Dogs can’t use Head & Shoulders, so what do you when your dog has dandruff? Let’s talk about what can be done about this itchy problem.
Can dogs get dandruff? The short answer is yes. But unlike humans where it can be a harmless (yet embarrassing) condition caused by an excess of dead skin flakes, for dogs it can be a little more complex.
For starters, it’s typically a secondary condition meaning a symptom of something that could be more serious than just dry skin. In fact, the reason your pet’s skin is flaking could range from allergies or parasites to bacterial or yeast infections. It could even be a genetic condition such as Cushing’s Syndrome or Hypothyroidism – both of which are treatable with medication.
But before we jump to worst case scenarios, let’s take a look at some of those other, more common causes of pet dandruff.
Your pet’s dry, flaky skin could be caused by a number of factors including cold winter temperatures, dry indoor air, excessive bathing / too-harsh soaps, as well as his diet. It can also be a chronic condition for specific breeds who suffer from seborrhea sicca. Solutions can be as simple as changing your pet’s dog shampoo, cutting back on the number of baths you give him, or looking at a topical treatment such as coconut oil – an excellent, all-natural, anti-bacterial moisturizer for dogs that helps eliminate flakiness and reduce itchiness. If your pet’s dry skin is a new condition without an obvious cause, consult your vet to help eliminate more serious origins.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies that include everything from foods, to dust, pollen, and even animal dander. But when it comes to dry, flaking skin, its typically down to an allergen related to diet. In this instance, the most common triggers include wheat, egg, soy, and dairy, but your pet can also have an intolerance for certain meat proteins as well. Identifying the offending item (or items) is typically done through your vet using an “elimination” diet. Using this method, your pet is fed a simple diet of “safe” food with different ingredients gradually added over time. With each addition, your pet is monitored to gauge his tolerance for the new ingredient. When he reacts poorly, you’ve nailed down your allergen.
Any dog that spends time outdoors can be susceptible to picking up parasites capable of causing irritated, flaky skin. Parasites such as fleas, canine scabies, mites, and ringworm (not really a worm, but a fungus) can lead to severe itching, and the “dandruff” flaking that looks like simple, dry skin. According to the American Kennel Club, the most common skin disorder in American dogs is a reaction to the saliva from fleas. This common parasite can trigger an allergic reaction that results in dry, itchy skin and if left untreated, can lead to atopic dermatitis, inflammation, and skin infections due to your pet’s non-stop scratching. For any parasitic infestation, consult your veterinarian for a treatment plan that can include antibiotics, medicated shampoos, and topical ointments.
Bacterial and fungal infections are not only painful for your pet, but can result in odor, inflammation, and flaking skin. For dogs with heavy facial folds (like Shar-peis, Pugs, or any of the Bulldog breeds) they require special attention to ensure these crevices are cleaned daily, and more importantly, are thoroughly dried. Ditto for dogs that like to swim and seem to spend most of their waking hours in a state of wet or damp. Fungal infections thrive within damp fur and skin and can quickly become hot spots your pet chews at. Regular home-grooming – including brushing and applying antibacterial ointments as necessary – is the easiest solution to preventing flaking skin due to infections.