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How To Get Rid Of Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Is your dog leaving white flakes on their favorite spot on the couch? This could be a sign of dandruff, indicating potential health issues. Join our San Mateo vets to explore signs and treatments for canine dandruff.

Do Dogs get dandruff?

Yes, they certainly do! Much like their human companions, dogs develop dandruff when dead skin cells flake off at a higher rate than usual, settling on their fur or hair. Dry flakes in dogs tend to accumulate primarily on the back, especially near the tail, and you may observe them while petting or scratching your dog.

Similar to human skin, a dog's skin possesses glands that produce oil (sebum) to keep the skin moisturized and supple. If these glands produce an excess of sebum, it can result in imbalances and the occurrence of dandruff. Dogs can undergo both types of seborrheic dermatitis: dry seborrhea sicca and oily seborrhea.

Causes of Dog Dandruff 

Dandruff can affect any dog breed and may result from various causes, including genetic conditions like primary seborrhea, observed in breeds such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels. However, factors influencing the dog's environment or health often play a significant role.

While not an exhaustive list, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Dogs, like their human families, are more susceptible to dry skin during winter months, especially in areas where central ('forced') heat serves as the primary source of home warming, exacerbating the issue. If you notice your dog experiencing flakiness in winter, dry air may be the culprit.

External Parasites

Dry skin may cause dogs to itch, but several external parasites can inhabit your dog's skin, causing significant discomfort. The notorious Cheyletiella mites, visible to the naked eye and resembling white dandruff flakes, are nicknamed 'Walking Dandruff.' If you observe your dog's 'dandruff flakes' moving independently, promptly consult your vet for parasite prevention. Certain parasites, such as mites, can easily spread to other pets within the household.

Nutrition Issues

An unbalanced or improper diet can impact your dog's skin and coat. To maintain your pet's skin and hair health, prioritize foods rich in fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s. However, it is essential to consult your veterinarian to determine if your pet needs supplemental nutrients.

Skin Infections

Skin bacterial and fungal infections can also cause dandruff on your dog, as they can take advantage of damage or weaknesses in your dog's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue. 


Skin problems are usually one of the first signs of an allergic reaction to food or something in your dog's environment. Dogs with allergies may be flakier and itchier at different times of the year, and dandruff usually appears alongside other symptoms like recurring ear and skin infections. 

Hormonal Conditions

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 your dog's dandruff cause remains undetermined, veterinarians may categorize it as 'idiopathic.' While treatment can effectively address the symptoms of dry, flaky skin in dogs, identifying the underlying cause may prove elusive. Consult your vet for more guidance on managing your pet's condition.

While mild or seasonal dandruff is typically not a cause for concern and may be merely annoying or uncomfortable for many dogs, it becomes imperative to seek veterinary attention if your pet displays signs of dry, flaky skin along with these symptoms. Head to the vet for a thorough physical examination in such cases.

  • 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, including further diagnostic testing to confirm any issues such as underlying health problems, allergic reactions, or potential parasites. 

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

Fortunately, you can treat most milder cases of dog dandruff at home by following instructions and guidelines from your primary vet, along with these helpful tips:

  • Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and remove 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 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you've observed your dog scratching excessively or noticed white flakes on your furniture, they may be experiencing dandruff. Reach out to our vets in San Mateo today to schedule an appointment.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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