It’s likely that you’re familiar with the itching, irritating symptoms that come along with dandruff. No matter how much you itch, your scalp it never seems to find relief. Dandruff is incredibly common in humans, so much so that companies have their own lines of dandruff products. What pet owners may not realize is how common dandruff is in our dogs and cats.
That’s right. Dog dandruff is a real thing and it can be real agitating for Fido. Luckily, there are several things you can do that don’t entail a trip to the vet or a slew of medications. But before we get to all the possible remedies for your dog’s itchy, dry skin, let’s start with the basics.
What is Dandruff
Dandruff is a condition that causes flakes of dead skin cells to appear in the dog's coat. More often than not, dandruff is accompanied by itching and skin irritation. Dandruff in humans can be quite embarrassing, but luckily Fido doesn’t seem to care so much about what others think of their flakey patches. What will likely bother your dog is the nonstop itching and agitation which can ultimately cause hair loss and further issues if not handled appropriately. Thankfully, dandruff can often be resolved without complication.
What is Seborrhea
Your veterinarian may refer to your dog's dandruff as seborrhea. The term seborrhea and dandruff are often used interchangeably, however, seborrhea is actually a cause of dandruff.
Fido can either have primary or secondary seborrhea.
Primary seborrhea is not commonly found in dogs. It is typically considered to be genetic.
Secondary seborrhea is very common in dogs and is typically caused by allergies or an underlying skin condition.
What Causes Dandruff in Dogs
There are a few reasons why your dog may be suffering from dandruff. One of the most common reasons for dandruff to appear is due to allergen-related triggers. These allergy triggers can be food related or environmental. For instance, toxins and irritants such as dust, pollen, household cleaners, among several others, can all lead to your dog developing dandruff. Furthermore, your dog's diet can also be leading factor in why they have dry skin. We’ll discuss more on that momentarily.
Additionally, endocrine disorders such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease may also be an underlying cause of dandruff. Furthermore, skin infections, bacterial or fungal, can also cause dandruff. One way to figure out the underlying cause of the dandruff is to determine whether it’s all over the body or localized in one area.
Other causes of dandruff include:
- Internal parasites
- External parasites
- Diet abnormalities
- External environmental factors such as temperature and humidity levels
Dandruff Caused By Weather
We don't have to tell you that no two dogs are exactly alike. Some dogs are much more affected by weather conditions than others, and it'll often show in ways such as dandruff.
In the winter months, humidity levels significantly decrease. This drop in humidity means a lack of moisture in the air as well as a lack of moisture in your dog's coat, hair, and skin. The decrease in moisture will cause some dogs to itch and scratch uncontrollably, thus leading to flaky, dry skin.
Your dog may also suffer from dandruff in the spring and summer months, particularly if they are affected by seasonal environmental allergies.
Another potential cause of dandruff in dogs is in proper grooming. It’s essential for dog owners to ensure that their pup is well groomed and that their overall cleanliness is maintained. Whether the dog is being groomed at home or at the groomers, scheduled, routine cleanings will help make sure that no infections or infestations occur. Something that dog owners can do on a regular basis is brushing. Brushing your dog will keep their coat lubricated with its own natural oils. This is especially important during the winter months in order to prevent dry skin and flakiness.
Severe Dandruff - What Else It Could Mean
If your dog's dandruff seems more severe than your standard shedding of dead skin cells, they may be suffering from Cheyletiellosis or "walking dandruff." Cheyletiellosis dandruff is caused by Cheyletiella mites. Cheyletiella mites burrow into dog’s skin and coat and lay their eggs. As you may be able to imagine, walking dandruff is incredibly irritating for your dog.
Furthermore, if your dog is suffering from severe dandruff, it may be a symptom of a more serious, underlying issue.
For this reason, we encourage our readers to seek veterinary intervention if the dandruff appears more severe than the typical flaky skin. It could be a sign of an infection that will require antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms of Dog Dandruff
Dog dandruff can show up as dry, flaky skin, or oily, flaky skin. The majority of the time, whether the dog has dry dandruff or oily dandruff is dependent on their breed. In both cases, the dead skin cells stick together and flake off. If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn and had your skin peel, dandruff resembles that flaky mess.
If you suspect that your dog has dandruff, experts suggest looking for places of baldness and hair loss. This will often occur from the persistent scratching and itching. Additionally, you might find scabs, pumps, or raised pimples around your dog's dandruff.
Breeds at a Predisposition for Oily Dandruff
There are certain breeds at a predisposition to developing oily dandruff. These breeds include:
- Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Labrador Retrievers
- West Highland White Terriers
Breeds at a Predisposition for Dry Dandruff
There are certain breeds at a predisposition to developing dry dandruff. These breeds include:
- German Shepherds
- Irish Setters
Of course, all dogs, of all breeds may suffer from dandruff for one reason or another.
How To Treat Dandruff
There are several ways that dog owners cannot only treat dandruff, but prevent it from occurring in the first place.
With that being said, to be able to treat your dog's dandruff effectively and appropriately, you’ll need to correctly identify the underlying issue that is causing the irritated, itchy skin. For this reason, you may need to see your veterinarian if your dog is suffering from an underlying infection that is thus causing dandruff. Additionally, if significant hair loss accompanies the constant itching, your pup may be suffering from a different condition such as Cushing's Disease. For this reason, a veterinary diagnosis may be mandatory.
In cases of infection, antibiotics will likely be necessary. However, in most simple cases of dandruff, the following remedies and practices should help clear the issue up without the need for antibiotics.
Dog owners should ensure that their dog is being kept groomed in their cleanliness maintained. Regular brushing and shampoo baths are imperative for keeping your dog’s skin and coat free from contaminants. Furthermore, regular brushing will also promote oil production and remove dead skin cells thus help to prevent irritation and dandruff.
First and foremost, when bathing your dog, pet owners must use a shampoo that is formulated for dogs (this is true for both medicated shampoo and day to day shampoo). DO NOT use your own personal anti-dandruff shampoo. This can cause a slew of problems for your dog's skin and will not cure their dandruff. Many brands have formulated specific dog dandruff shampoo that will effectively treat Fido's itchy, flaky skin.
The next thing to consider is whether Fido is suffering from oil dandruff or dry dandruff. You'll want to look for certain ingredients in the dog shampoo that will benefit whichever dandruff you're dealing with.
In terms of oily dandruff, experts recommend looking for a dog shampoo formulated with iodine, sulfur, or systolic acid.
For dry dandruff, dog owners should look for a shampoo that is formulated with benzoyl peroxide, coal tar, or selenium sulfide.
Careful Not To Over-Bathe
Furthermore, we want to mention the importance of not over bathing your dog. Over bathing can lead to pH issues and cause additional skin problems to arise. How often you bathe your dog ultimately depends on the severity of dandruff. If the dandruff seems quite extreme, dog owners may want to consider bathing their dog every couple of days until the flakiness has resolved and any sores are healing. Once the dandruff seems to be getting better, owners can reduce the baths to twice a week and then once a week. Once the dandruff is fully resolved, you can bathe Fido once a month.
Again, be sure not to over bathe as this can dry out your dog's skin and ultimately causes the opposite effect of what you ultimately want.
Check online to see if there’s a holistic pet store in your area. If there is, take advantage of it. Holistic pet stores have wonderful products that can remedy any ailment you can think of. While at the pet store, check their selection of pet oils that can help replenish fluid in your dogs dry skin. Replenishing fluids with the special holistic pet oils can help reduce dandruff tremendously. Often, the pet oils will come in an easy to use spray bottle.
We cannot stress enough how important your dog's diet is. Consider what your dog is currently eating. Does it have the necessary amount of essential fatty acids? More and more often, dog food is becoming less and less nutritionally balanced. Your dog's diet could be a massive factor in the cause of their dandruff.
Adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (i.e. a fish oil supplement) to your dog's diet can do wonders for their coat.
Additionally, your dog’s dandruff may be due to a food allergy in their current diet. If this is the case, pet owners will have to use the trial and error tactic in order to figure out exactly what their dog is allergic to. It can be quite time-consuming and a bit costly, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Furthermore, whenever possible we recommend for our readers to incorporate a species appropriate, raw food diet into their dog's life. This one sure that they are getting all the nutrients they need.
As we previously mentioned, winter months cause low humidity levels that can have an impact on your dog. Dog owners may want to consider purchasing a humidifier particularly for the area that your dog sleeps. The increase of moisture in the air will help keep moisture retained in your dog's skin and coat. This moisture can significantly help counteract dandruff.
** Side Note ** If pet owners are also having trouble with dry, itchy skin, a humidifier can do wonders for you as well!
Natural Home Remedies for Dandruff
In addition to the tips we mentioned above, there are also a few natural home remedies for dog dandruff that we want to mention. These home remedies have proved to be safe and effective for treating dog dandruff. However, all dogs react differently to new components in their life. If at any time your dog's irritation seems to get worse, stop the natural treatment straight away. While this is not likely to happen, it’s hard to predict what one dog might be overly sensitive to while another shows no signs of sensitivity whatsoever. It’s always best to air on the side of caution, especially when it comes to Fido.
Coconut Oil and Olive Oil
Both coconut oil and olive oil make for great natural moisturizers for itchy skin. However, they should be used differently. In terms of olive oil, dog owners can rub it into their pets fur and skin every day. On the other hand, while coconut oil is a great natural moisturizer, you may want to try mixing coconut with equal parts water and using it as a rinse. Let the coconut oil and water concoction set on your dog for a few minutes and then wash it away and shampoo accordingly. Dog owners can try the coconut oil remedy once a week.
Lime Juice Rinse
A great fact about lime juice is that it is full of vitamin C. What some dog owners may not know is that vitamin C can help with dog dandruff. Experts recommend combining equal parts lime juice with water and rinsing your dog with the concoction after bathing them with shampoo. We recommend combining it with an all natural, organic oatmeal shampoo. Oatmeal itself is very soothing for irritated, flaky skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Comparable to the aforementioned lime juice rinse, And apple cider vinegar rinse can also help control itching, irritated skin, and dandruff. Like the lime juice friends, dog owners should mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Dog owners can use the concoction as a spot treatment or as a full body rinse after shampooing.
Milk of Magnesia
Milk of magnesium has been a natural remedy used in both humans and animals for many, many years. Dog owners can apply it directly onto their dogs for and skin, let it soak in for about 30 minutes, and then wash accordingly with shampoo.
Dog Dandruff: The Bottom Line
The good news is, at the end of the day, your dog doesn’t have to suffer from dandruff. There are a number of natural and effective ways to help ease your dog's itching and irritation and get Fido back to having healthy skin. The first step in doing so is understanding the underlying issue that is causing the dog dandruff. From there, pet owners can effectively work to ease the symptoms. We wish you the best of luck in ridding your furry companion of dog dandruff.
Chelsea Rivera is a holistic pet wellness expert and writer. She manages written content for Honest Paws - a company that specializes in CBD oil for dogs and cats.
Additionally, she is the founder and lead writer for SimpleWag, which focuses on holistic wellness and natural alternatives for dogs. She spends her days creating content, catching up on emails, and being bossed around by her 5 lb. Maltipoo, Baby Rose.