What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Dandruff in Dogs

You may see flakes on your dog’s bed, blankets, coat, car seat, harness or on your furniture.  If you discover that your doggo has dandruff, it is important to narrow down the cause so that it can be treated appropriately. 

I was giving my dog Zorro a massage the other day.  His black coat is shiny and smooth, but I noticed that he had many little white flakes all over his back.  At first, I thought it was dust and wondered where he would have been to get covered in dust.  I looked a little closer, brushed back his fur a little and realized that it was coming from his skin.  My dog has dandruff.  I hadn’t seen this before so I set out to learn the causes and symptoms of dandruff in dogs.

Shiny black lab face staring off to the left indicating that the dogs fur is not dull no skin issues are visible.
If your dog’s shiny coat becomes dull, it could be caused by hyperthyroidism resulting in skin irritation. Photo by: M. Shea

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Is dandruff a common occurrence for dogs? 

Dandruff is common in dogs.  You may notice it on your dog’s fur, although it is more difficult to see on a lighter colored dog.  You may also see it on your dog’s bed, blankets, coat, car seat, harness or on your furniture.  If you discover that your doggo has dandruff, it is important to narrow down the cause so that it can be treated appropriately. 

What are the potential causes of dandruff in dogs?

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

  1. Dry Climate
  2. Allergic Reaction
  3. Diet is missing something – Often Omega 3 or Omega 6
  4. Grooming – Too much or too little
  5. Stress
  6. Infection – Fungal and Bacterial
  7. Hypothyroidism
  8. Mange
  9. Seborrhea
  10. Walking Dandruff – Note:  This is very contagious.
Walking Dandruff in Dogs Video by Wag

Because of the wide range of causes, it is important to narrow down the environment(s) that your dog has been in recently. Learning the source will help to find the appropriate treatment.  If your dog is showing any other symptoms, seek the advice of your veterinarian immediately as there may be a more serious underlying cause.  Early detection and diagnosis of any pet ailment or concern is key to having the best chance of recovery without permanent damage.

If the only symptom is dandruff here are some questions to help narrow down the possible sources of your pup’s dandruff:

Has the weather become dryer or has the heat in your home been turned on recently?

Weather changes to dryer conditions or the furnace in your home running can cause your dog’s skin to dry out.  This would cause flaking and itching. Brushing your dog regularly and increasing the humidity in your home by using a humidifier can help to alleviate the symptoms.

Has your dog eaten anything new?

Food allergies are common and can result in itchy, dry, flaky skin. If you have changed your dog’s food, treats or if he has managed to get into the garbage, he could be having an allergic reaction to something he has consumed. Unknown foods can be dangerous for your dog in many ways, so it’s best to be sure nothing dangerous has been consumed. If your dog has always had the same food, he may have developed an allergy. Consult your vet about a change in food that could help ease the symptoms.

Have you changed anything in your home or yard (cleaning products, plants, garden)?

Has your dog been laying on your freshly cleaned carpet or furniture?  Has he been rolling on the lawn after a treatment?  If so, his skin may be irritated.  Even the use of new laundry detergent or fabric softeners on bedding, dog coats or your own clothes can be a skin irritant.

Is your dog’s diet rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6?

These two fatty acids benefit the dog’s skin.  If your dog food is lacking in either or both of these nutrients, he may develop skin irritation resulting in dandruff.  The best source of Omegas is directly from foods, but your vet may recommend a supplement to add to your dog’s daily routine.

How often do your bathe and groom your dog?

If you bathe your dog frequently, you may be accidentally drying his skin.  Shampoos, soaps and hair dryers can take their toll on a dog’s skin leaving it dry and flaky.

Has something changed in his daily routine or in the home?

If your dog is upset, if his little world has been disrupted in any way, he may be stressed.  Something as simple as moving his bed, or location of his dish can cause anxiety for some doggos. If his human’s work routine has changed, a new family member has arrived (human or fur), or if someone in the house is stressed or sick, your dog may be feeling anxious. Stress is a common cause of dandruff.

Does your dog have visible skin irritation?

If your dog has fleas, a recent cut or if he has food allergies, the skin can develop a fungal or a bacterial infection.  Consult a vet if your dog’s skin appears red, crusty, has bald or thinning patches of fur, or of he has an unusual odor.  All are signs of infection. These skin infections can cause dandruff. 

Has your dog’s once smooth, shiny coat become dull and coarse?

These are a couple of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.  Because of this underlying condition, your dog may be itchy and develop sores. He may begin shedding more than usual.  There are many other symptoms of hypothyroidism, including ear infections, fatigue and aversion to cold.  It is important to have this condition diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian immediately.

Does your dog have mites?

Mites can cause many types of skin irritations including itching, hair loss and dandruff.  If you suspect mites, have your dog tested and treated.  Mites can be transmitted to humans and other pets. Some species of mites cause mange, another skin disease found in animals and birds.

Is your dog’s flaky skin is located solely on the face, and torso?

These areas contain sebaceous glands.  If the dandruff that your dog is experiencing is predominantly in these areas, he may have a skin condition cause Seborrhea. The skin will appear red and flaky.  Your dog will also be itchy.  This is another condition where your dog might develop an odor.  Once diagnosed, a veterinarian will be able to recommend shampoos or medication to clear it up.

Summary

There are a number of causes of skin irritation and dandruff in dogs. If you see anything that looks unusual or your dog is scratching excessively, contact your vet as soon as possible. While most dandruff issues are minor, they can cause a lot of discomfort for your doggo. The sooner he is treated, the sooner he feels better.

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