Just like people, dogs can suffer from dandruff. It’s annoying, uncomfortable and can be difficult to get rid of. Dandruff can make a gorgeous dog look bad, especially when you give them a rub down and you notice unsightly white flakes everywhere.
Skin conditions are the most common reasons for veterinary visits and dandruff can be a big part of them. Dandruff can be caused by a wide range of different things that we are going to discuss throughout this article.
If your dog is suffering from dandruff or you suspect they are, we are going to give you all the information you need to know to combat it.
What Is Dandruff
Dandruff is actually caused by a skin condition called seborrhea, which causes flaky skin and greasiness of the hair and skin. It is incredibly common in dogs and can lead to a secondary infection of the skin. Dogs can sometimes smell bad due to the build-up of oil on the hair and skin.
Seborrhea, What’s That?
Seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition in which the skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. It often affects the flanks, face and back and causes the itchy, flaky, red skin we often associate with dandruff.
There are a couple of types of seborrhea, seborrhea sicca (dry seborrhea) and seborrhea oleosa (oily seborrhea). Dogs usually suffer from a combination of both types of seborrhea.
In addition to this, dogs can suffer from primary or secondary seborrhea. Secondary seborrhea is the most common, while primary seborrhea is rarer and is usually genetic, so it gets passed down through the family.
What Causes Dandruff in Dogs?
Dandruff can be caused by several different factors in dogs. These causes could be anything from allergens in the environment or the food your dog consumes. Irritants like dust, pollen, household cleaners and possibly even flea saliva can cause your dog to develop dandruff.
Endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are also common causes of dandruff in dogs. If your dog is suffering from a fungal or bacterial skin infection, they can also develop dandruff. However, infections will typically cause dandruff to manifest itself as skin flakes all over the body instead of one area.
- Allergies – anything from food to environmental reasons
- Parasites (both internal and external) – ticks, fleas and mange mites
- Fungal infections – especially yeast infections on the skin
- Hormonal problems and imbalances – Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, etc.
- Environmental factors – pollen, temperature, humidity
- Musculoskeletal pain or disease – your dog may not be able to groom or clean themselves properly
- Dietary problems
Sometimes, the exact cause of dandruff or seborrhea cannot be found (this is named as idiopathic seborrhea).
Below we have gone more in depth about the different causes of dandruff.
Allergies and Environmental Factors That Cause Dandruff in Dogs
Changing seasons bring lots of different changes and challenges for dogs, from dry hot weather, to cold air and allergies in spring.
If your find that your dog’s dandruff problem seems to coincide with decreased humidity and colder temperatures it could simply be a case of dry skin. Additionally, if your dog develops dandruff with the first wave of spring pollen it is probably due to an allergic response.
Shedding caused by seasonal changes can also lead to dandruff. This is because dead fur can build up and lead to poor coat health.
Improper grooming can have a major effect on your dog’s coat condition. It is incredibly important to keep your dog clean and well-groomed at all times, as this can help to prevent possible infections or infestations from occurring. Keeping your dog well-groomed also helps to keep their coat nicely lubricated and prevents flaking skin and dryness.
Fleas, Mites and Other Parasites
Fleas are something that all dog owners and dog’s fear. They can be incredibly irritating and may be the cause of a dog’s dandruff problem. Many dogs are allergic to flea saliva and the reaction they have can lead to dandruff, dry skin, itchiness and a whole host of other problems.
Occasionally, dandruff in dogs can be caused by Cheyletiella mites. These mites burrow deep into your canine’s coat and skin to lay their eggs. The mites can cause itchiness, scaling. Dandruff caused by these mites can sometimes be called “walking dandruff”.
Demodex and Sarcoptes scabiei mites can also be the underlying cause of dandruff in dogs. These mites cause demodectic and sarcoptic mange, which causes irritation, itchiness, hair loss and dry skin amongst other things.
A good diet is essential for dogs. Diets that do not have enough omega-3 fatty acids can cause skin and coat problems like dandruff. Dogs can also be allergic to certain food items, which can lead to dandruff.
The majority of good dog foods will have all the nutrients and vitamins your dog needs to stay fit and healthy. Try to stay away from cheaper dog food products or talk with your vet about what could be best for your dog.
Fungal and Bacterial Infections
Yeast infections of the skin or ringworm are common reasons for dandruff in dogs. Dogs typically develop yeast infections between their toes, in their air canal and around their anus.
Despite its name, ringworm is not an invasion of tiny worms, but actually a fungal infection. It is incredibly contagious and can cause itchiness, poor coat health, skin problems and dandruff.
Illness or Disease
If you find that your dog’s dandruff problem is not caused by any of the above, it could be because they are suffering from a systemic illness like Cushing’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, liver disease and kidney disease.
Check out PetMD for more information on Cushing’s disease.
Check for any changes in your dog’s behaviour, like changes in their energy levels, appetite or urination. Your vet should also be able to help you with this one.
Dog Dandruff Signs and Symptoms
Dog dandruff will present itself as either oily, flaky skin or dry, flaky skin, depending on what breed your dog is. The flakes of skin are actually dead skin cells that have stuck together and are falling off.
Dandruff can also cause scratching and itching, and in some cases it can even lead to hair loss or baldness. Some areas of skin can appear thick and bumps, pimples and scabs can also be a sign your dog is suffering from dandruff.
If your dog is experiencing baldness in addition to the flaky skin, you should book them in for a trip to the vets. Hair loss can be a sign that your dog is suffering from a systemic illness like Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease.
What Breeds of Dog Are Most Likely to Develop Dandruff?
Dog breeds that are most likely to develop dandruff can be broken down into two categories. We have outlined them below.
Dog Breeds More Likely to Develop Dry Dandruff
- German Shepherds
- Irish Setters
Dog Breeds More Likely to Develop Oily Dandruff
- Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Labrador Retrievers
- West Highland White Terriers
How Is Dandruff or Seborrhea Diagnosed in Dogs?
Your vet can conduct a number of different tests to diagnose your dog’s dandruff condition. They may conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, including skin scrapings for parasites. A flea comb can be used to see if your dog is suffering from a flea infestation.
Vets can also take fungal and bacterial cultures of their skin to check for any infections. In addition to these tests they may take blood tests to rule out any allergies, endocrine diseases and dietary or digestive disorders.
Your vet will probably ask you questions about your dog’s behaviour, diet and energy levels, along with the frequency of their urination and drinking. The answers you give them can help put together a picture of your dog’s overall health and condition.
A fecal examination may be required and a biopsy of the skin may be necessary. If all other options have been ruled out, your vet may make a diagnoses of primary (inherited) seborrhea.
How to Cure Dog Dandruff?
Depending on the cause of your dog’s dandruff, treatment can be easy or difficult. There are a range of different treatment methods and your vet may recommend a specific one for the cause of your dog’s dandruff.
It is important to understand what the underlying cause of the dandruff is in order to treat it effectively. For example, if your dog is suffering from some sort of infection, a round of antibiotics may be needed.
However, a simple case of dry skin that causes the dandruff could be treated by a range of different products or methods.
Give Them a Bath
A bath is an excellent way to get your dog clean. You may want to make use of a shampoo that is designed for dogs, and you might even want to try a medicated shampoo. “Dry” dandruff sufferers will benefit from a shampoo that has been formulated with sulphur, systolic acid or iodine.
For those suffering from “oily” dandruff, you can use a shampoo that is formulated with coal tar, benzoyl peroxide or selenium sulphide.
Some dog shampoo products are formulated for both skin types, and can be a great option to treat dandruff. If you find the shampoo product you are using is not having the desired effect, try another one. Getting the right product can be a process of trial and error, however, we have listed two ones we recommend below:
How Often Should a Dog Be Bathed?
This can be a difficult question to answer, as it really depends on the severity of your dog’s condition. If your dog has normal skin give them a bath about once a month. For dogs with skin conditions or dandruff we recommend washing your dog about once a week, unless specified by your vet. Washing your dog too much can cause dry skin and can actually make the problem worse.
Once you see that they dandruff is starting to disappear and any sores, bumps or scabs seem to be healing, you can reduce the frequency of the bathing.
Groom Them Regularly
In addition to giving your dog a bath, you should be regularly grooming your dog as well. Give them a regular brush and if your dog has a longer coat, make sure it is maintained well (trimming, etc.) You can take your dog to the groomers if you want. Grooming your dog will keep them clean and can help to remove any potential contaminants or allergens. It can also help to stimulate oil production, which gives your dog a nice shine.
Check Their Diet
One of our Labradors, Daisy, had a moderate case of dandruff when she was a younger dog. Ultimately, we discovered that this was her diet when we changed her food.
Dietary issues and what dog food product you give to your dog can have a massive effect on the condition of their coat. Your dog needs to consume the correct amount of vitamins and nutrients to have optimal health.
The first port of call is to look at the food you are feeding your dog. Try and change it for one that is formulated for coat health. Food high in omega-3 helps to promote healthy coat and skin.
Another option is to try a dog supplement, such as zinc and vitamins A and E. Vitamin A and E will help their skin and Zinc can improve their immune system. You can also supplement with fish oil for extra omega-3.
Always make sure that your dog is drinking enough water. If your dog is not consuming enough, look for creative ways to get more water down them. Give them ice cubes with treats inside or try some canned food.
Use a Humidifier
Humidity can be a major cause of dandruff
Natural Treatment for Dog Dandruff
There are a number of different natural treatments you can try. We have covered some of them below:
Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar
You can use an apple cider rinse to help control your dog’s itching and dandruff problems. Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar with water, and apply the mixture to your dog’s coat as a rinse or as a spot treatment. If you are spot treating your dog, use a soft cloth and then dab it onto the affected area. Make sure you do not get the mixture into your dog’s eyes or mouth.
Finally, let the solution dry on your dog and repeat every couple of days.
Try a Lime Juice Rinse
Just like apple cider vinegar, lime juice can be used as a rinse to help clear your dog’s dandruff. Once again, you want to combine equal parts of lime juice and water, and rinse your dog with it after they have had a bath. You can also apply it as a spot treatment with a soft cloth.
Soothe with Oatmeal
Oatmeal can be incredibly soothing for irritated and itchy skin. The irritation and constant scratching of certain skin conditions can lead to dandruff, so it is a good idea to try and reduce it. Check out this article on how to make gentle shampoo for your dog.
Try Some Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds are another great option to help cure your dog’s dandruff. Soak around 2-3 cups of the seeds overnight, and then make a paste from them in the morning. Apply the paste to your dog’s skin and leave it on there for about one hour. After this, clean the paste off with cool water.
Use Olive and Coconut Oil as a Moisturiser
Both coconut and olive oil can be an effective moisturiser for your dog’s coat and skin. Try mixing coconut oil with water and using it as a rinse. Apply the rinse to your dog and let it set on them for around five minutes. Wash it off like you would do with shampoo and apply it once a week.
Home Remedy Treatment for Dandruff on Dogs
Listerine Mouth Wash
While this may seem like a strange one, it can work. Listerine mouth wash can help relieve itching and flaky skin. This is because it contains Thymol, Menthol and Methy Salicylate, which are all effective at combating fungus or yeast that causes dandruff.
- Mix equal parts of Listerine with water
- Apply this mixture on the affected area and let it rest for around ten minutes
- Give your dog a bath and wash off the Listerine mixture
This will hopefully cure your dog’s dandruff problem quickly and effectively.
Milk of Magnesia
Milk of magnesia has been used to treat seborrheic dermatitis for years. It is perfectly safe for dogs and is great for helping their dandruff problem. There is no mixing with milk of magnesia, simply massage it onto your dog’s skin and allow it to sit for at least thirty minutes. Once thirty minutes is up, simply wash it off.
How to Treat Walking Dandruff on Dogs?
Walking dandruff or Cheyletiellosis is incredibly contagious and the treatment method is slightly different to regular dog dandruff, as the issue is caused by mites. A dog that is suffering from walking dandruff will usually suffer from inflammation, irritation, hair loss and skin sores.
Your dog may need to undergo weekly lime sulphur dips to treat the issue. In addition to this, your vet may recommend that you use pyrethrin shampoos or sprays.
In some cases, flea control medication may be recommended and in more severe cases your vet may prescribe invermectin. The drug is administered orally or subcutaneously, and can be toxic to some breeds of dog.
If your dog is suffering from walking dandruff, you will also have to treat the environment they live in. Wash their bedding and thoroughly clean your house to prevent any further infestations.
Summing Up Dog Dandruff
As you can see, dandruff could be caused by something simple or something complicated. If your dog has dandruff, the first port of call is to work out what the cause is. Dandruff that appears during certain seasons is usually caused by allergies or the weather.
For more complicated cases it is best to contact your vet. They will be able to conduct a number of tests on your dog to work out the underlying cause of the dandruff.
If you have any other methods of dandruff treatment you know, leave them in the comments below.