Dog Dandruff Causes & Treatment

Dog Dandruff

While dandruff is unpleasant for humans, it’s certainly no walk in the park for dogs. The persistent flaking skin and inflammation can irritate your pet and may be a sign of a secondary issue related to their pet food, environmental conditions, allergies or medical condition. The good news is many cases of dandruff are easily treatable.

Read on to learn about the causes of dog dandruff, as well as how to care for a pet who has it.

What Is Dog Dandruff?

Dandruff in dogs happens when there is an imbalance in their sebaceous glands. These glands produce an oil called sebum that protects the skin. If they start overproducing, the excess oil will likely cause irritation and shedding of skin. The white flakes you see on your dog’s coat are dead skin cells.

Puppies are likely to have dandruff, especially among breeds with medium to long hair. It’s not uncommon for it to occur in Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers and Basset Hounds among others.

Causes of Dog Dandruff

Some cases of dandruff are easily traced, but the origins of others can be more complex. Here are some common causes:

  • Genetics: Typically, dogs’ bodies renew their skin cells at regular intervals. For some breeds, however, the process of cell turnover doesn’t work as it should. Renewal happens much faster for these canines, resulting in dandruff. The medical term for this condition is seborrhea.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation of the skin can disrupt the production of skin cells. Red, itchy skin can be caused by disease or may be an allergic reaction. You might have to check under your dog’s coat to see it.
  • Diet: The food your pet eats can affect whether or not they get dandruff. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in supporting skin health, as does protein. Vitamin A also helps reduce dandruff due to its ability to regulate skin cell functions. Check the ingredients list of your pet’s food to make sure these vitamins and nutrients are included.
  • Environment: Changes in temperature, sometimes due to seasonal changes, can cause dandruff. Bitter cold snaps in winter, for example, may disturb the production of oil in your pet’s skin. Stress can also affect skin health and lead to dandruff.
  • Infection: If parasitic mites burrow into your canine’s skin, you may notice dandruff (in addition to a number of other unpleasant symptoms).
  • Various health conditions. Health issues such as hypothyroidism and Addison’s Disease may also cause dandruff.

Dog Dandruff Symptoms

  • White flecks on your dog’s coat
  • Scratching
  • Inflammation
  • Skin or coat greasiness
  • Scabs and hair loss (advanced cases)

Dandruff, Walking Dandruff or Mange?

While dog dandruff isn’t unusual, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The condition might be unrelated to other health problems, or it could indicate a more serious issue.

Walking dandruff and mange are skin diseases that can cause flaking and inflammation, but unlike common dandruff, they are the result of a parasitic infection and very contagious.

If your dog has dandruff, look for other symptoms such as excessive itching, crusting skin and hair loss. These may be signs that their condition requires more intensive care.

Dog Dandruff Treatment

Having your veterinarian evaluate your dog’s dandruff is important. They can determine the causes and prescribe treatment tailored to your pet’s condition.

Here are some examples of what they might recommend:

  • Anti-dandruff dog shampoo: Certain medicated shampoos are formulated to alleviate symptoms of dandruff. Remember to read the instructions on the bottle, as they may differ slightly from other cleansers you’ve used in the past (e.g., you need to leave the shampoo on your pet for several minutes before rinsing). Also, don’t use shampoos designed for reducing human dandruff. These will likely cause irritated, dry skin in your pet.
  • Grooming: Regular brushing can remove dead skin cells and stimulate the oil glands in your dog’s skin, adding shine to their coat. Brushing also increases circulation, which contributes to the cell renewal cycle.
  • A more balanced diet: Check if your dog’s food contains essential fatty acids, as well as vitamins E and A to help promote coat, skin and immune system health.
  • Environmental changes: Stress can trigger a reaction in dogs that causes dandruff, so keep their environment comfortable and clean. This can include regulating the temperature in the home. For more serious cases of stress, you can consult a behaviorist or trainer for help.

Do Home Remedies for Dog Dandruff Work?

It can be tempting to try home remedies for your dog’s dandruff. Treating them with household ingredients may seem like a simple alternative to medicated shampoo or medicine to alleviate itching.

Before you try a home remedy, however, talk to your veterinarian. Homemade solutions may not be effective or make the problem worse. Plus, your veterinarian can make sure the symptoms aren’t the result of a more serious infection.

Want additional health tips for your dog? Learn more from our pet experts or visit our Pet Expertise page.

Related articles

dog brushing teeth
Dog's teeth are important pillars for their long-term health. Learn how to properly take care of your dog's teeth from the first appearance through adulthood.
Poisonous houseplants for dogs
person outside in the snow with their dog
MyPurina App - woman with dog

Reward Yourself with myPurina

Earn and redeem rewards for Purina products with the myPurina app.