially if they have sensitive skin.

Bathe Your Dog - Bathing your dog can help with dandruff outbreaks as well as bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; follow the instructions carefully. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could make dandruff worse.

Give your Dog Supplements - Supplements can provide a number of benefits for your dog's skin and coat health. Be aware that many commercial supplements are not heavily regulated for pets. Ask your vet for their recommendations.

Use A Humidifier - 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.
If your dog's skin is flakey and itchy, contact our Kittrell vets today to schedule an appointment with our team to get to the bottom of the issue.

Welcome to Our Veterinary Clinic!

At Kittrell Animal Hospital we operate as a walk-in clinic for cats and dogs, so if you require veterinary care, call us to inform us you are on your way. We look forward to meeting you and your pet!

(252) 438-1294 Contact