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How Can I Treat Dog Dandruff?

Dog Care
7 minutes read
Is your dog scratching incessantly? The cause may be dandruff. Find out how to alieve the symptoms and prevent them in the future.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Many dogs, including emotional support animals, suffer from an uncomfortable condition known as dandruff. Similar to humans, dandruff is the flaky, dry skin stuck to a dog's skin and fur that results in constant itchiness and scratching. Like human dandruff, dog dandruff is dead skin that flakes off but remains on the coat. Upon the dog scratching, it can lead to more dandruff, which leads to more scratching, and so on. It is a vicious cycle that is easy to break following a few new steps.

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How to Treat Dog Dandruff

Suppose your dog is exhibiting signs of dandruff. In that case, it is a good idea to rule out any other medical conditions that may cause dandruff, such as fleas, skin allergies, or eczema, which may require a particular medication. 

Once a medical condition has been ruled out, the first line of attack is bathing the dog using pet shampoo. Many dogs suffer from pet dandruff due to irregular baths or infrequent brushing to get the flakes of dead skin off a dog's coat. If a regular dog shampoo does not seem to relieve the dog's skin from dandruff, choosing a natural oatmeal dog shampoo may work better because of its natural soothing effects. It is essential not to use human shampoo on a dog with dandruff because the chemicals may be too harsh for the skin and cause further irritation.

treating dog dandruff

Sometimes, a dog's skin requires moisture, especially if it lives in a dry climate. An excellent way to prevent dog dandruff is to include a teaspoon of cooking oil, such as olive oil, in the dog's food each day. The oil can be used directly on the dog's coat to moisturize the skin and coat of fur. This acts as a conditioning treatment, which treats the skin as well.

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Why Does My Dog Have Dandruff?

Severe conditions may cause your dog's dandruff. The most common causes include the following:

Seborrhea

Dandruff in dogs is usually a sign of an underlying condition such as seborrhea. Seborrhea is a skin condition that shows the symptoms commonly associated with dandruff and can be caused by several factors. Most dogs may suffer from dry or oily skin, leading to more severe skin conditions if left untreated. The disease mainly affects the dog's face, flanks, and back.

Although the condition affects several breeds, some dogs are more vulnerable than others. These include the Doberman Pinscher, the English Springer Spaniel, and the West Highland White Terrier.

Seborrhea is one of the most common medical causes of dandruff in dogs.  

Allergies

Various allergies can cause flaky skin in dogs. These can range from environmental reactions to dog food allergies. The medical term for this type of dandruff is allergic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes flaky skin similar to dandruff. Dogs with allergic dermatitis have dry skin, are susceptible to ear and skin infections, and often lick their paws constantly.

If you notice your dog showing these symptoms, you should see a vet, as this may be a case of allergic dermatitis.

Poor Grooming Habits

Dogs generally groom themselves, but many dog owners often groom their pets to keep them healthy and free of mites and other parasites. However, practices like under and overgrooming can lead to dandruff development. Overgrooming may strip the skin of its natural oils, which can cause dry and flaky skin. Undergrooming, on the other hand, can lead to parasites like fleas.

Dogs that are ill may groom themselves less frequently, so dog owners should watch for signs of under-grooming and adjust the grooming schedule.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Like humans, dogs require a balanced diet to keep their skin healthy. Vitamin, protein, and mineral deficiencies can lead to skin conditions such as dandruff, as they are vital for producing oils that keep the skin supple and hydrated. Most dog owners fail to have a proper diet for their dogs, often leading to several skin conditions and problems.

Parasites

Parasite infestations are also a top cause of dog dandruff. Fleas that latch onto the dog's skin can weaken the hair follicles and damage the skin, which causes itchiness and scaly skin, which is more prone to infections.

Mites can also cause dandruff, and this type of dandruff caused by the Cheyletiella mite is nicknamed "walking dandruff." These mites are more prevalent in overcrowded kennels. 

Dog breeds more susceptible to mites include the Collie, Sheepdog, and Australian Shepherd.

Genetic Factors

Some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop dandruff, even without any underlying conditions. Breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retrievers often have dandruff due to genetic factors, and owners of these dogs should regularly check to ensure that the condition is managed.

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What Can I Do If My Dog Has Dandruff?

Dandruff in dogs can be caused by one or a combination of factors. Luckily, many ways to treat and prevent dandruff from interfering with your dog's health. Some steps for managing and preventing dandruff include the following:

Clean Out Your Dog's Space

Mites and fleas thrive in neglected dog quarters, often leading to "walking dandruff" and other diseases. Ensure that your dog stays clean by replacing the bedding regularly and disinfecting it from time to time. Dogs can be messy, so regularly remove food spills and other potential contaminants to keep your dog healthy in a clean environment.

If you have an emotional support animal and need to move, ensure your new surroundings are clean to keep your dog healthy.

Get a Humidifier

Temperature and humidity can cause your dog's skin to be dry and flaky. For instance, dandruff is prevalent in dogs during the winter due to the lack of moisture in the air, which increases the likelihood of dry skin. Some dogs experience dandruff only during the winter, so acquiring a humidifier to protect your dog's coat from harsh weather is a great idea.

An ESA dog may accompany its owner, and it is essential to maintain optimal indoor temperature to prevent dandruff.

Improve Your Dog's Diet

Many canine health problems can be traced back to a lack of a well-balanced diet deficient in vital nutrients. A balanced diet will ensure your dog gets sufficient vitamins, proteins, and other essential minerals. As dog food is designed to provide most of these nutrients, this shouldn't be difficult to achieve. Also, ensure that your dog has access to fresh, clean water by placing several watering stations in your home.

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How to Prevent Dog Dandruff

Although there are several ways to treat dandruff on your dog, it is much simpler to prevent it from occurring in the first place. You can practice the following to reduce the likelihood of dandruff.

Proper Grooming

A good grooming routine can offer many health benefits to your dog. Bathe your dog at least once or twice a month and brush its coat every one or two days. You can use a moisturizing dandruff shampoo, such as an oatmeal-based shampoo recommended by vets for treating dry dog skin. Do not use human shampoo, as dogs may be allergic to certain ingredients, which may cause irritation and allergic reactions.

Avoid Allergens

If your dog suddenly develops dandruff with no prior history, the condition may be caused by an allergic reaction. Check the kennel for plants or insects and assess the dog's food for any new ingredients that might be causing the reaction. It would be best to be careful when introducing new foods to your dog. This is especially important for those who feed their dogs with leftovers.

If you travel with your dog, an ESA letter will let you have your dog with you in most places, so be cautious when introducing new tastes.

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Final Thoughts

Canine dandruff can be uncomfortable for dogs, and brushing their fur and skin daily can relieve the discomfort. It is natural for some dead skin to flake off because dogs constantly reproduce new and healthy skin cells to replace the old ones. Brushing the dog's fur coat can be beneficial in spreading the dog's natural oils around the skin and hair.

In extreme cases that don't respond to over-the-counter dog shampoos, monthly baths, regular brushing, and the use of oils, it would be wise to consult a veterinarian. Particular medication may be necessary for treatment. 

A few dog dandruff medications, such as steroids, are used in the most severe cases, but this should only be a last resort because of the health risks associated with long-term use. A veterinarian should be able to assess the pet's condition and determine the best treatment plan possible.

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Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.