If your dog's skin is dry and flakey, they might have dandruff. Our Irvine vets are here today to discuss the causes and treatment options for dandruff in dogs.
Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?
Yes, your dog really can have dandruff. This can occur when dead skin cells flake off at a more abundant rate than normal leaving the tell-tale shite flakes on your dog's body. In dogs, these dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back (particularly near the tail), and you might even notice them when you're petting or scratching your dog.
Just like your own skin, your dog's skin has glands that produce iul (sebum), which helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands over-produce sebum, this can lead to imbalances and dandruff. Dogs can experience both forms of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sica (dry) and seborrhea (oily).
Why Does My Dog Have Dandruff?
Dandruff can happen to any breed of dog but can be caused by a number of reasons including genetic conditions (e..g primary seborrhea, seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels), but is often caused by factors impacting the dog's environment or health.
Here are some of the more common causes of dandruff in dogs:
Dry skin on dogs is more prominent in the winter months. In areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause.
Dogs can itch when they have dry skin, but there are also a variety of external parasites that can live on your dog's skin that can lead to discomfort and the appearance of dandruff. Parasites such as Cheyletiella mites are large enough to see without a microscope and look very much like white flakes of dandruff - hence the moniker 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' are moving on their own - get to your vet for parasite prevention right away. Some parasites (like mites) are easily transmitted to other pets living in the household.
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 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 pooch's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue.
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.
If your dog develops a disease such as Cushing's or hypothyroidism they can have an effect on the health of your dog's skin. This in conjunction with a compromised immune system can contribute to your dog developing secondary infections.
Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea
If your dog has dandruff but there is no diagnosis
If the cause of your dog's dandruff can't be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dogs with dry, flaky skin can be effective, the underlying cause might not be identified. Your vet will be able to give you more advice on the management of your pet's condition.
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:
- Loss of hair/fur
- Excessive dandruff
- Skin odor
- 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
Luckily, most milder cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home with a combination of instructions and guidelines from your primary vet, and these helpful tips:
- Take your pup to your local veterinary dermatologist so they can determine the source of the flakey skin on your dog.
- Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and all dead hair gets removed. If your dog has sensitive skin, check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
- Bathing your dog can help for 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 dandruff worse!
- Supplements can provide your dog with some benefits, but be aware that many commercial supplements are not heavily regulated for pets. Ask your vet for their best recommendation.
- 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.