Human dandruff is a well-known phenomenon, but did you know dogs can get dandruff, too? Maybe you’ve noticed that your dog leaves little white flakes behind on the furniture, or that they may be scratching more than usual.
Just like us, our canine friends’ skin can get a little flaky, which may cause itchiness and irritation. In chronic cases, it can also be seen alongside increased sebum production and a thickening of the skin.
This condition also might discourage you from petting your dog, as no one wants to pet scaly skin. You might even feel like others are judging you for not taking care of your pet when they touch your dog! Let’s explore the potential causes of this unsightly condition and how to treat dog dandruff.
What is dandruff in dogs?
As in humans, canine dandruff is caused by flakes of dead skin, which then get stuck in the dog’s fur. Some more severe cases can even make it look like your dog just walked outside in a snowstorm!
Mild dandruff (a few flakes here and there) may be nothing to worry about and could be caused by environmental fluctuations like periods of temporary stress or dry winter air. In these cases, try our recommended general dandruff treatment regimen and see how your pooch responds. If other signs are seen alongside dandruff they may require medical attention.
When should I see my vet about my dog’s dandruff?
The most common symptom is areas of the skin that are dry and flaky (picture 1), but your dog might also have redness, scaling, greasy spots, scabs and/or thickened skin (picture 2). If this is the case, you should err on the side of caution and see your vet.
There are many potential underlying causes of dog dandruff that require professional attention. These include environmental or food allergies, poor diet, bacterial or fungal infections, parasites such as fleas, mites, and health conditions such as hypothyroidism or other endocrine disorders, and primary seborrhea.
If left untreated, some of these can lead to more serious problems, so it’s important to identify the culprit. While diagnosing the dandruff itself is quite straightforward, determining the cause can be trickier, and this is best left in the hands of your veterinarian.
Credit: Dr. Chiara Noli
Picture 1: Large scales on the dorsum of a dog
Credit: Dr. Mathieu Demoury
Picture 2: Large scales on a dog presenting with greasy seborrhea. Hair loss, darkening of the skin and redness are visible.
General dog dandruff treatment regimen
Many dogs with dandruff respond extremely well to a multi-pronged approach that includes the following:
Topical products to bring ingredients directly where needed
Topical products are essential to bringing ingredients directly to where they are needed. Some products contain seboregulating ingredients, which balance the skin’s sebum production and regulate skin cells for a more normal function to reduce dandruff. Sometimes excessive removal of grease can damage the skin barrier and alter epidermal hydration. We recommend using products like those in the DOUXO® S3 SEB line, which are specially formulated to reduce dandruff, excess sebum and unpleasant odor. DOUXO® S3 SEB products help maintain proper skin hydration and balance the skin’s microflora to help prevent bacterial and fungal overgrowth.
DOUXO® S3 SEB is available as a shampoo and mousse, which should be used in combination for a clinically-proven treatment regimen that tackles the problem on a cellular level. Mousse application through gentle massage will also allow you to spend quality time with your dog.
Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E supplements are inexpensive and easy to administer to your pup and help improve quality of the fur.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure to keep your pet free of mats and, in the case of non-shedding breeds, make sure they’re regularly seeing the groomer. Matted hair becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and parasites. Regular brushing can also help distribute your dog’s natural oils across their skin, helping to keep it supple and nourished.
Doggy dandruff: Identifying the cause to find the appropriate treatment and home remedies
When dandruff is more than a few flakes, it’s time for a vet visit to identify the underlying cause. Let’s take a look at some of the most common underlying causes your vet will check for and how they are diagnosed and treated:
Excessive bathing with an inappropriate shampoo
Your vet will ask you about what topical products you’re using on your pet, and you may be surprised to learn that not all shampoos work for dogs. If you’re using one that is not formulated for dogs, you’ll be asked to discontinue it and switch to a specially formulated shampoo as part of the general dandruff regimen we outlined above.
Depending on the season, your vet can determine whether this is a major underlying factor in your pet’s dandruff. If it is, using a humidifier and starting the general dandruff regimen is recommended.
Food allergies and environmental allergies
Based on your pet’s history, your vet may recommend allergy testing to pinpoint a particular allergen, such as a protein in the dog’s food or an allergen in the dog’s environment. Based on this test, you can eliminate the known allergens, switching foods and modifying the environment as needed. When the allergens are not as easy to control, you can use the general dandruff regime in addition to an allergy background treatment to help control allergy-related flakes.
Your vet can also help you determine if your pet’s diet needs to be changed to a higher-quality food. In addition, you may be asked to provide them with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E supplements, as part of the general dandruff regimen.
Bacterial/fungal infections or parasites
Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s skin and ask you whether your dog is up-to-date on their flea and tick preventative. They will probably also take a skin sample to check under the microscope for other pests, which can include mites, bacteria, and yeast. If any of these are found, they will prescribe the appropriate medications and topical treatments.
There are a range of conditions that can cause dandruff in dogs, such as endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. Your veterinarian may want to run some blood tests to determine if there is something more serious causing those flakes so they can appropriately treat the disease. Along with this treatment, you’ll also want to initiate the topical dandruff regimen to help your pup heal faster.
When nothing else seems to be causing your friend’s flakiness, they may be diagnosed with primary seborrhea, which is a keratinization disorder. This simply means that the way your dog’s skin cells grow, divide, and are exfoliated is not normal and leads to scaliness and dandruff. This disorder may be managed with the use of topical products like the ones we recommend for the general dog dandruff regimen.
Dog dandruff: Not a serious condition
The good news is that regular canine dandruff is relatively easy to treat. The main challenge is to find the underlying cause. Once that has been identified and treated, managing dandruff should be much easier. In animals for whom a cause couldn’t be determined, or one that is difficult to control, there are excellent products on the market to help get rid of flakes. With the right treatment plan, your pooch is sure to be feeling better in no time!
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