Do Dogs Get Dandruff?

One of the things I try to do with my dogs is to keep their coat shiny, beautiful, and clean. I’ve had different dogs over the years, and this task is easier with some than with others.

For example, I had a Jack Russel Terrier who loved digging holes and rolling around in them. Keeping her clean was not easy, although her short coat did make the task a little less problematic.

The other day, I was thinking about dogs and keeping them clean thanks to a question I overheard someone ask at my local big-box pet store. 

The customer in question was concerned that their dog had a condition that affects many humans, one many people don’t think occurs with dogs and puppies; dandruff. The question they asked was simply this; do dogs get dandruff?

The answer, unfortunately, is that yes, dogs do get dandruff. Typically, dogs and puppies get dandruff on their back, plus their face and flanks. (Not on their heads like humans).

Dandruff (aka seborrheic dermatitis) is more alarming for the embarrassment it causes than any health risk. Also, it’s usually manageable and (relatively) easy to eradicate. With a little bit of effort, time, and patience, your dog’s coat will return to its normal, healthy look and shine.

Now that you know dogs do get dandruff, I’m betting you have other questions about the condition, including what causes dandruff on dogs, how do you get rid of dandruff on a puppy, and what does dog dandruff look like?

For the answers to those questions and several more, please continue reading. I’ve got them for you below and some real-world tips and advice that will be very helpful to you as a pet parent. 

What Causes Dandruff on Dogs? 

Several different things can cause dandruff on dogs and puppies. To treat your dog’s dandruff correctly, you’ll first need to determine what’s causing it. Some of the most common dog dandruff causes include:

Primary Seborrhea

This condition is usually seen when skin cells migrate towards the surface layer of a dog’s skin more than normal. This process, called keratinization, is when new layers of skin replace old outer layers, which happens at a particular pace.

When a dog or puppy has primary seborrhea, however, the rate of keratinization occurs too quickly and produces more dead skin cells than normal, which then fall off and cause what we know as dandruff.

One important note about primary seborrhea is that it’s genetic, which means it’s passed down from dogs to puppies. The dog breeds with the highest rate of this condition include West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and Doberman Pinschers.

Nutrient deficiencies 

Like humans, your puppy and dog require many nutrients to ensure their skin stays healthy. Dandruff will usually result if they don’t get them, especially essential fatty acids.

It’s important to remember that puppies can’t synthesize omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; thus, they need to get them from their diet. They also need to eat high-quality, highly digestible protein. It can lead to dry skin and, eventually, dandruff when they don’t.

Hormonal Imbalances

Dogs and puppies, like humans, have several different hormones in charge of keeping their bodies, organs and other systems healthy. Thyroid and cortisol hormones are essential, for example, in keeping your dog’s metabolism healthy.

If your puppy has a hormone imbalance, the imbalance can lead to pathological changes in their skin which, over time, can cause scaling and then dandruff.

An autoimmune condition called pemphigus also causes inflammation and the same type of scaling and dandruff. Pemphigus causes your pup’s body to have an immune (i.e., attack) response to their own skin, which can be very problematic.

Lastly, some dogs can suffer from allergic dermatitis due to an imbalance of hormones. This can then cause dandruff due to chronic skin inflammation.

Too Many Baths

While it’s essential to keep your puppy’s coat and skin clean, bathing them too often is not good. The thing is, every time you give your dog a bath, you remove dirt and grime but also valuable oils that protect their skin. 

Ask your veterinarian or a trusted pet groomer if you’re not sure how often you should bathe your puppy.

Stress

Although relatively uncommon, if your dog suffers from high stress or anxiety, it can cause them to have dandruff.

Fleas, Lice, and Parasites

If your puppy suffers from an infestation of fleas, lice, or skin parasites, it can cause severe skin inflammation. If it’s not treated right away, the information will cause scaling, leading to dandruff.

Mange Is another problem caused by an infestation of mites. Mange can cause excessive oil in your puppy’s skin, which leads to hair loss, scaling, flaking, and, if left untreated, dandruff.

Symptoms of Dog Dandruff

There are several dead giveaways that your dog has dandruff, including the traditional small, white flakes of dead skin that you will typically see on their fur or hair.

Even if you don’t see them on your dog, you will often find dead flakes of skin on your pup’s bedding, around their crate, and, if they’re allowed, on your furniture.

If you find your puppy is constantly licking itself, scratching, or biting its skin, that can also be a sign of dandruff.

In cases of severe dandruff, you will see severe inflammation and redness on your pup’s skin and often a noticeable amount of hair loss. Some dogs have it so badly you will also notice a very nasty odor where the problem is affecting them the worst.

Remember, in most cases, dandruff is a secondary issue caused by another underlying problem. To stop their dandruff, treating the root problem is essential rather than treating the dandruff itself.

What Does Dog Dandruff Look Like?

Like human dandruff, dog dandruff appears as tiny, whitish flakes. Depending on your dog’s skin or fur, these tiny white flakes might be easy to see, or they might not be. However, if your dog has a bad dandruff case, you will almost always see them on their bedding, rugs, and other upholstered items.

How Do you Get Rid of Dandruff on a Dog?

As I mentioned earlier, any treatment you choose to solve your dog or puppy’s dandruff should be based on the primary condition causing dandruff in the first place.

For example, if your pup has dandruff because of allergies, you may need to see your veterinarian and get their advice to determine the best course of allergy treatment.

If a skin infection is causing your puppy’s dandruff, identifying the infection and then treating it with topical antiseptics will typically take care of the problem.

You should treat a problem with fleas, lice, and parasites the way all of those nasty critters are treated. Typically that’s done with shampoos and medications that kill the offender and prevent them from causing the problem again.

Home Remedies for Dog Dandruff and Itching

Below are several remedies you can use at home to help your puppy’s dandruff problem. 

  • If your puppy’s dandruff problem is caused by unhealthy skin, supplementing their diet with Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients can help.
  • Very dry skin can cause a dandruff problem in puppies and dogs. If that’s what’s causing your puppy’s dandruff problem, using a humidifier can’t be very helpful.
  • Feeding your puppy a balanced diet is essential for their overall health and to prevent skin problems that cause dandruff. 
  • Giving your puppy or dog a bath with an oatmeal shampoo can reduce their inflammation, moisturize their skin and, in time, reduce their dandruff problem.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, dogs and puppies do get dandruff. As we’ve seen today, several different underlying conditions, disorders, and other factors can cause a dog or puppy to have dandruff. 

In most cases, you will need to treat the primary condition to get rid of their dandruff. Depending on the cause, solving your puppy’s dandruff problem can be relatively easy or more involved.

I hope today’s blog on dogs and dandruff answered all of your questions and gave you the information you were looking for. If you have more questions or would like to learn more about how to raise your puppy, please see my other blogs. 

I do my best to load all my blogs with real-world information that will help you to keep your puppy healthy and raise them into a happy, well-adjusted adult dog. Until next time, treasure this fleeting time with your precious puppy!