Have you seen flakes in your dog's fur? It might mean your furry friend has dandruff, which could signal other health issues. Join our Mankato vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs.
Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?
Do dogs get dandruff like humans? Yes, they do! Like people, dogs can have dandruff when dead skin cells flake off more than usual and land on their fur. These dry false often gather on their back, especially near the tail, and you might notice them while petting or scathing your dog.
Like your own skin, your dog's skin has glands that produce iul (sebum), which helps 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).
Causes of Dog Dandruff
Dogs of any breed can get dandruff. It can come from various reasons like their genes (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 usual reasons why dogs get dandruff, although this isn't a complete list:
Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like their human families; in areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pup's skin seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause.
Dogs can get itchy sing for various reasons, including dry skin. However, tiny bugs called Cheyletiella mites can also live on your dog's skin and make the very uncomfortable. These mites are big enough to see through 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 inadequate diet can influence your dog's skin and coat. To ensure your pet's skin and hair are 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 pup's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue.
Skin issues in dogs can often be an early indicator of allergies to food or something in their surrounding. 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.
Diseases 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 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, it is usually not a cause for concern if it is mild or seasonal. If, however, your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin along with these symptoms, head to the vet for a physical examination:
- 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 remove 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.