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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Have you observed flaky material on your dog's fur? It may indicate dandruff, which could be a symptom of other health issues. Our Orlando veterinarians will review the signs and remedies for dandruff in dogs.

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Yes, dogs can experience dandruff just like humans. This occurs when dead skin cells flake off at a faster rate than normal, settling on the fur or hair of your pet. Dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back, especially near the tail, and you may notice them while petting or scratching your dog.

Similar to human skin, a dog's skin has glands that produce sebum, which helps keep the skin hydrated and supple. If these glands produce too much sebum, it can lead to an imbalance and cause dandruff. Dogs can experience both dry and oily forms of seborrheic dermatitis, known as seborrhea sicca and seborrhea, respectively.

Causes of Dog Dandruff 

Dogs of any breed can develop dandruff, which can result from various causes such as genetic conditions like primary seborrhea (observed in breeds like Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels) or factors that affect the dog's health or environment.

While this list is not comprehensive, some common causes of dandruff in dogs are:

Dry Air

Just like their human families, dogs are more susceptible to dry skin during the winter months, especially in areas where central heating is used to warm the home. If your furry friend appears to have flaky skin during the colder months, it could be due to the lack of moisture in the air.

External Parasites

Dogs can experience itchiness due to dry skin, but there are also various external parasites that can dwell on their skin, causing significant discomfort. One such parasite is the Cheyletiella mite, which is visible to the naked eye and appears similar to white dandruff flakes. This is why it is also known as 'Walking Dandruff.' If you notice that your dog's dandruff flakes are moving independently, it is essential to visit your vet immediately for parasite prevention. Certain parasites, such as mites, can easily spread to other pets residing in the same household.

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

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 puppy's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue. 


Typically, skin issues are an early indication of an allergic reaction to food or environmental factors in your dog. Dogs that suffer from allergies may experience flakiness and itchiness throughout the year, and dandruff usually accompanies other symptoms, such as recurring ear and skin infections. 

Hormonal Conditions

Diseases like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can affect your dog's skin health, which, along with a compromised immune system, can make them more susceptible to secondary infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the reason for your dog's dandruff cannot be determined, it may be labeled as 'idiopathic.' This implies that while treating your dog's dry, flaky skin can be effective, the underlying cause may not be found. Your veterinarian can provide more guidance on managing your pet's condition. Dandruff is usually not a cause for concern if it is mild or seasonal, though it can be irritating and uncomfortable for some dogs.

However, if your pet exhibits dry, flaky skin along with other symptoms, it is advisable 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, the majority of less severe cases of dog dandruff can be managed at home by following a set of guidelines provided by your primary veterinarian, along with 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 dog is experiencing dry, flaky skin and a dull coat, contact our Orlando vets today to schedule an appointment to diagnose and treat your companion.

Caring for Pets in Orlando

Caring for Pets in Orlando

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