Wait, wait — dogs can get dandruff?
Yep, you heard us correctly: Dogs, like their human friends, ARE susceptible to this annoying, uncomfortable skin condition.
Dandruff, technically referred to as seborrhea, is a common skin condition for dogs that is caused by dry skin. Dander is more noticeable on dark coats than on light ones, so if your pet has white or blonde fur, pay attention when you brush or bathe him.
What Exactly Is Dandruff?
Dandruff is made up of dead skin cells that fall from the skin. When it clumps together, it looks like white flakes. It’s cute in a snow globe, but not on your dog!
You might also notice scabs or bumps accompanying the flaky skin, and your dog might be scratching himself more than normal. Look for thinning or balding patches on the coat, as these might indicate a severe dandruff problem.
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What Kinds of Dogs Get Dandruff?
All dog breeds are susceptible to dandruff, but some are more prone to this condition than others. Small dandruff-prone breeds include West Highland terriers, Scottish terriers, fox terriers, Cairn terriers, schnauzers and pugs.
Larger dandruff-prone breeds include dalmatians, English and Irish setters, retrievers, poodles, bulldogs and pit bull terriers.
What Causes Dandruff in Dogs?
As with humans, dandruff can be a result of many factors in your dog’s health. Here are a few possibilities:
- Allergies: Common allergens range from dust and pollens to household cleaners to certain foods. Sometimes an allergen will cause a topical reaction — that is, a reaction only where the allergen directly touches your dog. And sometimes an allergen can affect areas it doesn’t even touch.
- Chyletiella mites: Also referred to as “walking dandruff,” these white mites make themselves comfortable in a dog’s skin and coat while they lay eggs. They make life pretty miserable for your dog.
- Fungal skin infections/bacteria: If your dog has an underlying skin condition, it could affect her whole body instead of a localized area.
- Low humidity: If you live in an especially dry area, the air in your home might be stripping your dog’s skin of moisture, which means he will scratch her itchy skin very frequently. Scratching will only worsen existing skin conditions.
- Poor diet: If your dog isn’t getting enough water to drink or enough vitamins, minerals and fat from his food, her coat will probably suffer.
Okay, So How Do I Fix It?
- Bathing: Regular baths will help wash away the dandruff before it can accumulate in your dog’s coat. In the winter, one bath a month will suffice; in summer, two baths a month should keep your dog’s coat healthy and clean. Make sure you use warm water and a mild shampoo, and that you thoroughly rinse and dry your dog.
- Dandruff shampoo (for dogs): There are plenty of pet shampoos that are specifically designed to prevent and eliminate dandruff. The active ingredient will be either sulfur or salicylic acid. Keep in mind that a dandruff shampoo designed for humans will be too harsh for your dog, so a dollop of Head & Shoulders is NOT a good idea.
- Improve your dog’s diet: Switch to a high-quality brand of pet food that contains enough fat (the good kind, not just bacon grease!), and consider investing in a good nutritional supplement. Put several water dishes throughout the house so that your dog will always have access to fresh water.
- Oatmeal magic: People with dry skin often use an oatmeal bath or oatmeal soap to help relieve itching and get rid of dandruff. The same thing will work for your dog. The easiest way to do this is to use an oatmeal shampoo, which is “particularly effective on dry skin,” according to Bud Stuart, DVM. You can buy the highly recommended Viva La Spa oatmeal dog shampoo direct from Pets Adviser. There’s a conditioner too.
- Brushing: Treat your dog to a good brushing once a day. This helps distribute the natural oils from his coat and massage his skin, which promotes oil production.
- See your vet: Your veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose your dog and give you good pointers for treatment and prevention. If your dog is suffering from allergies, for example, your vet might prescribe a topical ointment, antihistamines or fish oil capsules. If the allergen can be avoided or eliminated, that’s probably the best route to take.
The most important thing to remember when treating dog dandruff is that you want your pet to be comfortable and healthy. Ten minutes of your time could make a big difference in the way he feels, so be consistent and regular with your treatments. Pretty soon, he’ll be itch-free.
Is your dog suffering from dandruff? Tell me about it in the comments section below. You might also want to check out another Pets Adviser article, Why Is My Dog Scared of Hair Clippers? If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s popular email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll also be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls: Learn more here.
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This featured contribution was written by Samaiyah Islam, a recent college graduate and public relations professional who writes about pet health care on behalf of Pet Medical Center of Edmond.