Dog Dandruff – Causes, Solutions, Prevention & Full Guide

dandruff in dogs

Dog dandruff is a skin problem resulting in flaky skin and itchiness. Dandruff in dogs is caused by excessive or insufficient oil production.

And, dog dandruff –with both Seborrhea sicca and Seborrhea oleosa– is a big problem. And the worst part is that once it starts, it’s quite hard to get a hold of it. Dogs with dandruff often have dry, scaly skin with lots of red spots on them. If that’s the case with your dog, then you’re in the right place, my friend.

Dandruff in dogs can cause them to itch all day long without any sense of relief. For your dog’s sake, start early and start today so you can save it from lots of irritation down the road. In this guide on dandruff in dogs, we’ll learn about the causes, home remedies, and preventive measures for dog dandruff.

What is Dog Dandruff?

Dandruff in dogs is known as seborrhea. But there isn’t just one type of seborrhea in dogs. In fact, there are two greatly distinct types:

  • Seborrhea sicca – dandruff in dogs due to less oil production
  • Seborrhea oleosa – dog dandruff due to extra oil production

Yup, you heard that right! Dogs can have dandruff due to two completely opposite reasons. If your dog doesn’t produce enough oil in the skin glands, then it’ll have dry skin which leads to dandruff. It might also be the case that your dog’s skin cells grow at a much rapid rate than normal, which causes them to slough off. That’s because premature skin cells often don’t have the binding capacity to hold on to the dog’s coat.

On the other hand, if there’s too much oil production by the sebaceous glands, it’ll still cause dandruff.

Dandruff is quite common in humans. But that doesn’t mean dogs are far behind. Just like us, dandruff in our canine buddies causes their skin cells to flake and slough off. These cells appear as tiny white spots all over the skin. From time to time, you might see these flakes on the couch or on the carpet.

At times, these flakes aren’t that apparent, especially if your dog has a light-shaded coat. But even then, the white flakes in your lap after a cuddle-session can raise the alarms.

What Causes Dog Dandruff?

There are lots of causes of dandruff in dogs. However, some are a lot more common than others.

Endocrine disorders

Many endocrine disorders may lead to dandruff in dogs. One of these disorders is hypothyroidism which is common in medium to large-sized dogs aged 6-10. The thyroid gland, in this case, produces lesser thyroxine. Now, what does thyroxine do? It controls the overall metabolism of the body.

So, a dog with lesser thyroxine would have low metabolism. This would lead to thinning of your dog’s coat and dry skin among a number of other symptoms like sluggishness and weight gain. As you can imagine, this dry skin may also lead to dandruff.

Another endocrine disorder of the sort is Cushing’s disease. In this disease, dogs produce more cortisol than they usually do. Cortisol is responsible for dealing with stress. Dogs that overproduce this hormone face muscle weakness, great thirst, more urination, and hair loss. These symptoms may or may not appear with dandruff.

Yeast

Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast that can cause dermatitis and dandruff. This yeast specifically attacks the skin surface, ear canal, between the toes, and skin folds on the body.

Although Malassezia naturally inhabits the body, an overgrowth can cause inflammation in the skin. This will cause irritation, hair loss, redness, oily skin, hyperpigmentation, and fould odor.

Usually, dogs that live in humid regions are more prone to having this disease. However, genetic predisposition is also possible. Diagnosing this disease on your own is certainly not an option. So, if your dog seems to have the above-mentioned symptoms, consult your vet as soon as possible.

Trying home-made solutions to treat this problem is futile. So, your vet would recommend some medications for applying to your dog’s skin and eating.

Imbalanced Nutrition

Ever heard of the phrase: you are what you eat? Well, the same goes for your dog as well. A properly balanced diet can keep your dog fit in all aspects. A proper diet would also improve your dog’s skin which would lead to lesser dandruff.

Fat is extremely important in a dog’s diet. However, you don’t need unhealthy fat like bacon. Instead, healthy fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are perfect for skin oil production. A great source of these omega fatty acids is fish oil which is readily available in the market.

Also, make sure your dog’s diet is complete in every sense and has all the 6 basic nutrients, including:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Water
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

A healthy amount of dietary fiber is also useful in keeping your dog healthy and fit.

Improper Grooming

This is another major reason for dog dandruff. You see, improper grooming doesn’t only affect your dog’s appearance, but it’s health as well. If you don’t brush your dog regularly, then you’ll increase the chances of dandruff.

So, make sure you brush your dog’s coat every other day and use soft, long brushing movements. This way, you’ll increase oil production in the sebaceous glands. But not just that, you’ll also be able to spread the oil evenly on your dog’s skin. This will help keep your dog’s skin supple and avoid dryness.

Excretion of more oil

As we discussed above as well, your dog might also get dandruff due to the over-production of oils. At times, the sebaceous glands in a dog’s skin go into hyperdrive and produce a lot more oil than required. This can lead to seborrhea oleosa.

If your dog suffers from this issue, then you should bathe it regularly. This reduces the oil content on the body and dries the skin a bit. However, bear in mind that without a vet’s recommendation, you shouldn’t bathe a dog more than twice a month. Also, you can use anti-dandruff dog shampoo to reduce the amount of oil and dandruff on its skin.

Household cleaners and chemicals

I know, it’s crazy to think how household cleaning products can cause dandruff in dogs. However, that can certainly be the case.

Cleaning products can have toxic chemicals that might act as allergens or irritants for your dog. At times, they may even cause dandruff for them.

Dust and Pollen

Dust and pollen are common allergens (particles that cause allergies) for dogs. If a dog is allergic, he might develop dandruff as well.

When dogs are exposed to allergens like dust and pollen, they are at risk of getting atopic dermatitis. This condition causes itching, inflammation, scratching and, you guessed it right: dandruff! This dandruff may be dry or oily.

Fleas

Yes, you heard that right. Fleas can cause dandruff in dogs. As mentioned before, dandruff as a primary condition is rare. So, if your pooch has dandruff issues, then it’s probably a secondary condition arising from another problem. This problem might be flea allergy dermatitis.

Fleas also cause lots of itching and irritation for dogs due to which they excessively scratch their skin. This scratching often leads to dry, worn-out skin that causes dandruff.

The first order of curing Flea Allergy Dermatitis is to remove the fleas from your dog’s body. For that, you can use a flea comb to remove these insects from your dog’s body. Also, consult your veterinarian and discuss some anti-flea shampoos or skincare products that you can use.

Bacteria or fungal infection

At times, bacterial or fungal infections can cause dandruff as a secondary problem. These infections would cause rapid growth of skin cells, causing them to flake off as dandruff.

Ringworm is a common fungal infection that can cause dandruff in dogs. In this disease, dogs experience hair loss in patches all over the body and get dandruff. This disease can transmit from humans to dogs and vice versa. So, if your dog suffers from this problem, you’d definitely want veterinary intervention.

A common bacterial infection that causes dog dandruff is Impetigo. It’s common in 3 to 6-month-old dogs and causes lesions all over the body along with the possibility of dandruff.

Parasites

Parasites like the Cheyletiella mite may also cause dandruff. Even though cheyletiellosis is not that common nowadays, it’s still a threat. These mites do not burrow into the skin and instead walk on the surface. Since they are white, it’s hard to distinguish them from dandruff. That’s why, when they move, it appears as if the dandruff is walking (hence the name “walking dandruff.”)

With that said, it’s actually not that easy to see these mites with the naked eye. So, you might have to consult your vet for a diagnosis. The Cheyletiella mite is susceptible to most types of insecticides. So, your vet would probably recommend some medicated shampoos. But that’s not all, it’s also recommended to get a haircut for your dog as this will remove a lot of these mites from its fur.

Seborrhea sicca and Seborrhea oleosa types of dandruff in dogs)
Seborrhea sicca and Seborrhea oleosa are the two types of dandruff in dogs.

Dog Dandruff vs Human Dandruff

Now here’ an interesting question: is dog dandruff different from humans? Theoretically, both are similar conditions. So, in both cases, dead cells on the skin flake off. These cells appear as white spots in a human’s hair or skin and in a dog’s coat.

However, dandruff in dogs has slight differences as well. For example, humans often do not get dandruff from excess oil secretion by the sebaceous glands. On the contrary, this is quite a common condition in dogs. In this case, dogs with oily skin might even produce a foul odor; something that’s uncommon with humans.

The reasons for dog dandruff can also be different from humans. Primary seborrhea, as we mentioned above, is uncommon in dogs. That means that dandruff as a genetic condition isn’t commonplace in dogs. However, humans commonly face genetic seborrhea.

With that said, dandruff in both humans and their best friends is basically similar. The appearance, as well as the irritation and itching, are much alike.

Is Dog Dandruff Common?

Dog dandruff as a mild condition is fairly common. Currently, there’s no research on the number of dogs having dandruff. However, it’s safe to say that dandruff in dogs isn’t an unheard-of condition for most dog owners.

With that said, it’s important to remember that this dandruff might even be seasonal or related to your geographical region. Places that are arid and dry often lead to dry skin which can cause dandruff. Similarly, dandruff in the winters is a lot more common as the skin often dries out in that season. If your dog gets dandruff in the winters, then try investing in a humidifier (it’s great for you as well.)

How To Treat Dog Dandruff

So, now that you know what dog dandruff is and how common it is in dogs of all kinds, let’s discuss its treatment.

Here’s a list of treatments for dog dandruff.

Use an appropriate dog dandruff shampoo

This is the most basic treatment method for dandruff. Now first things first, I hope you already use a shampoo for your dog. But if you don’t, then this might just be the reason why your dog is suffering.

So, get a nice dog shampoo and give it a go. It might just be that you needed to shampoo your dog for properly hydrating its skin. However, if this doesn’t cut it, consider investing in an anti-dandruff dog shampoo.

Now, not all anti-dandruff shampoos for dogs would suit your dog best. So, consider paying your vet a visit and ask for his suggestions on which company’s anti-dandruff shampoo to buy. Look for a shampoo by a high-end manufacturer, preferably one that’s based in the USA.

If your dog has oily skin that leads to dandruff, here are some shampoo ingredients that might help:

  • Selenium Sulfide
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Coal tar

On the other hand, if your dog suffers from dry skin, look for the following in your dog shampoo’s ingredients:

  • Systolic acid
  • Iodine
  • Sulfur

If an anti-dandruff shampoo doesn’t work, then consult your vet on whether you need a medicated shampoo for Fido.

Keep the environment clean and planning for the winters

I know… it sounds weird to think that the environment’s cleanliness has anything to do with dandruff. But the truth is that this can drastically affect not only your dog’s overall health but dandruff and seborrhea as well.

Many bacterial and fungal diseases like ringworm are zoonotic, meaning that they’re transferable from you to your dog. So, if you don’t observe good hygienic measures and wash your hands thoroughly before touching your pooch, then you might be the reason behind its dandruff.

In the winters, the moisture content is quite low. But home heating systems further reduce the moisture content in the air. This can increase dryness which is the primary reason for dandruff in dogs. In this case, a humidifier might help you a lot.

Give the right diet

The right diet goes a long way in determining the overall health of your dog. Make sure that whatever you feed your dog, it fulfills the 6 basic nutrients that it needs.

These basic nutrients are:

  • Proteins
  • Carbs
  • Fats
  • Water
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

But when it comes to dandruff, there’s one nutrient that is of prime importance: fats. In particular, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are great for improving coat health in dogs.

These fatty acids help to keep your dog’s fur smooth and dandruff-free. So, go grab your dog food and read its label for how much Omega-3 it contains. If you’re in doubt about the right quantity of Omega fatty acids, then consult with your vet.

In case you’re looking to change your dog’s diet, then go with one that’s high in these fatty acids. With that said, supplements like fish oil are natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and can safely be fed to dogs. However, make sure you consult your vet before making any dietary changes for your dog.

Provide essential supplements

This point is basically a continuation of the previous one. Supplements like fish oil are fantastic for providing natural sources of Omega fatty acids which help improve your dog’s coat. This can, in turn, reduce or even eliminate dog dandruff. Oils like flaxseed, walnut, canola, and soybean are also some good natural supplements for Omega-3 fatty acids.

Proper grooming and bathing

Properly grooming your dog can go a long way in reducing or even eliminating dandruff. If your dog has oily skin, consider giving it a bath every ten days or so. Regular bathing would ensure that the excess oil on your dog’s skin is washed away. At the same time, it would improve your dog’s hygiene as well.

As mentioned above, you should always use a nice dog shampoo for your pooch. However, having an anti-dandruff one is even better!

With that said, make sure you consider all other grooming activities for your dog as well as they can surely help in reducing dandruff. For example, make sure you brush your dog’s coat regularly. At the same time, trimming its coat regularly can help remove the dry flakes of skin from its coat, giving it a better and cleaner appearance.

Preventing Dandruff in Dogs

You know what they say? Prevention is better than cure. And let me get you in on a secret as well… it’s a lot easier to prevent dandruff than it is to treat it.

You see, dandruff in dogs is one of those irritating conditions that are quite hard to treat. So, if you take the following preventive measures, you can avoid dandruff from ever occurring.

dog dandruff supplements
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their skin health properties in dogs suffering from dandruff.

Massage

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice massage at the end of the day? But massaging your dog won’t just make him feel good, but would also prevent dandruff. By massaging your dog’s skin, you can naturally activate its sebaceous glands to produce oil which would reduce dandruff from skin dryness.

Brush

In this article, we’ve been really focusing on brushing your dog’s coat a lot, but for good reason. By regularly brushing your dog’s coat, you can remove all types of excess debris, dead skin, and activate the sebaceous glands for oil production.

High-Quality dog food

It’s true: if you buy high-quality dog food, half of your dog’s health issues would get sorted out. Whenever buying dog food, make sure you read the ingredients’ list for Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are absolute gems for dog coat health.

Maintaining humidity levels

A low humidity level means dry skin. That’s why you and I also face dry skin issues in the winter. Consider your dog no exception.

If you live in a dry region or during the winters, keenly observe your dog’s skin for signs of dryness. If there’s itchiness, pimples, and scaling, then you’d be better off buying a humidifier.

Regular checkups

It goes without saying that if you want to prevent diseases, make sure you visit the vet regularly. An annual or biannual checkup is highly recommended for all dog owners. This would help your vet to pick apart any pertinent medical issues beforehand.

Dog Breeds Predisposed to Dandruff

Did you know that some dog breeds are more prone to dandruff than others? That’s because these breeds are genetically at risk of having dry or excessively oily skin.

We’ve mentioned above that dandruff as a genetic problem is highly uncommon. But don’t confuse the word uncommon with “impossible.” There are some breeds that are at a higher risk of getting dog dandruff and you should be well aware of them.

So, if your pooch lies in the following list, it’s time you take some extra care of its skin:

If you own any of the above dog breeds, then you should provide it with ample water supply throughout the day. In fact, it won’t be a bad idea to let your dog have free access to water, except at nights.

Also, keep a close eye on your dog’s skin. If you see any signs of dryness or white flakes, then be proactive and visit your vet as soon as you can. At the same time, ensure that you provide the best dog food at all times for Fido.

Home Remedies for Dog Dandruff

There are tons of different home remedies out there for dandruff in dogs. However, not all of them are effective. At times, people propagate remedies that don’t actually work.

But for this article, we made sure to choose remedies that had stood the test of time and proved themselves worthy of being on this blog post. So, here are some home remedies for dog dandruff.

Lime Juice Rinse

This is one of the most famous and useful hacks for dandruff. On top of that, it’s as simple as can be.

So, for this natural remedy, you’ll need to first give your dog a nice bath with anti-dandruff shampoo. Make sure you don’t compromise on the quality. Something with oatmeal or Iodine and Sulfur would do best for dogs with dandruff and itchy skin.

Now, add an equal amount of lime juice in water and rinse it on your dog’s body. Lime juice is great for reducing dandruff in dogs as it soothes the skin with Vitamin C.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Apple cider vinegar is a lifesaver for many skin-related problems in dogs – and it is also the case with dandruff. It’s especially useful for dandruff caused by yeast. For this remedy, simply mix equal parts water and Apple Cider Vinegar and fill a spray bottle with the solution. Now, you can spray that solution on your dog’s coat or on those specific parts that itch. Alternatively, you could apply this solution after a bath.

The best thing about this natural remedy is that it’s highly cost-effective yet useful. Just make sure that you don’t spray the solution on open wounds or in your dog’s eyes. If that’s a problem, then consider adding half a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in their food or water.

Coconut and Olive Oil Application

Now, this one’s awesome for dogs with dry dandruff. However, if yours has oily skin, then you might want to stay away from this remedy.

You can apply olive oil on your dog’s coat to keep it fresh and soothed. Olive oil has natural moisturizing and soothing abilities so your dog’s itchiness and dandruff would reduce.

For coconut oil, mix it with equal parts water and fill up a spray bottle with the solution. Now, rinse this solution on your dog for a smooth, lush coat.

Soothing Fenugreek Paste

Fenugreek is harvested all around the world. Although it’s not that common in dog foods, fenugreek has its fair share of advantages.

For starters, fenugreek is great for dog skin and coat and improves its smoothness. With that said, it has lots of benefits in digestion as well. On top of that, the healthy content of Vitamin C in fenugreek also helps to drastically improve skin health in dogs.

In order to create a fenugreek paste, let its seeds soak through the night. In the morning, add more water to the seeds and grind it into a paste that you can then apply on your dog. Let the paste stay on your dog’s coat for about an hour before you treat him with a nice bath and shampoo.

Milk of Magnesia

Using Milk of Magnesia is pretty straightforward for dogs. Just apply it directly on their coat and let it soak for half an hour. Afterward, bathe your dog with an oatmeal shampoo.

FAQs about Dandruff in Dogs

Even though we tried covering every possible aspect of this topic, there might still be some questions in your head. So, to ensure that we provide you with the best information out there on dog dandruff, we’ve added this FAQ section.

Can I use human anti-dandruff shampoo on my dog?

No, you can’t use human anti-dandruff shampoo on your dog. The reason is that these anti-dandruff shampoos are too harsh for your dog’s skin. You see, humans and dogs alike have an “acid mantle” on top of their skin. This is an acidic layer that stops bacteria and viruses from entering the body.

However, the pH of this layer in humans is 5.2-6.2 while in dogs, it lies between 5.5-7.5.

As you can see, dog skin’s pH is higher (more alkaline) than humans. So, if you use human anti-dandruff shampoo for your dog, you’ll end up disrupting the pH of its skin, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter its body.

Do the cold winters cause my dog’s dandruff?

Cold winters could be causing dandruff in your dog. In the winters, the moisture level reduces in the air. Hence, your dog’s skin might start drying out with time. This would increase flaky skin and cause more dandruff.

However, this doesn’t mean that every dog with dandruff suffers in the winters. In fact, if your dog suffers from dandruff due to oily skin, then the winters shouldn’t be blamed. With that said, dandruff due to dry skin is aggravated in the winters.

Should I change my dog’s diet due to dandruff?

Yes, changing your dog’s diet due to dandruff would be a good option. Look for foods that are rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. For that, you can visit your local supermarket or just log on to Amazon and browse through the dog food options that you have. It’s vital that you read through all the ingredients in dog foods before you buy them.

Pay special focus on how much omega fatty acids the food contains. Also, make sure that your dog’s diet is completely balanced and contains the right amount of proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber.

If your dog is struggling with dandruff, then you might also want to buy fish oil as it’s a fantastic Omega-3 supplement that vastly improves coat health.

Well, there you have it! This was our ultimate guide on dog dandruff. Now, remember: if your dog suffers from this problem, make sure you first diagnose whether it has oily or dry skin before you attempt to treat it. Groom your dog regularly and provide it with a diet rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

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