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What Causes Dog Dandruff (and How Do You Get Rid of It)?

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From an itchy scalp to the tell-tale white flakes on your shoulders, dandruff is not only embarrassing, but it’s also uncomfortable. Luckily, you can run to the drugstore for dandruff shampoo and stop the flakes pronto. 

But what about your dog? Dandruff can affect your furry friend, too. While you can’t share your anti-dandruff shampoo with your pup, there are options to make the flakes from dog dandruff disappear.

In this guide, we’ll explore the causes and symptoms of dog dandruff and what you can do to ensure your beloved pet is free from this bothersome and itchy condition.

Common Causes of Dog Dandruff

Dandruff — officially known as seborrhea — rarely strikes alone. As such, dandruff is usually the side effect of another condition. Primary seborrhea (dandruff without an underlying health condition) is an inherited condition, but it’s very rare. 

On the other hand, secondary seborrhea is much more common. This type of dandruff is frequently caused by:

  • Allergies, including food allergies
  • Infestations of cheyletiella mites
  • Internal parasites
  • Bacterial infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Fungal infections, including ringworm
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Obesity 
  • Environmental factors, especially humidity or aridity

Because dog dandruff is often connected to other medical issues (such as allergies), it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying condition.

Along with being an excellent way to promote healthy skin, omega-3 fatty acids offer multiple benefits for your dog, such as helping with seasonal allergies and joint discomfort, promoting heart health, and aiding cognitive function. Omega-3 acids also help to reduce the negative impact of omega-6 fats, which are found in many processed foods (both for humans and dogs).

How to Know If Your Pet Might Have Dog Dandruff

An occasional flake of dry skin isn’t uncommon for dogs (or humans). While dry skin often leads to flaking, it's important to recognize if the flaking happens more than once in a while.

Common symptoms of dog dandruff include:

  • Visible flakes of dry skin throughout your dog’s coat
  • Increased itchy sensations (and more scratching)
  • Red skin 
  • Scabs (from scratching too much)
  • Signs of discomfort 

Note: Seborrhea can create secondary skin infections. This is another good reason to check in with your vet if you notice your dog has increased itchiness and dandruff flakes.

Does Breed Matter When It Comes to Dog Dandruff?

Just as some humans are more prone to dry skin, some dog breeds are more prone to dandruff. 

For example, ichthyosis is a condition that causes rough skin and greasy flakes to develop. According to the Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types, the following breeds are more at risk for this condition:

  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier 

Breeds that are at risk for allergies are also more likely to develop dandruff associated with allergies, including poodles, Maltese, terriers, and greyhounds.

Treating Dog Dandruff

Regular grooming can reduce the risk of dog dandruff

The first step in treating dog dandruff is pinpointing the underlying cause of your dog’s skin and coat issues. Once you determine the root of the problem, you can implement the proper treatment. Keep in mind that an allergy test would be the most reliable way to determine if specific allergens are affecting your dog and leading to dandruff.

You can promote healthy skin and fur with the following steps:

  • Brush your dog regularly: Regular brushing helps to loosen (and remove) loose fur and dead skin flakes. Regular brushing also helps prevent mats. 
  • Use gentle, moisturizing shampoos: When bathing your dog, choose dog shampoos formulated for dry skin, such as oatmeal shampoos. You can also find medicated shampoos that specifically target doggy dandruff.
  • Rinse your dog well: Dried-on shampoo can leave your dog’s skin itchy. Many pet parents try home remedies like rinsing with apple cider vinegar after shampooing as a way to remove soapy residue and promote healthy skin pH levels.
  • Run a humidifier: If low humidity is causing dry skin, a humidifier can add moisture back into the air.
  • Include omega-3 fatty acids in your dog’s diet: Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy skin and hair in humans, and they also offer those same benefits to dogs. You can find essential fatty acids in many dog foods and treats. 

It’s worth noting that you may also need to administer medications or creams prescribed by the vet if your dog has a skin infection or other condition like hypothyroidism.

Supplements for Dog Dandruff 

Along with consulting your vet and implementing some of the ideas mentioned above, you may want to consider adding a skin and coat supplement to your dog’s daily routine.

However, keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal. You’ll need to keep the following factors in mind when shopping for supplements for your pet.

Look for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are the “good” fats that promote healthy hair and skin. But just like humans, dogs can’t create these omegas on their own these essential fatty acids must be obtained through diet. 

Along with being an excellent way to promote healthy skin, omega-3 fatty acids offer multiple benefits for your dog, such as reducing allergies and arthritis pain, promoting heart health, and boosting cognitive function. Omega-3 acids also help to reduce the negative impact of omega-6 fats, which are found in many processed foods (both for humans and dogs).

When looking for omega-3 fatty acids, be aware that they come from many sources, including fish, kelp, coconut oil, and flaxseed oil. These beneficial fatty acids can be just one ingredient in a supplement or they can serve as a standalone supplement.

Pay Attention to All the Ingredients 

There are a lot of supplements on the market, and a quick look at the ingredient label can help you determine a high-quality supplement from a not-so-great one. 

Opt for supplements that contain:

  • Fish oil (there’s that omega-3, again) from salmon or smaller fish such as sardines, which contain less mercury
  • Probiotics to support healthy immune function and digestive health from the inside out
  • Kelp, a natural source of iodine
  • Flaxseed oil, a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin E, a natural alternative to chemical preservatives that can maintain freshness

Avoid supplements that contain:

  • Artificial flavors, preservatives, or dyes
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Fillers such as wheat or corn
  • Gumming or thickening agents
  • Excessive amounts of sugar or salt
  • Synthetic preservatives

For a natural supplement made from real-food ingredients, you may want to try one of Pet Honesty’s skin and coat soft chews. Whether you choose allergy relief, omega salmon, or the multivitamin, these high-quality supplements provide a tasty treat for your pet using only natural, functional ingredients that can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

It’s Possible to Help Your Dog Stay Flake-Free

Even if your dog isn’t actively dealing with dandruff, it’s essential to promote healthy skin and fur. From regularly brushing your dog’s coat to feeding her a diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, you can take steps to prevent dog dandruff. 

However, if you notice that your dog’s dandruff or itching is suddenly getting worse, consult your vet to determine if your pup has an allergy or could benefit from other treatments or medications. We know pet health is your top priority. Be sure to visit the Pet Honesty blog for more tips to enhance your dog’s overall well-being.