Dog Dandruff: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Dog Dandruff: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Can Dogs Get Dandruff?

My Dog Has Dandruff! What Can I Do?

Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes


Dog dandruff – who knew!? But yes, dogs too can be plagued with the itchiness and irritating issue of dandruff, just like us humans.

Dog’s are naturally very clean animals and like to keep themselves as such. Although it can be common, dandruff isn’t normal, so if you do spot what you suspect is dandruff, it’s probably a cause for a little concern and will most likely need some healthy pet parent intervention!

Dog Dandruff: What Is It?

Dog dandruff is dry, flaky, skin, made up of dead skin cells, that look like white specks/flakes in your pooch’s fur. Skin cells are always dying - they shed and are replaced by healthy new cells, naturally cycled by the body. Dandruff indicates an issue either with your dog’s grooming habits or the skin cell cycle and can make your dog very itchy and feeling uncomfortable.

My Dog Has Dandruff: Why?

black and white springer spaniel in the woods

If your dog is sprinkled with white speckles, you may be asking yourself, “but, can dogs get dandruff!?”. Well yes, and there’s actually a variety of reasons that can cause dog dandruff to occur;

Poor diet (not enough water, vitamins, fatty acids, and/or minerals)

  •  Obesity
  •  Conditions like Hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, or Pemphigus
  •  Arthritis (their painful, stiff joints may mean they can’t reach certain areas to groom)
  •  Other conditions causing pain (they may feel too under the weather or uncomfortable to groom)
  •  Fleas or ticks (over scratching can cause dog dandruff)
  •  Mites (Cheyletiella mites are known as “walking dandruff” because they are white in appearance and noticeable to the naked eye)
  •  Low humidity (this will strip the skin of its natural oils, making it dry and flaky)
  •  Bacterial/Fungal skin infections
  •  Seborrhoea – a medical condition where baby skin cells shed too quickly. American Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, and West Highland White Terriers are predisposed – and thus more likely to develop – this condition.
  •  Food allergies
  •  Doggy eczema (atopic dermatitis)

It’s always worth getting any signs of dandruff checked over by the vet, as it could be a sign of an underlying issue (like some of the conditions listed above), particularly if accompanied by a greasy or smelly coat, red skin, and/or hair loss. Understanding the underlying problem can help clear up their skin situation faster.

Although it can seem alarming when you first notice your dog has dandruff, it can usually be cleared up quite quickly with some quick and simple lifestyle changes…

Dog Dandruff: Support In Grooming

Even though dogs self groom, they may need a little support when they have dandruff - or more regularly if they are prone to it! Brushing your dog every day can help dislodge and remove the dead skin cells, promote blood flow – and thus nutrients – to their skin, and distribute the skin’s naturally produced oils evenly through and across the coat. If you have a wrinkly dog or a dog with skin folds like a Shar-Peis or Basset Hound, be sure to check in, around and beneath their skin’s folds, and brush and clean gently there too. 

You should also bathe them a little more regularly and use a targeted, relieving shampoo, ideally that contains oatmeal that can help control irritated skin, and alleviate the symptoms of over-itching, gnawing, and biting.

Petlab Co. Pro Tip: Be careful not to over-bathe your pooch though, as this can disturb the pH balance levels in the skin, exacerbating dandruff, and dry out the skin, causing further skin issues. If the dandruff is extreme, start off with bathing every couple of days. Then, once dandruff improves, drop this down to twice a week, then once a week as it betters further. As soon as the dandruff is clear, bathing your dog once a month should be sufficient enough to prevent it from coming back. If you’re unsure, always consult with your vet.

Dog Dandruff: Improve Their Diet

black dog in forest

If you think it could be their diet that’s causing dandruff, it’s time to switch things up. Look at a higher quality pet food that’s high in fibre and enhanced with a good amount of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Learn more on What To Feed Your Dog here, and then read our blog on How To Safely Switch Your Dog’s Food here, so as to not disrupt their tummy too much whilst transitioning!

If your dog is overweight, it’s time to consider a doggy diet! We cannot stress enough how important it is for all dogs to be maintained at their ideal body weight and no more! Their obesity won’t only be potentially causing problems to their skin, but obesity can cause a whole load of other health issues and have a negative impact on their joint health and thus their quality of life too…
Start by reducing their food allowance by 10% – they’ll barely notice the difference. Read our blog on 
How To Help Your Overweight Dog here.

You should also look to enhance their diet with an omega/fish oil supplement or simply try adding a squirt of salmon oil directly to your dog's food. It’s important for dogs to obtain their essential fatty acids from their diet as they cannot synthesise this themselves! Omega 3 and Omega 6 have been proven to aid in soothing the symptoms of skin disease and skin inflammation. Both have an abundance of properties that relieve the discomfort of poor skin health, and they act as an anti-inflammatory for the itchy, dry lesions that develop as a result of skin disease. The reason they are so effective is that the oil from the omega oils supports the existence and production of the body’s natural oils, hence locking in any moisture and soothing itchy conditions.

Petlab Co. Pro Tip: If their dandruff and/or skin flare-ups are recurring, remember this could be a sign of allergies, hormonal or immune-mediated disease so always consult with your vet if your dietary improvements don’t seem to be working.

Petlab Co.'s In-House Vet Nicole's Inside Knowledge

“After your vet has ruled out other potential conditions causing dandruff such as fleas, mites (cheyletiellosis), sebaceous gland problems (e.g. seborrhoea), hormonal diseases, etc., it may be time to look at your pup’s diet. There is no doubt that a diet must contain adequate omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to maintain optimal skin and coat health and quality.

Fatty acids such as EPA and DHA also have a number of therapeutic uses in animals when used as a ‘combination therapy’. For example, supplementation of these fatty acids is used as adjunctive therapy to help in inflammatory skin disease, arthritis, heart disease, and many more. Remember, just because a condition responds to a nutrient does not necessarily mean that there is a deficiency of it - some dogs just need more than others.”

Dog Dandruff: Consider Improving The Humidity

Particularly during the winter months, low humidity can have a negative impact on your dog’s skin and trigger dog dandruff to occur. Consider investing in a humidifier, and setting up near where your dog sleeps. Increasing the moisture present in the air will soothe their skin and can help deter seasonal bouts of dandruff.

Dog Dandruff: Our Final Thoughts

As you can see, dog dandruff can be rectifiable if you know the root cause of it! Remember to always have Fido checked over by a vet if the problem persists or you suspect a more serious underlying factor at play.

Related Reads

Dry, Itchy Skin On Dogs: How To Help
8 Proven Ways To Banish A Flea Infestation

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