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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Have you observed some flaky substance on your dog's coat? It's possible that your furry friend has dandruff, which could be an indication of other health issues. Join our vets at New York to get insights on the symptoms and remedies for managing dandruff in dogs.

Do Dogs Really Get 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 iul (sebum), which helps to keep 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 

Dandruff is not exclusive to any particular dog breed. It can be caused by various factors, such as genetic conditions like primary seborrhea (which is commonly seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels), as well as environmental or health-related factors.

While this list is not comprehensive, it outlines some of the typical reasons why dogs may develop dandruff.

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 home warming, the issue can be worsened. If your pup 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

If your dog's diet is not balanced or appropriate, it can negatively impact their skin and coat. To maintain your pet's skin and hair in good condition, it's important to include foods that contain fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s. However, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian to determine if your pet needs additional 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 pup's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue. 


Skin problems in dogs can often indicate an allergic reaction to food or environmental factors. Dogs suffering from allergies may experience flakiness and itchiness at various times of the year, and dandruff usually accompanies other symptoms, such as recurring ear and skin infections.

Hormonal Conditions

Health conditions such as Cushing's or hypothyroidism can have an impact on your dog's skin health. This, in combination with a weakened immune system, can increase their vulnerability to secondary infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the reason behind your dog's dandruff cannot be determined, it might be labeled 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

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. 

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

Fortunately, milder cases of dog dandruff can be remedied at home by following instructions and guidelines provided by your primary veterinarian, as well as utilizing the following 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 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.
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 furry friend is suffering from dry, flaky skin and a lackluster coat, please reach out to our veterinarians in New York. We'd be happy to schedule an appointment to assess and resolve your pet's condition.

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