Do dogs get dandruff? Yes, they can. You may have noticed the not-so-welcome flakes sitting atop your precious pup's fur during your last grooming session.1 Just like people, dogs can develop dandruff—although rather than on their heads, pet dandruff tends to show up on a dog's back, face and flanks.
Are white flakes hanging around your home and dog a nuisance? Absolutely! But there's no need for alarm or panic when dealing with pet dandruff. In most cases, dandruff is very manageable. With a bit of determination and patience, you can help your dog's coat regain its healthy look and feel.
Dandruff is fairly common in pets, but it's important to discover its origins so you can accurately assess and rid your pet of annoying flakes. (If you're curious for heady, scientific details, the official name for doggy dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis or seborrhea for short. Wow—that's a mouthful!)
Before we dive into the various ways you can rid your pet of the flaky nuisance, let's first discuss the leading causes and symptoms associated with pet dandruff.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Dandruff?
Pet dandruff is pretty easy to detect. It appears as small, white flakes that cling to your dog's fur. These flakes can also fall off and attach to bedding, upholstery and a variety of other household items.
Another giveaway that your dog might have dandruff is if she's constantly licking, scratching or biting her skin. Occasionally, if a more severe issue is present, you might also notice redness, hair loss and even a foul odor near affected areas. While dandruff in itself isn't harmful, it's definitely unsightly. Dandruff tends to be a secondary issue, so it's essential to get to the root of the problem and treat the underlying cause—not just the dandruff.
Why Does My Dog Have Dandruff?
Dandruff appears when your dog's sebaceous glands over-produce an oil called sebum. This oil helps keep your precious pup's skin moist and healthy. However, when the sebaceous glands produce too much oil, it causes an imbalance, which in turn causes dandruff. Your dog's dandruff comes in two forms: dry (seborrhea sicca) and oily (seborrhea oleosa). And it can occur for several reasons:
- Bacterial and fungal infections take advantage of a dog's compromised immunity.
- An unbalanced diet can decrease essential nutrients needed for a healthy coat and overall health—including obesity in some cases.
- Seasonal or environmental allergies can cause dryness of the skin.
- Stress can present in a variety of ways, including dandruff.
- Grooming activities, like too much bathing. Every dog requires bathing from time to time, but probably not as often as you might think.2 Many dog breeds can lose valuable oils in their skin due to over-bathing, so be sure to ask your vet what an appropriate bathtime schedule is for your dog's make and model.
How Can I Help Keep My Dog's Skin and Coat Healthy?
In many cases, your dog's dandruff is simply a symptom of dry skin caused by weather or seasonal shedding. You can prevent or remove this type of dandruff with a few simple changes to your grooming routine.
- Grooming 101. Brush your pup regularly with an appropriate brush or comb to help keep the skin and coat healthy and shiny, which may prevent dandruff in the first place. If your pup does have dandruff, the brush and comb will help remove the flakes.
- Shampooing. Sometimes the shampoo you use dries out your pup's skin. Be sure to choose a shampoo that doesn't strip your dog's coat of natural oils,3 and avoid using human shampoos because human hair care products aren't formulated for a dog's pH levels. Try a gentle formula like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Foaming Shampoo & Wash for Dogs & Puppies or Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor. Both soothe your dog's skin and coat and keep them healthy. Plus, the shampoos prevent flea reinfestations for 28 days.
- Oatmeal baths. Oatmeal baths are a well-known treatment for dandruff and are easy to do at home. Mix 1 cup of uncooked, finely-ground oatmeal, 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1 quart of warm water in a large bowl. Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Wet your dog with warm water, slowly add the oatmeal mixture and lather as you would shampoo. Allow the mixture to sit on your dog's skin for several minutes before rinsing.
- Humidifiers. Do you live in a dry climate, or is there less moisture in the home (often in the winter)? Try a humidifier; they add moisture back into the environment, which will help the skin from drying out. A humidifier is not only good for your dog, but it will benefit you as well—your hair and skin will definitely thank you.
If the above suggestions don't seem to help your dog's skin and coat, it may be time to consult a professional. Your vet may prescribe a new dog food or even vitamin supplements, depending on the root cause. A quick once-over by the vet and a possible blood draw can help properly diagnose the issue, which helps formulate an appropriate treatment plan. If you don't currently have a family vet, finding someone you can trust with your furry friend is important. Remember, a caring veterinarian wants to partner with you to ensure your pup's health and happiness.
Now that you have a better understanding of pet dandruff, you should be able to assess your pet's needs better. Diagnosing and treating your dog's dandruff can be RUFF, but you can handle it! Now that you know what to look for, grab your favorite grooming tool and enjoy some one-on-one time with your favorite pup. Your time together can be both enjoyable and productive. Skin and coat care may not be the last step in ridding your furry friend of dandruff, but it's a step in the right direction.
1. Xu, Elizabeth. "5 Ways to Treat Dog Dandruff." PetMD, 14 October, 2020, https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/5-ways-treat-dog-dandruff#slide-1.
2. Tips for How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff and Dog Dandruff." PetMD, 9 January, 2019, https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/evr_multi_dandruff_free_pet
3. Jamieson, Amy. "Dog Dandruff: Causes, Symptoms and How to Get Rid of It." Care.com, 15 March, 2019, https://www.care.com/c/stories/6309/7-home-remedies-for-dog-dandruff