Humans may be used to coping with dandruff, but when the telltale white flakes show up on their pups, it can feel very odd and mysterious! What's causing your dog's dandruff and is there any reason to worry?
Fortunately, it’s actually pretty common for dogs to have what looks like dandruff on their coat — and there are many different reasons your dog could be experiencing dry skin. Below we'll discuss dog dandruff, signs your dog has dry skin, potential causes, and how to help treat it.
Dandruff, or "scurf," happens when dead skin flakes get stuck in your dog's fur. "Dry skin could be caused by multiple different causes including parasites, endocrine disease, allergies, bacterial, fungal, auto-immune conditions, and cancer,” says Dr. Joel Navratik, CEO of MRVL Pets.
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There are a few different causes of dog dandruff and it's important to discover the cause to find the appropriate treatment. If you are unsure of what's causing your dog's dry skin, talk to an online vet.
If your dog expresses some or most of the following dandruff symptoms, they may be experiencing dry skin:
Red/scaly skin patches
There may be a few reasons your dog is experiencing dry skin symptoms. If you're unsure, talk to a vet now. These are potential dog dandruff causes:
“It may happen because your dog isn't grooming their fur properly, or it might mean your dog has a skin condition that means more skin flakes are being produced,” says Dr Joanna Woodnutt, a veterinarian in the UK who is part of the team at Breed Advisor.
Parasites in dogs such as fleas and mange are a common reason for scurfy skin. “You should make sure your dog is up to date on all their flea treatment and that they've had treatment for mites, too,” says Dr. Woodnutt. Not all flea treatments kill mites, so you might need to talk to your vet to make sure your pet is protected.
If your dog is young, and otherwise healthy, scurfy skin is often a sign of an allergy. “This causes irritation and inflammation of the skin, increasing the skin turnover and meaning more dead skin flakes are produced,” says Dr. Woodnutt. Your vet can help you to diagnose and treat allergies in dogs.
Hypothyroidism, Cushings, and other hormonal conditions can also cause skin changes. “If you have a middle-aged to older dog and you've noticed other symptoms or changes in their behavior, you might want to talk to a vet about whether their skin could be a sign of deeper problems,” says Dr. Woodnutt.
For many dogs, a soothing, conditioning shampoo will help to reduce itch and inflammation in the skin, and reduce skin cell turnover, explained Dr. Woodnutt. You'll also physically remove the skin flakes in the bath with a good rub. “I usually recommend an aloe vera and coconut-based shampoo for dogs with dry skin,” says Dr. Woodnutt.
Dr. Navratik recommends "weekly bathing with an anti-seborrheic shampoo such as (Douxo Seborrhea shampoo or Keratolux shampoo) followed by a conditioner (HyLyt cream rinse) or leave-in mousse (Douxo Chlorhexidine PS). Medicated shampoos may also help, but should be prescribed by a vet.
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Not all dog foods are created equal. Talk to a vet about your dog's current diet and see if your dog's food is healthy enough or if it may benefit from some supplementation.
For extra skin support, consider improving your pet's intake of fatty acids, as these help to create healthy skin. “Find a skin supplement with a balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6, and linoleic acid for skin barrier support,” says Dr. Woodnutt.
Vitamin E supplementation can also help improve skin health, which will allow the retention of moisture, explains Dr. Michelle Burch DVM from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, who recommends speaking with your veterinarian on appropriate dosing for your dog. “Too high dosing can lead to an upset stomach in the short term and with possible damage to the red blood cells and liver in the long term,” warns Dr. Burch.