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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Do you see flakes on your dog's fur? This could mean your furry friend has dandruff, which might signal underlying health issues. Connect with our vets in Douglasville to discover more about recognizing and treating dandruff in dogs.

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Dogs can get dandruff, just like people. This happens when tiny bits of dead skin flakes off faster than usual and land on your pet's fur. In dogs, these dry flakes often gather on their back, especially near the tail. You might spot them while petting your dog.

Similar to our skin, dogs have glands that make something called sebum. This keeps their skin hydrated and smooth. If these glands make too much sebum, it can cause problems and lead to dandruff. Dogs can have two types of dandruff: dry and oily.

Causes of Dog Dandruff 

All dog breeds can have dandruff, which can come from various reasons such as genetics (like primary seborrhea in breeds like Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels), but it's mostly due to things around the dog or its health.

Here are a few 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 pup seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

Dogs may itch due to dry skin, but they can also suffer from external parasites that live on their skin and cause discomfort. One such example is the Cheyletiella mite, which is visible to the naked eye and resembles white flakes of dandruff. If you notice these 'walking dandruff' flakes moving, it's important to consult a vet immediately for parasite prevention. Keep in mind that some parasites, like mites, can easily spread to other pets in your home.

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

Dandruff on your dog can stem from bacterial and fungal infections on their skin, which thrive when there's damage or vulnerability. Treating these underlying conditions is essential to tackle the dandruff problem effectively.


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

Conditions like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can impact your dog's skin health. This, combined with a weakened immune system, can increase their vulnerability to additional infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If your dog has dandruff and the reason isn't clear, it might be called 'idiopathic.' This means that while you can treat the dry, flaky skin symptoms effectively, the real cause might not be known. Your vet can provide you with guidance on how to care for your pet in this situation.

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
  • 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

Thankfully, you can manage minor cases of dog dandruff at home by following advice from your main veterinarian and using these useful 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 dog is experiencing dry, flaky skin and a dull coat, contact our Douglasville vets today to schedule an appointment to diagnose and treat your companion.

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

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