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Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Why do dogs get dandruff? If you've noticed a flaky substance on your pup's coat, you may find yourself asking this question. In this post, our Orange Park vets list potential causes for dandruff in dogs, along with tips for managing the condition.

Dog Dandruff

Similar to their people, dogs experience dandruff when dead skin cells flake off at a faster rate than usual. They then settle on your pet's fur or hair. In dogs, these dry flakes typically collect on the back (particularly near the tail). You may even notice them when scratching or petting your dog. 

The glands on your pooch's skin produce iul (sebum) that helps the skin remain hydrated and supple - just like a human's. However, if these glands produce an excessive amount of sebum, this can lead to imbalances and dandruff. Our canine friends can experience both types of seborrheic dermatitis: sebhorrhea sica (Dry) and seborrhea (oily). 

Why does my dog have dandruff?

Many potential factors can contribute to dandruff on dogs. Genetic conditions such as primary seborrhea are commonly diagnosed in Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds. Health-related and environmental factors can also lead to the condition. Dandruff is also not exclusive to any particular dog breed. 

While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some typical reasons those dry flakes can pile up. 


An allergic reaction to food or environmental triggers can trigger skin issues in dogs. If your four-legged friend is suffering from an allergy, they may experience itchiness and flakiness at various times of the year. Dandruff also typically accompanies other symptoms, such as recurring ear and skin infections 

Dry Air 

Our vets at Animal Friends Dermatology often find that dry, flaky skin on dogs becomes a common problem during the winter months. In areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of home warming, the issue can grow worse. Dogs are similar to their human counterparts in this way. If your pup seems to have flaky skin in the winter, dry air may be the cause. 

External Parasites

While dry skin may be making your dog itchy, numerous external parasites can also thrive on your dog's skin, which can also make your canine friend miserable.

An infamous parasite called the Cheyletiella mite is large enough to see without a microscope and looks very much like a white flake of dandruff - so much so that they are often referred to as 'Walking Dandruff'.

If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' are moving on their own, bring your dog to your vet for parasite prevention right away. Some parasites such as mites are easily transmittable to other pets living in your house. 

Hormonal Conditions 

Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, and other health conditions can impact your dog's skin health. Combined with a weakened immune system, these factors may increase your pup's vulnerability to secondary infections. 

Nutrition Issues

An unbalanced or inappropriate diet can negatively impact your dog's skin and coat health. To keep your pet's skin and hair at its best, it's important to integrate foods that contain fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s. Please ask your veterinarian to determine if your pet's diet includes all the required nutrients, or if any need to be added. 

Skin Infections

Bacterial and fungal skin infections may also lead to dandruff in dogs, as they often target weakness or damage in your pup's skin. These underlying conditions will need to be treated appropriately to treat the dandruff problem. 

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the reason behind your dog's dandruff cannot be determined, it might be labeled as 'idiopathic.' This means that although the treatment for dry and scaly skin in dogs can work, the root cause might remain unknown. Your veterinarian can provide you with further guidance on how to handle your pet's situation.

Dandruff can be bothersome and uncomfortable for dogs, but if it's mild or seasonal, it's generally not a major concern. However, if your furry friend displays dry, flaky skin along with other symptoms, it's best to take them to the vet for a physical examination.

  • 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. 

Dog Dandruff: Tips for Treatment & Management

Fortunately, milder cases of dog dandruff can be remedied at home, with guidance from your primary veterinarian. You can also use 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 and bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; follow the instructions carefully. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could make the dandruff worse!
  • 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.

If your dog has a more serious case of dandruff, your veterinarian can refer you to one of our board-certified veterinary dermatologists in Orange Park for diagnosis and treatment.

We are experienced in treating problems with the skin, coat, and nails in cats and dogs. A veterinary dermatologist can examine your four-legged friend, order in-house diagnostic tests to pinpoint the cause of their discomfort, and develop a custom treatment plan that may include medicated shampoo and conditioner, prescription medications, or environmental changes.

If your pet has dandruff or another serious condition that's affecting their hair, coat or skin, ask your vet about a referral. Our veterinary dermatologists will work with your primary care vet to ensure your pet receives the best possible care. 

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Animal Friends Dermatology is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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