Dog Dandruff: Discover the Causes and Treatments Available

Just like people, dogs too can get dandruff. Dandruff is the presence of dead skin cells on your dog’s coat. The dry, flaky skin looks like white flakes so it may be hard to see it on your dog if its fur is a light shade. However, you will definitely be able to see the dandruff on your sofa or on your clothes when your dog rests on you. 

Dog dandruff is not normal and you need to take the necessary steps to treat it. Having said that, dog dandruff is usually mild and with the right treatment, your dog will have healthy skin and a gleaming coat. 

dog dandruff
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Signs and symptoms of dog dandruff

While it’s not uncommon to have dry skin occasionally, your dog may be suffering from dandruff if its skin always seems to be dry and flaky. Take note if:

  • Your dog is often scratching to relieve itchiness
  • Your dog’s skin is red or inflamed
  • Your dog’s coat has visible flakes of dry skin
  • There are scabs on your dog’s skin from all the scratching
  • Your dog has irregular bald patches 
  • There is general discomfort in your dog

Dog dandruff can affect all dogs, but breeds with medium and long hair seem to be particularly at risk.

Causes of Dog Dandruff

Skin issues, including dog dandruff, are not uncommon. It can be caused by genetic, environmental, parasitic or nutritional factors, or a mix of all. It is important to know the cause of the problem so that you can provide the best and most effective treatment for your furry friend. 

Common causes of dog dandruff include:

Cheyletiella Mites

Cheyletiella are small parasitic mites that live in the coats of domestic pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits. These mites look like flakes of dandruff giving them the suitable nickname of ‘walking dandruff’.

Cheyletiella mites pass easily between animals and can also affect humans. They live off the top layer of skin cells and the adult mites lay eggs on your pet’s coat. These mites irritate your pet’s skin and cause excessive itchiness. If you see your dog scratching, licking or biting its skin, check the area for redness, scaly patches.  

You can easily get rid of these mites by using a flea spray on your pet and its bedding. You can also use an environmental control spray to kill off mites that have fallen off your pet. The infection and itchiness should clear up once the mites are gone. 

Low Humidity

You might not realize it but the air in your home might be stripping moisture from your dog’s skin. If you keep the heating high in your house or are living in a dry area, the environment might be the cause of your pet’s skin woes. Your dog might be scratching due to dry skin caused by low humidity.

Underlying health conditions

Skin issues and dandruff can also be caused by medical conditions such as endocrine disorders - Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid glands) - and other autoimmune conditions. 

Bacterial, Fungal and Yeast Skin Infections

Bacterial, fungal and yeast infections cause your pet’s skin to lose the ability to protect itself and are a common cause of dog dandruff. 

Ringworm, for example, is a common fungal infection that causes hair loss in patches and dandruff. If you suspect that your dog has ringworm, consult your vet as it is transmittable from dogs to human and vice versa. 

Poor Diet

Your dog’s dandruff can also be a result of improper nutrition. Fatty acids such as omega 3 and 6 as well as protein are important for your dog’s skin and coat. Additionally, your doggo also needs sufficient vitamin A as it promotes the growth of skin cells and the production of sebum. Skin can become dry if your pet is not taking in enough water, vitamins, fats or minerals. 

Seborrhea

Seborrhea is a medical condition in which baby skin cells move to the surface too quickly. Since the cells are still young, the ‘glue’ that holds them together is not strong. This causes the cell to flake and become dandruff. 

One of the signs that your dog may have seborrhea is greasy skin due to overactive grease glands. While the cause of this condition is not known, studies show that there seems to be a genetic link with certain breeds such as the West Highland White Terrier, American Cocker Spaniel and English Springer Spaniel more prone to suffer from seborrhea. 

Allergens

Household cleaning products, chemicals, dust and pollen can all act as allergens or irritants that cause your dog to develop dandruff. Atopic dermatitis is a common skin condition caused by allergens that causes itching, inflammation and dandruff. 

While it may be hard to determine what exactly your dog is allergic to, using organic and chemical free products is not only beneficial for your pets but also the people in your household. 

How to get rid of dog dandruff

Dandruff in dogs are usually mild and can easily be treated at home once you determine the underlying cause. For example, if the dandruff is due to your dog’s diet, then you need to make sure that your dog has plenty of water and healthy fats. If the dandruff is severe, do check with your vet for the best course of action. 

Here are a few tips on how to get rid of dog dandruff:

Brush and groom your dog regularly

Brushing your dog’s coat in the direction of hair growth. This will remove dandruff and help distribute your dog’s natural oils. Blood supply to the skin will also be stimulated thereby promoting oil production. Regular brushing will also prevent mats. You can finish with a little coconut oil or tea tree oil unto the skin. 

Specialized dog dandruff shampoo

Choose a dog dandruff shampoo that is especially designed to moisturize your dog’s skin. Choose a soap free, natural shampoo that will help to relieve your pet of skin flakiness and irritation that is caused by dandruff. 

give him specialized dog dandruff shampoo
Image by PicsbyFran from Pixabay

Organic oatmeal shampoos can work wonders in soothing irritated skin. There are also medicated shampoos for dog dandruff available. Do note that you should use shampoos that are formulated for pets as shampoo designed for humans can be too harsh for your dog’s skin. 

Rinse your dog well

Shampoo residue can cause your dog’s skin to itch. Make sure that you rinse your dog well after shampooing to ensure that health skin pH levels. You definitely don’t want to leave any dried-on shampoo on your pet!

Avoid excessive baths

Your dog should not receive baths too often as over bathing can cause pH issues and dry out your dog’s skin. Consult your vet on how often you should bathe your dog. 

Avoid excessive baths
Image by oritslama from Pixabay

Use a humidifier

If low humidity is the cause of dry skin, you can try using a humidifier to add moisture back in the air. You can place them in the rooms that your dog frequents as well as near its sleeping area. The humidity in your home plays a big role in your dog’s skin health, especially if your pet has a predisposition to dandruff. 

Visit your veterinarian

If the dandruff is due to an infection, then a visit to your vet is in order. Your vet will be able to provide a proper diagnosis for your dog as well as provide the best treatment. For example, your vet might prescribe medication or creams to help your dog get better if there is a skin infection or other underlying medical conditions. 

Improve your dog’s diet 

Do not underestimate the benefits of a healthy diet. You can also improve your dog’s skin and fur with a healthy diet with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which promote healthy skin and hair. As your dog cannot create these fatty acids on their own, you might want to consider adding a supplement to its routine. 

These fatty acids also work to reduce allergies and promote heart health. Petcubes’ Wholistic flaxseed oil and wild salmon oil are both rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. In addition to this, Petcubes’ gently cooked king salmon is another option that is rich in these important fatty acids. 

Your dog’s diet should also include enough Vitamin A as it is needed for skin, coat, muscles and even nerves. Studies show that Vitamin A is also essential for cellular differentiation, bone growth, and reproduction in dogs

In addition to having a balanced, healthy diet, make sure that your pet has access to fresh water. You can do so by placing water dishes throughout your house. 

Conclusion

Dog dandruff is a skin irritation that can cause much discomfort to your pet. The dry, flaky skin does not only look unsightly, but incredibly itchy. However, most cases of dog dandruff are mild and once you know the factors causing it, you will be able to relieve your dog of the itchiness. While most dogs require only simple treatments, do consult your vet immediately if your dog’s skin does not seem to improve. With the proper treatment, your dog’s skin and coat will be gleaming in no time!

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