You might be familiar with the itchy, irritating symptoms that come along with dandruff. No matter how much you itch your scalp, you can’t seem to find relief. Dandruff is common in humans, so much so that companies have special lines of dandruff products. What pet owners may not realize is how commonly dandruff may also occur in our dogs and cats.
That’s right. Dog dandruff is a real thing and it can be really 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 too much about what others think. 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 terms ‘seborrhea’ and ‘dandruff’ are often used interchangeably, however, seborrhea is actually one cause of dandruff.
Fido may either have primary or secondary seborrhea.
Primary seborrhea is not commonly seen 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 have dandruff. One of the most common reasons for dandruff is 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 a leading cause of dry skin. We’ll discuss more on that momentarily.
Endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, may also be underlying causes of dandruff. Furthermore, skin infections, bacterial or fungal, can also cause dandruff. One way to figure out the underlying cause of dandruff is to determine whether it’s all over the body or localized in one area.
Other causes of dandruff include:
- Yeast infections
- Internal parasites
- External parasites
- Diet abnormalities
- External environmental factors such as temperature and humidity levels
Dandruff Caused By the 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 conditions such as dandruff.
In the winter months, humidity levels are significantly decreased. This drop in humidity means a lack of moisture in the air, as well as in your dog’s coat, hair, and skin. The reduced moisture will cause some dogs to itch and scratch uncontrollably, thus leading to flaky, dry skin.
Your dog may also have dandruff during the spring and summer months, particularly if they are affected by seasonal environmental allergies.
Another potential cause of dandruff in dogs is the lack of 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 cleaning will help to minimize infections or infestations. Something that dog owners can do on a regular basis is brushing. Brushing your dog will keep their coat lubricated with its natural oils. This is especially important during the winter months.
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 have Cheyletiellosis or “walking dandruff.” Cheyletiellosis is caused by the Cheyletiella mite. Cheyletiella mites are usually hidden on the dog’s skin and coat where they lay their eggs. As you may imagine, walking dandruff is incredibly irritating to your dog.
Furthermore, if your dog has severe dandruff, it may be a sign of a more serious, underlying issue.
For this reason, we encourage you to seek veterinary intervention if your dog’s dandruff appears to be more severe than typical flaky skin. It could be a sign of an infection that may require antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms of Dog Dandruff
Dog dandruff can show up as dry, flaky skin, or oily, flaky skin. Whether a dog has dry dandruff or oily dandruff is usually 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 persistent scratching and itching. Additionally, you might find scabs, bumps, or raised pimples around your dog’s dandruff.
Breeds with a Predisposition for Oily Dandruff
There are certain breeds that are predisposed to developing oily dandruff. These breeds include:
- Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Labrador Retrievers
- West Highland White Terriers
Breeds with a Predisposition for Dry Dandruff
There are certain breeds that are predisposed to developing dry dandruff. These breeds include:
- German Shepherds
- Irish Setters
Of course, any dog of any breed can be affected by dandruff for one reason or another.
How To Treat Dandruff
There are several ways that dog owners can both treat dandruff, and prevent its development in the first place.
To be able to treat your dog’s dandruff effectively and appropriately, you’ll need to correctly identify the underlying cause of the irritated, itchy skin. For this reason, you may need to see your veterinarian, as your dog may have an underlying infection. Additionally, if significant hair loss accompanies the constant itching, your pup may have a different condition, such as Cushing’s disease. In such cases, 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 to clear up the issue without the need for antibiotics.
You should ensure that your dogs are regularly groomed and their cleanliness is maintained. Regular brushing and shampoo baths are imperative for keeping your dog’s skin and coat free from harmful contaminants. Furthermore, regular brushing will also promote natural oil production and remove dead skin cells, and thereby help to prevent irritation and dandruff.
First and foremost, when bathing your dog, you must use a shampoo that is specifically formulated for dogs (this is true for both medicated shampoo and regular 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 treat their dandruff. Many brands have specially formulated dog dandruff shampoos that will effectively treat Fido’s itchy, flaky skin.
The next thing to consider is whether Fido is suffering from oily 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. Your vet could recommend a shampoo based on whether your dog has mild scaling with no oiliness; moderate to marked scaling with mild oiliness (which is common); moderate to marked scaling with moderate oiliness; or mild scaling with marked oiliness.
Be Careful To Avoid Excessive Baths
Furthermore, we want to mention that your dog should not receive baths too often. 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. Generally, 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. However, confirm with your vet how often your dog should have a bath to relieve the irritation associated with dandruff.
Again, be sure not to over bathe as this can dry out your dog’s skin and ultimately cause 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 relieve almost any ailment you can think of. While at the pet store, check their selection of pet oils that can help replenish moisture in your dog’s dry skin. Replenishing fluids with 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 the importance of your dog’s diet. Consider what your dog is currently eating. Does it have the necessary amount of essential fatty acids? Many dog foods are not as nutritionally balanced as they should be. Your dog’s diet could be a major 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 an allergy to their current diet. If this is the case, pet owners will have to use the trial and error strategy 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 the incorporation of a species-appropriate, raw food diet. This should ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
As we previously mentioned, the winter months typically have low humidity levels that can also affect your dog. Dog owners may want to consider purchasing a humidifier, particularly for the area in which your dog sleeps. The increased humidity in the air will help to retain moisture in your dog’s skin and coat. This moisture can significantly help to 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 proven to be safe and effective in treating dog dandruff. However, all dogs react differently to new components in their routine. 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 dog may show no signs of sensitivity whatsoever. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to Fido.
Coconut Oil and Olive Oil
Both coconut oil and olive oil are great natural moisturizers for itchy skin. However, they should be used differently. Regarding olive oil, dog owners can rub it into their pet’s 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 of 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 contains 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 is also very soothing for irritated, flaky skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Similar to the aforementioned lime juice rinse, apple cider vinegar rinse can also help to control itching, irritated skin, and dandruff. Like the lime juice rinse, dog owners should mix equal parts of 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 magnesia has been a natural remedy used in both humans and animals for many, many years. Dog owners can apply it directly onto their dog’s coat, let it soak 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 restore healthy skin. The first step to doing so is determining the underlying cause of the dog’s dandruff. From that point, pet owners can effectively work to ease the discomfort. We wish you the best of luck in ridding your furry companion of dog dandruff.