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Why does my dog have dandruff?

Has your pooch been leaving behind white flakes on their favorite spot on the couch? Your canine companion might have dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Join our San Gabriel vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs. 

Do dogs really get dandruff?

They most certainly do! Dogs, like humans, develop dandruff when dead skill cells slough off more quickly than usual and land on your pet's fur or hair. You might notice these dry flakes while scratching or petting your dog because they tend to collect on the back of dogs (especially close to the tail).

Your dog's skin, like yours, has glands that produce iul (sebum), which helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands produce too much sebum, it can cause imbalances and dandruff. Dogs are susceptible to both types of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea (oily).

Why do dogs get dandruff?

Any breed of dog can develop dandruff, and it can be brought on by a number of things, such as genetic conditions (primary seborrhea, which affects Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels, for example), but environmental or health-related factors are typically to blame.

Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

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 pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

In addition to external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and make them extremely uncomfortable, dogs can also itch because of dry skin. Well-known Cheyletiella mites are large enough to be seen without a microscope and resemble white dandruff flakes, hence the name "Walking Dandruff." Consult your vet right away to prevent parasites if your dog's "dandruff flakes" start to move on their own. Other pets in the house may become infected with certain parasites (like mites) quite easily.

Nutrition Issues

An improper or unbalanced diet can have an effect on your dog's skin and coat. Fatty acid-containing foods (such as omega-3s and omega-6s) are essential for maintaining the health of your pet's skin and hair, but only your veterinarian can tell you if your pet requires additional nutrients.

Skin Infections

Dog dandruff can also be caused by skin bacterial and fungal infections, which are adept at exploiting cracks or weaknesses in your dog's skin. These underlying conditions must be addressed in order for the dandruff problem to be resolved.


Skin issues are frequently one of the initial signs of an allergy to a food or something in your dog's environment. In addition to other signs, such as recurrent ear and skin infections, dogs with allergies may experience seasonal changes in their itchiness and flakiness. Dandruff is another common condition.

Hormonal Conditions

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 cannot be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dry, flaky skin in dogs can be effective, the underlying cause may not be identified. Your veterinarian can provide you with more information on how to manage your pet's condition.

Although many dogs find it bothersome and uncomfortable, dandruff is typically not a cause for alarm if it is mild or seasonal. In addition to these symptoms, take your pet to the vet for a physical examination if they show signs of dry, flaky skin:

  • Itchiness
  • 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 removes dead hair. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
  • Bathing your dog can help with dandruff outbreaks as well as bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; carefully follow the directions. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could aggravate the dandruff!
  • 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.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has dry, flaky skin, contact our San Gabriel veterinarians to book an examination today! Our compassionate, skilled vet team will do all they can to have your canine companion feeling their best again.

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Temple City Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for pets in San Gabriel area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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