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Why does my dog have dandruff?

Why does my dog have dandruff?

Is your dog leaving white flakes on the couch or in your bed? It could be dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Our Grants Pass vets can help you understand and treat dog dandruff.

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Yes, they do! Dogs get dandruff when dead skin cells flake off faster than usual, landing on their fur. These dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back of dogs (especially near the tail), and you may notice them while petting or scratching your dog.

Your dog's skin, like humans, has glands that produce iul (sebum), which helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands produce too much sebum, it can cause imbalances and dandruff. Dogs are susceptible to both types of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea (oily).

Why do dogs get dandruff?

Dandruff can affect any dog breed due to various factors. These include genetic conditions (like primary seborrhea, seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels) but are more commonly linked to the dog's environment or health. 

Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like us. Homes with central heating can worsen the issue. If your dog seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

Dogs may itch as a result of dry skin, but there are also a variety of external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and cause them great distress. Parasites that are well-known Cheyletiella mites are large enough to be seen without a microscope and resemble white flakes of dandruff, thus the nickname 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' start moving on their own, see your vet right away for parasite prevention. Some parasites (such as mites) are easily passed on to other pets in the home.

Nutrition Issues

Your dog's skin and coat can suffer if their diet isn't right. Foods containing fatty acids (such as omega-3s and omega-6s) are crucial to maintaining the health of your pet's skin and hair. Still, only your veterinarian is qualified to tell you if your pet needs additional nutrients.

Skin Infections

Skin infection caused by bacteria or fungi can lead to dandruff in dogs. These infections take advantage of weak spots in the skin. Treating these underlying problems is necessary to get rid of dandruff.  


One of the initial symptoms of an allergy to a food or something in your dog's environment is typically skin problems. In addition to other symptoms like recurrent ear and skin infections, dogs with allergies may become flakier and itchier at different times of the year. Dandruff is also commonly present.

Hormonal Conditions

Conditions like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can affect your dog's skin health. These, along with a weaker immune system, can make them more prone to other infections. 

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

When the reason for your dog's dandruff isn't clear, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dry, flaky skin in dogs can be effective, the underlying cause may not be identified. Your vet can give you advice on managing this.

Although dandruff is annoying and can be uncomfortable for many dogs, it is usually not a cause for concern if it is mild or seasonal. If your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin in addition to these symptoms, take him or her to the vet for a physical examination:

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

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

Luckily, most milder cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home with a combination of instructions and guidelines from your primary vet and 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 as well as bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; carefully follow the directions. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could aggravate the dandruff!
  • 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 your dog's skin is dry and flaky, reach out to our Grants Pass vets to schedule a checkup today! Our vet team will work to help your furry friend feel better. 

Specialty Vets at Lincoln Road Veterinary Clinic

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