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Why does my dog have dandruff?

Has your pooch been leaving behind white flakes on their favorite spot on the couch? Your canine companion might have dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Join our Murfreesboro vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs. 

Do Dogs Really Get Dandruff?

Indeed, they do! Similar to humans, dogs can develop dandruff due to dead skill cells flaking off more quickly than usual and landing on their fur or body hair. You might notice these dry flakes when you pet or scratch your dog because they tend to collect on the back of dogs, particularly near the tail.

Your dog's skin, like yours, 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?

Any breed of dog can get dandruff, and it can be brought on by a number of things, such as genetic conditions (like primary seborrhea, which affects Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels), but the most common causes are things that have an impact on the dog's environment or health.

These are a few frequent, albeit non-exhaustive, causes of dog dandruff:

Dry Air

Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like their human families; in areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

In addition to external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and cause them great distress, dry skin can also cause itching in dogs. Well-known Cheyletiella mite parasites are large enough to be seen without a microscope and have a dandruff-like appearance, hence their nickname, "Walking Dandruff." See your veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent parasites if your dog's "dandruff flakes" begin to move on their own. Certain parasites, like mites, can spread quickly to other household pets.

Nutrition Issues

An incorrect or unbalanced diet can affect your dog's skin and coat. The health of your pet's skin and hair depends on foods high in fatty acids, especially omega-3s and omega-6s. However, only your veterinarian is qualified to determine whether your pet needs extra nutrition.

Skin Infections

Because skin bacteria and fungi are adept at taking advantage of holes or weaknesses in your dog's skin, they can also cause dog dandruff. It is necessary to appropriately treat these underlying conditions in order to solve the dandruff issue.


Skin issues are usually one of the first signs of an allergy in your dog, either to a food or something in his surroundings. Dogs with allergies may exhibit additional symptoms such as recurrent skin and ear infections, as well as seasonal changes in fuzziness and itching. Also frequently seen is dandruff.

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 the cause of your dog's dandruff cannot be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dry, flaky skin on dogs can be effective, the underlying cause may not be identified. Your veterinarian can provide you with more information on how to manage your pet's condition.

Dog dandruff can be uncomfortable and bothersome, but if it is mild or seasonal, it usually isn't a reason for alarm. In addition to these symptoms, if your pet displays dry, flaky skin, take them 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 removes 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 has dry, flaky skin, contact our Murfreesboro veterinarians to book an examination today! Our compassionate, skilled vet team will do all they can to have your canine companion feeling their best again. 

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Animal Medical Center is happy to welcome new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Murfreesboro companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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