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 Los Angeles vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs.
Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?
They absolutely do! Dogs, like their human counterparts, get dandruff when dead skill cells flake off at a faster rate than usual, settling on the fur or hair on your pet's body. These dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back of dogs (especially near the tail), and you may notice them while petting or scratching your dog.
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?
Dandruff can affect any breed of dog, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic conditions (e.g., primary seborrhea, seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels), but it is most often caused by factors affecting the dog's environment or health.
Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:
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.
Dogs may itch as a result of dry skin, but there are also a variety of external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and cause them great distress. Parasites that are well-known Cheyletiella mites are large enough to be seen without a microscope and resemble white flakes of dandruff, thus the nickname 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' start moving on their own, see your vet right away for parasite prevention. Some parasites (such as mites) are easily passed on to other pets in the home.
The skin and coat of your dog can be impacted by an improper or unbalanced diet. Foods containing fatty acids (such as omega-3s and omega-6s) are crucial to maintaining the health of your pet's skin and hair, but only your veterinarian is qualified to tell you if your pet needs additional nutrients.
Dog dandruff can also be brought on by skin bacterial and fungal infections because they are skilled at exploiting cracks or weaknesses in your dog's skin. For the dandruff problem to be resolved, these underlying conditions must be properly treated.
One of the initial symptoms of an allergy to a food or something in your dog's environment is typically skin problems. In addition to other symptoms like recurrent ear and skin infections, dogs with allergies may become flakier and itchier at different times of the year. Dandruff is also commonly present.
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 dandruff is annoying and can be uncomfortable for many dogs, it is usually not a cause for concern if it is mild or seasonal. If your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin in addition to these symptoms, take him or her to the vet for a physical examination:
- 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.