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Causes of Dog Dandruff

What is Dog Dandruff

Man’s best friend. Your loyal companion through the best of times and the worst of times. But when you think of your loving canine, did you really believe that dandruff would be the worst of times you would suffer through together? Just as human beings are susceptible to dandruff, our faithful counterparts can also fall prey to this annoying and uncomfortable nuisance. Dandruff is made up of dead skin cells that clump together demonstrate themselves as white flakes on your dog’s once beautiful coat.

Signs of Dog Dandruff

So how do you know if your dog suffers from pesky dandruff or just needs to bathe more, or possibly less, regularly? The following are four simple questions you might ask yourself when investing whether or not your dog has dandruff:

  • Have you noticed white flakes on your canine’s coat?
  • Are they constantly scratching?
  • Have you seen any thinning or bald patches of fur?
  • Have you observed any unexplainable scabs, bumps, or pimples on their skin?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you may have yourself a case of dog dandruff. Also, pay special attention when you brush or bathe your pooch if they have a lighter coat since dandruff is far more noticeable on darker coated canines.


So you answered yes to one of the questions above and are starting to accept the fact that your dog has dandruff, make sure you take a closer look to make sure it is not moving. That’s right, there is a skin condition known as Cheyletiella, or walking dandruff. Cheyletiella are mites that can live on dogs, cats, or even people and they are fairly easy to spot. Take comfort in the fact that a usual flea treatment should get rid of them. Make sure you check and treat all other animals in the house and if you develop an itchy rash after handling your infected pet, speak to your doctor right away because you may have also contracted those terrible moving mites.

Dog Breeds Prone to Dandruff

While all dog breeds are susceptible to dandruff, some are more prone to this condition than others. Check out the chart below to see a list of some of the most common breeds affected by these pesky white flakes.

Large Dandruff-Prone Dog Breed Small Dandruff-Prone Dog Breed
English and Irish Setters Schnauzers
Retrievers Pugs
Poodles Cairn Terriers
Bulldogs West Highland Terriers
German Shepherds Cocker Spaniels
Dalmatians Scottish Terriers
Pit Bull Terriers Fox Terriers

Causes of Dog Dandruff

As is the case with humans, dog dandruff can be the result of an array of factors in your canine’s health and lifestyle.

  • Allergies: Typical allergens include certain foods, dust and pollens, or household cleaners. Reactions can be topical or can affect areas that have not been touched and often cause increased irritation and itchiness.
  • Poor diet: If your pooch is not drinking enough water or getting enough vitamins, minerals, or fats in his food then his skin will most assuredly suffer. Dandruff could be one of a several outcomes to a poor diet.
  • Fungal Skin Infections/Bacteria: An underlying skin condition could affect your dog’s whole body.
  • Cheyletiella: Walking dandruff can really make life miserable for your canine because these mites make themselves comfortable in your pet’s coat and skin while they lay their eggs.
  • Low Humidity: Living in especially dry areas may strip your dog’s skin of its natural moisture, which will cause him to scratch frequently and worsen an already existing skin condition.

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

  • Dandruff Shampoo: Certain dandruff shampoos are designed specifically for pets in order to help prevent and eliminate dander. Their active ingredients commonly include sulfur, iodine, or salicylic acid. Do not use dandruff shampoos designed for humans because it will be too harsh on your dog’s skin and coat. We recommend GNC Pets Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, Nature’s Specialties Tar and Sulfur Pet Shampoo, or Nature’s Specialties Derma-Dyme (Use this shampoo if you notice any scabs, sores, or bumps).
  • Oatmeal: Bathing in oatmeal often helps relieve itching and rid your pet of their pesky dandruff. Try I love my Dog Oatmeal and Neem Shampoo or Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo with Oatmeal and Aloe.
  • Bathing: Regular baths will wash away the dandruff before it has a chance to accumulate on your pet’s skin or coat. Use warm water and a mild shampoo once a month in winter months or twice a month during summer months.
  • Improved Diet: Switching to a high-quality brand of pet food Choose one with plenty of healthy fats, investing in nutritional supplements (such as Cod Liver Oil or Coconut Oil), or trying out the Wild Dog Diet are all ways to improve your dog’s health.
  • Daily Brushing: Brushing your dog once a day will help distribute their natural oils and will message the skin, which promotes healthy oil production. (Dog brush?)
  • Seek Expertise: If the above methods don’t seem to be working, make sure you consult with your veterinarian to see if there are specific allergens to avoid for your beloved pooch.

What is Dandruff?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dandruff is a common chronic scalp condition marked by flaking of the skin on your scalp. Although dandruff isn’t contagious and is rarely serious, it can be embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat.” Dandruff begins with what is known as sebum, a natural oil produced by the hair follicles and oil glands on your body. Sebum is found on every part of your skin with the exception of the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. When you have just the right amount of this oily substance it helps protect your hair and skin, but too little of it can cause dry, cracked skin and too much can produce acne or, that’s right, dandruff. Sebum is often a breeding ground for fungus or yeast, such as malassezia. Malassezia (also known as malassezia globossa) typically lives on the scalp of most healthy adults without causing any problems, so you can breath a sigh of relief if you nearly had a heart attack learning you may have fungus growing on your luscious locks. Malassezia has evolved to feed off of sebum and some experts believe that the immune system of someone with dandruff may simply overreact to this fungus. Malassezia itself also produces an oil that generates an inflammatory response in some people, which leads to skin cells dying at a much slower rate than the new cells are being produced, resulting in more skin being shed and subsequently dandruff. Some experts believe that people with dandruff have skins cells that mature and are shed in just 4-10 days whereas it takes approximately one month for people without dandruff to shed their skin cells. Just remember, you are not alone in this. Nearly half of the post-puberty population in the United States is affected by dandruff and gender, race, ethnicity, or age has nothing to do with it.

There is not simply one universal cause of dandruff, rather many different conditions which can contribute to this nuisance. Only a dermatologist can truly determine what is causing your particular case of dandruff, so if the basic treatment options we have suggested are just not working for you then it may be time to schedule an appointment with your skin doctor. However, before running up your doctor bill check out some of the most common causes of dandruff below. Chances are you will recognize which one the four main culprits may be behind your dandruff which will be better arm you to attack and rid yourself of this pest for good.

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: One of the most common causes of dandruff is known as seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that chiefly impacts your scalp, causing scaly, itchy, and red skin. It can also be seen on your face, upper chest, back, and other areas that are rich in oil glands. In infants, seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp is known as cradle cap. Seasonal changes, stress, and immune-suppression appear to affect the severity of seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Dry Skin: Dry skin is another extremely common, if not THE most common, contributor to dandruff. If you tend to have dry skin on other areas of your body, such as your arms or legs, then chances are this is the reason behind your troubles. These flakes tend to be white in color and fall off in smaller pieces than dandruff stemming from other causes.
  • Malessezia: Just as we mentioned above, malessezia is a yeast-like fungus that lives on the scalp of most healthy adult and yet only causes dandruff in some. Skin cells become aggravated and shed approximately four times faster than they normal should. Experts agree that certain environmental factors can make dandruff worse, particularly in dry climates.
  • Hair Care: Not brushing or shampooing your hair frequently enough may also cause dandruff in some people. On the flip side, if you shampoo too often or use too many hair care products you may cause irritation on your scalp and subsequently dandruff. Sensitivity to certain product ingredients may also cause you to have a red, itchy scalp known as contact dermatitis.
  • Certain Skin Conditions: Those with skin conditions, such as psoriasis (a chronic autoimmune disease that mainly affects the skin and is marked by a speedy buildup of coarse, dry, dead skin cells that form thick scales) and eczema (a chronic, inflammatory skin condition where the skin becomes itchy, reddened, cracked, and dry), tend to get dandruff more often than others.