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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Have you noticed flaky material on your dog's fur? This could be a sign of dandruff, which may indicate underlying health issues. Our vets in San Jose can provide you with information on the signs and treatment options for dandruff in dogs.

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Dogs can indeed experience dandruff, just like their human companions. This happens when dead skin cells flake off at a faster rate than normal, settling on your pet's fur or hair. Dry flakes usually accumulate on the back, especially near the tail, and you may notice them while petting or scratching your dog. 

Similar to human skin, dogs have glands that produce sebum to keep their skin hydrated and flexible. When these glands produce an excess of sebum, it can cause imbalances and dandruff. Dogs can suffer from both dry (seborrhea sica) and oily (seborrhea) forms of seborrheic dermatitis.

Causes of Dog Dandruff 

Dogs of all breeds are susceptible to dandruff, which may have various causes such as genetic conditions like primary seborrhea (common in Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels), or environmental and health-related factors. The following are some of the usual culprits behind dandruff in dogs, although the list is not exhaustive:

Dry Air

During winter months, dogs are susceptible to dry skin, similar to their human counterparts. This issue is more pronounced in areas where central heating is the primary source of warmth, exacerbating the problem. If your furry friend appears flaky during the winter, dry air may be the culprit.

External Parasites

If you observe your dog scratching or itching, the reason could be their dry skin or the presence of parasites. One common type of parasite is Cheyletiella mites, which can cause considerable discomfort to your furry companion. These mites are visible without a microscope and often appear like dandruff flakes, earning them the nickname "Walking Dandruff". If you see the flakes moving on your dog's skin, it's crucial to take them to the vet without delay to prevent a parasite infestation. Remember, some parasites like mites can spread quickly to other pets in your home.

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


Skin problems in dogs can often indicate an allergic reaction to food or environmental factors. Allergies can cause flakiness and itching, which may vary throughout the year. Dandruff is often accompanied by recurring ear and skin infections, among other symptoms. 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 behind your dog's dandruff cannot be identified, it may be labeled as 'idiopathic.' This implies that while the treatment for symptoms of dogs with dry, flaky skin can be beneficial, the root cause may remain unknown. Your veterinarian can offer you more advice on how to manage your pet's condition.

Although dandruff can be bothersome and uncomfortable for many dogs, it is usually not a reason for concern if it is mild or seasonal. However, if your pet displays signs of dry, flaky skin along with these 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

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:

  • 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 furry friend is suffering from dry, flaky skin and a lackluster coat, get in touch with our veterinarian in San Jose. Schedule an appointment today.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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