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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Have you noticed a flaky substance on your dog's coat? This could be a sign of dandruff, which may indicate other health issues. Our vets in Palmyra can provide insights into the symptoms and treatments for managing dandruff in dogs. 

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Yes, they do! Like their humans, dogs experience dandruff when dead skin cells flake off at a faster rate than usual, settling on their fur or hair. 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 specific to any particular dog breed. It can be caused by various factors, such as genetic conditions like primary seborrhea (which is common 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, just like their human families. In areas where central(forced) heat is the primary source of home warming, the problem can be exacerbated. If your pup seems flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

Dogs may itch from dry skin,  but various external parasites can live on your dog's skin and make them very uncomfortable. Unfamous parasites like Cheyletiella mites are large enough to see without a microscope and resemble white flakes of dandruff - hence the nickname "walking Dandruff." If you notice your dog's "dandruff flakes" moving on their own, seek parasite prevention from your ver right away. Some parasites (such as mites) are easily transmitted to the pets 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 cause of your dog's dandruff cannot be identified, it may be classified as "idiopathic." Although treatments for dry and scaly skin in dogs can be effective, the underlying cause may remain unknown. Your veterinarian can offer further advice on how to manage your pet's situation. 

Dandruff can be bothersome and uncomfortable for dogs, but it's generally not a major concern if it's mild or seasonal. 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, mild cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home by following your primary veterinarian's instructions and utilizing help tips, such as:

  • 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 experiencing dry, flaky skin and a lackluster coat, please reach out to our veterinarians in Palmyra to schedule an appointment for assessment and treatment. 

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

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