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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

If your dog is dropping noticeable white flakes behind them as they walk, then they may be experiencing excessively dry skin or even an infection. Here, our Turlock vets discuss the signs of dandruff in dogs, what the cause may be, and what the typical options are for treatment.

Your dog has dandruff – but what is it?

Dandruff is the result of your pet's skin cells shedding and replenishing at a faster-than-usual rate. These flakes just sit wherever they may lay after being shed. This can be on your dog's skin and fur or your couch if that's where your dog was sitting last. In dogs, these dry flakes typically collect on the back (particularly near the tail). You may even notice them when scratching or petting your dog. 

The glands on your pooch's skin produce iul (sebum) that helps the skin remain hydrated and supple–just like a human's. So then why do dogs get dandruff? If these glands produce an excessive amount of sebum, this can lead to imbalances and dandruff. Our canine friends can experience both types of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (Dry) and seborrhea (oily). 

Why does my dog have dandruff?

Many potential factors can contribute to dandruff in dogs. Genetic conditions such as primary seborrhea are commonly diagnosed in cocker spaniels and basset hounds. Health-related and environmental factors can also lead to the condition. Dandruff is also not exclusive to any particular dog breed. 

So why do dogs get dandruff? Some of the most common causes of dry, flaky skin in dogs are:

Skin Allergies 

An allergic reaction to food or environmental triggers can trigger skin issues in dogs. If your four-legged friend is suffering from an allergy, they may experience itchiness and flakiness at various times of the year. Dandruff also typically accompanies other symptoms, such as recurring ear and skin infections 

Dry Air 

Our vets at Community Veterinary Clinic often find that dry, flaky skin on dogs becomes a common problem during the winter months. In areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of home warming, the issue can grow worse. Dogs are similar to their human counterparts in this way. So if you notice that your dog is leaving a trail of white flaky skin behind them, the home heating may be the cause.

External Parasites

Another common cause of dry, flaky skin in dogs is external parasites. These parasites can cause serious itching and discomfort for your canine companion.

An infamous parasite called the Cheyletiella mite is large enough to see without a microscope and looks very much like a white flake of dandruff - so much so that they are often referred to as 'Walking Dandruff'.

If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' are moving on their own, bring your dog to your vet for parasite prevention right away. Certain parasites are also able to infest other pets through contact which makes it important to quarantine and treat affected pets quickly.

Hormonal Conditions 

Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, and other health conditions can impact your dog's skin health. Combined with a weakened immune system, these factors may increase your pup's vulnerability to secondary infections. 

Nutrition Issues

An unbalanced or inappropriate diet can negatively impact your dog's skin and coat health. To keep your pet's skin and hair at its best, it's important to integrate foods that contain fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s. Please ask your veterinarian to determine if your pet's diet includes all the required nutrients, or if any need to be added. 

Skin Infections

Bacterial and fungal skin infections may also lead to dandruff in dogs, as they often target weakness or damage in your pup's skin. Your vet will need to address the underlying cause of the issue to properly treat the dandruff and prevent further complications.

Idiopathic Seborrhea

Dandruff in dogs that has no known cause is referred to as 'idiopathic.' This means that although the treatment for dry and scaly skin in dogs can work, the root cause might remain unknown. Your veterinarian can provide you with further guidance on how to handle your pet's situation.

Dandruff can be bothersome and uncomfortable for dogs, but if it's mild or seasonal, it's generally not a major concern. However, if your furry friend displays dry, flaky skin along with other symptoms, it's best to take them to the vet for a physical examination.

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

The symptoms that your dog is exhibiting as well as any other signs or findings will determine the next steps in your dog's care, which could include further diagnostic testing to confirm any issues such as underlying health problems, allergic reactions, or potential parasites. 

Treating Dandruff on Dogs

If your dog has mild dandruff, treatment may be possible at home. Here are some tips for caring for your dog's skin and fur at home:

  • Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and remove dead hair. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
  • Bathing your dog can help with dandruff outbreaks and 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 the dandruff worse!
  • Supplements can be helpful, but be aware that many commercial supplements are not heavily regulated for pets. 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.

If your dog's dandruff is more complicated then our allergy and dermatology department may be required. Our vets will use the tools available on-site to perform the necessary in-depth diagnostics to provide an accurate diagnosis allowing for the creation of an allergy treatment plan tailored to your pet's specific needs.

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.

Is your dog scratching and shaking white, flaky skin all over? They may have dandruff or dry skin. Contact our vets in Turlock to schedule an examination for your pup.

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Community Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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