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Dog Dandruff: Causes and Treatments
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Dog Dandruff: Causes and Treatments

Jack, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 15, 2020

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Dog dandruff is a build-up of dead skin on a dog's fur. Like people, dogs have sensitive skin that is easily irritated, which could lead to dandruff or other skin issues. Dandruff is most often a secondary condition and a sign of a bigger issue with your dog's health. Any change in your dog's skin or coat warrants a trip to the vet, especially since flakes could be a sign of an underlying illness.

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1

What is dog dandruff?

itchy dog dandruff easy_riderka / Getty Images

Dog dandruff is not unlike the kind people experience. Dandruff is dead skin cell build-up that appears as white flakes on your dog's coat. dandruff flakes may not be visible, depending on the color of your dog's fur. However, you will often spot of dandruff on their dog bed, blankets they like to sleep on, or when you're petting them. Dandruff has many causes, including dietary issues, allergies, or dry skin.

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Symptoms of dog dandruff

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While white flakes are an obvious sign of dandruff, they are not the only symptom. There are two kinds of dandruff in dogs: oily and dry. Dogs with dry dandruff have dry, itchy, and sometimes painful patches of skin. They might lose their fur, and their skin sometimes darkens. Oily dandruff is the result of the skin giving off a greasy substance that looks similar to wax. Dogs often have an unpleasant smell and may have blackheads on their skin.

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Dandruff may be a sign of seborrhea

vet checking dog's skin razyph / Getty Images

Seborrhea is a medical condition where new skin cells travel to the surface too fast. Because these cells are weak, they flake away and cause dandruff. Another symptom of seborrhea is an oily looking coat. The exact cause is unknown, but certain breeds are prone to seborrhea, suggesting a genetic link.

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Walking dandruff

dog scratching on grass MRBIG_PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images

Known as "walking dandruff," cheyletiella mites live on a dog's skin and coat. Because the mites are big enough to see with the naked eye and look similar to flakes of skin, people often mistake them for dandruff. These pesky mites make dogs extraordinarily itchy and uncomfortable. There are several treatments available in oral, injectable, and topical forms.

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A poor diet can cause dandruff

dog drinking water Przemysław Iciak / Getty Images

Dog dandruff often results from an unhealthy diet lacking in essential nutrients omega 3 and 6. Likewise, protein and vitamin A are crucial in regulating skin cell growth and oil production. Dogs need lots of water to keep their coat healthy because a dehydrated dog will have dry skin flakes.

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Health conditions

dog at the vet Kerkez / Getty Images

Sometimes dandruff is a sign of an underlying health condition. Problems like hyper- and hypothyroidism and certain auto-immune diseases can cause dandruff, which is why you should consult a veterinarian when you notice a change in your dog's skin or coat. Early diagnosis and medication can control many of these conditions and help clear up their dandruff.

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How to treat dandruff

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Treating a dog's dandruff depends on the primary cause. If you see a few flakes, it is likely nothing to worry about. There are some things you can do at home to relieve your dog's symptoms, like improved diet and adding a humidifier to the house. However, excessively dry, flaking skin warrants a trip to the vet.

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Grooming as dandruff treatment and prevention

dog being groomed chee gin tan / Getty Images

Brush your dog once a day to help distribute natural oils through their coat. Brushing also stimulates blood flow to the skin and regulates oil production. Brush gently and be careful of dry areas that might be sore. You should also wash their brush between sessions to remove any bacteria or skin cells.

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Shampoos for dog dandruff

dog shampoo for dandruff fotoedu / Getty Images

If your dog has dandruff, there are special shampoos designed to moisturize and soothe their skin. They are soap-free and have no harsh chemicals that might irritate the skin. Keep in mind that anti-dandruff shampoos for people are too harsh and not suitable for dogs. Instead, ask your vet to recommend something. You don't want to bathe your dog too frequently, or it could make dry skin worse.

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Supplements for dandruff

Pet owner's hand reaching out to give his dog a pill / tablet. Cunaplus_M.Faba / Getty Images

Giving your dog an omega-3 fatty acid supplement promotes skin health and prevents dandruff. Check with your veterinarian before starting anything new to be sure it is safe. These supplements come in both liquid and capsule form, so your dog won't have any trouble swallowing it, and the liquid may be flavored. Dietary supplements should never replace a balanced diet, but they can improve your dog's dandruff when combined with healthy food.

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