Dog dandruff is a common condition. Most of the time, it’s just a mild nuisance; but your dog’s dry and flaky skin can also be an indicator of a more serious underlying health issue, especially if there are other symptoms present. Read on to learn more about how to spot dog dandruff and what you can do to treat and prevent it.
What causes dog dandruff?
Medically known as seborrhea, dandruff in dogs occurs when there is a change in the amount and quality of sebum or oil produced by the skin. Dog dandruff is typically a secondary condition that may be caused by any of the following:
- Environmental temperature, particularly during winter months
- Bacterial or yeast infections
- Dietary issues
- Internal or external parasites, such as Demodex or Cheyletiella
- Endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease
Dog dandruff can also be inherited, in which case it becomes a primary condition. Primary seborrhea is common among young dogs of certain breeds, including Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Shar Peis, and West Highland White Terriers.
Dog dandruff symptoms
A small number of white flakes that occurs randomly is usually not a cause for concern. And if your best bud has a light-colored coat, you may not even find out that he has dandruff until you find flakes on the couch, carpet, or your bed. If you notice any of the following symptoms, your dog may have seborrhea that needs to be properly addressed.
- Moderate to heavy amounts of flakes in a particular area of the body or all over the body. The occurrence of dandruff may be seasonal or follow a pattern.
- Primary seborrhea is typically not itchy, but secondary seborrhea can cause itchiness and some discomfort depending on the underlying cause.
- Bumps, raised pimples, or scabs in the affected area.
- Skin redness or a different smell emanating from the affected area may indicate an infection.
- Hair loss, skin hyperpigmentation, redness, scaly patches, and constant licking, scratching, and chewing of a particular area could mean parasites, which are often contagious.
Prevention and treatment of dandruff in dogs
There are simple steps you can take to prevent and treat dog dandruff:
- Brush your dog’s coat regularly. Spend a few minutes checking his skin and coat for dryness, flakes, crusts, and other signs of irritation. Regular brushing helps eliminate dead skin cells and promote healthy sebum production.
- Remove matted hair to prevent bacterial or yeast infection or parasite infestation.
- Check for burrs, seeds, and other sharp foreign material that Fido’s hair may have picked up while outside and which might cause irritation.
- Depending on the weather, you may have to give your best bud a bath more frequently and/or use an anti-dandruff shampoo. An oatmeal shampoo works effectively in soothing dry and irritated skin. Ask your vet about the best type of medicated dog shampoo to use. There are different kinds that are formulated for specific types of skin issues and you should make sure that you use the correct formula for Fido’s specific condition.
- Overbathing may also cause problems, especially while you’re treating your dog’s dandruff. Again, consult your vet regarding how frequently you should bathe your pet. In general and depending on the severity of the dandruff, Fido may require bathing every couple of days or twice a week.
- Your vet may prescribe a special diet for persistent seborrhea and to promote a healthy coat, skin, and immune system.
- Ask your doctor about giving your pet omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which are great for coat and skin health.
- Use a humidifier at home and near your dog’s sleeping area, if possible, when the air indoors is too dry. Adding moisture to the indoor environment can help prevent seasonal dandruff.
- You may use a spot-on treatment to help heal irritated skin and restore balance. Ask your vet about the best topical treatment options you can try.
- Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your dog.
It is also important that the underlying cause of the dandruff is properly treated in order to effectively eliminate seborrhea and prevent a recurrence.
- Allergies associated with dandruff may be caused by food or environmental factors. Ruling out a food allergy takes time as you do a process of elimination, and a diet change will be necessary once the culprit has been identified. Environmental allergens are often easier to identify, especially with the help of your vet and allergy testing. You will have to make sure that your pet is not exposed or has minimal exposure to the identified allergen, and have antihistamines always handy.
- If the cause of dandruff is a skin infection, your vet will have to properly identify the specific microbes responsible and then prescribe the appropriate treatment, such as topical antiseptics or oral medications.
- For other underlying health issues, such as an endocrine disorder or an immune disease, prescription medications are often part of the treatment.
Dog Dandruff - Final Thoughts
Your dog’s skin health is also an important indicator of his overall wellness. Mild and random flaking of his skin is typically not a serious symptom. Perhaps you just need to change his shampoo brand and/or groom him more often.
But if your furry pal’s dandruff is chronic, persistent, or heavy, and if you notice other symptoms, such as itching, redness, or a different/unpleasant smell, you should have him checked by your veterinarian. Most likely, there is an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed so that both the dandruff and the underlying condition can be treated appropriately.
Lastly, give Fido a well-balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids. Ask your vet about supplementing with fish oil to promote healthy and beautiful skin and coat.