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dog dandruff on fur

How to Get Rid of Dog Dandruff

Dog dandruff is not only cosmetically unappealing, but it can also indicate a medical issue. Find out more about why your dog has dandruff and how to treat it.

Like humans, dogs get dandruff. As soon as the white flakes show up on a dog’s coat, pet owners may start worrying because dandruff can be a sign of other problems. If you see dandruff on your dog’s coat, you should call your veterinarian. In some cases, dandruff is merely dry skin, but it could be a sign of allergies, infections, or other disorders. 

What is Dog Dandruff? 

Dog dandruff is caused by excessive shedding of dander, often paired with itchy, red skin. Dander is dead skin cells, and those are the flakes you see on your dog’s coat. Veterinarians call dog dandruff seborrhea, which translates into a sebaceous-gland disorder that causes areas of skin to flake off in whitish scales.

There are times where seborrhea is just seborrhea, and when it is, the problem tends to be hereditary. But most times, it is a sign of an underlying disease or medical condition. 

Usually, your veterinarian will check your dog for conditions like 

  • Yeast infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Parasites
  • Allergies
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Obesity
  • Diet issues

Sometimes, dandruff comes from environmental issues like temperature and humidity. If your home has low humidity, your dog’s skin might become overly dry. Some dogs suffer from dandruff during the dry and cold winter months, especially if they are in a home with forced-air heating. 

Consider how the environment affects human skin, and recognize that dogs can have similar issues in the same conditions. 

Symptoms of Dog Dandruff

A little bit of dandruff should not be cause for panic. Some dogs develop dandruff after being in stressful situations, like going to the veterinarian or moving to a new home. If the flakes come and go quickly, then you shouldn’t worry too much. 

However, if the symptoms seem to last, then it is time to visit the veterinarian. 


Dogs will have flakes; it’s only a problem when you see more than usual. Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog’s health to determine if the flakes are a sign of something serious. You can expect the vet to ask you about your dog’s seasonal skin issues and where dandruff usually appears. 

Sometimes, they appear in a place where a dog has a skin infection. Other times, it is all over their bodies. Crusty skin can accompany the dandruff flakes, so your vet will look closely for overly irritated areas on your dog’s body. 

If the flakes come and go quickly, then you shouldn’t worry too much.

Uncomfortable Scratching

Another common symptom is itchy skin. If your dog is scratching, that’s probably a sign of discomfort. Since health problems like parasites, allergies, and skin infections cause dandruff, it is easy to see why dogs scratch when they have flaky skin. If the dandruff is a result of a genetic condition, they tend not to scratch at it. 

Dogs will also bite or lick uncomfortable areas. Watch your dog if they begin licking or biting a particular area and then come back to that area repeatedly.


Dogs with dandruff often have redness under their coats. The redness could be a sign of an allergy or skin infection. Unfortunately, you might not be able to see redness under your dog’s fur coat. Examine areas where your dog is flaking, biting, or scratching. 


Skin infections can have an unusual odor. The smell comes from the skin producing more oil than usual. 

Primary and Secondary Causes of Dog Dandruff

Dogs can have dandruff as a part of their genetic makeup, but it is more often a sign of an underlying disease that causes excessive scaling. 

Breeds with More Dandruff

Dandruff is more common in some dog breeds. If you have one of these breeds, dandruff is a primary problem often caused by genetics: 

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Basset Hound
  • Dachshunds
  • Doberman
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Shar-Pei
  • West Highland White Terrier


Dogs suffer from allergies much like humans do, especially when the seasons change. Like humans, a dog’s skin begins to flake when the temperatures and humidity drop. However, if your dog’s skin starts to flake when spring rolls around, then your dog might have environmental allergies. 

If your dog sheds seasonally, the shedding could stimulate seborrhea. The dead fur can stimulate seborrhea, especially if you haven’t had your dog groomed recently. 

Dogs can also have problems with atopic dermatitis, which is commonly called eczema. Like the human version of the problem, atopic dermatitis on dogs can cause similar issues like dandruff, itching, inflammation, and dehydrated skin. If your dog scratches atopic dermatitis, your dog could end up with skin infections. 

Another common dog allergy issue is flea allergy. When fleas bite, some dogs have allergic reactions to the saliva they leave behind. The reaction usually includes dry skin and itchiness, along with dandruff. 


If your dog picks up a parasite, the consequence can be a skin problem with dandruff as a secondary issue. Canine scabies includes dandruff and more severe issues like irritation, itchiness, pimples, and bald patches. 

Dogs also have issues with mites, like the Demodex. This mite can cause small lesions, usually around the face and eyes. Bites can also result in dry, scaly skin that resembles atopic dermatitis. They can also cause bald patches. 

Dogs are also susceptible to “walking dandruff” which comes from another mite. This problem isn’t really dandruff, but mites that move around the top layer of skin. The mites resemble walking flakes. This mite jumps from dog to dog, so if your dog has cheyletiellosis, you should isolate your pet until it is cured of the problem. 

Skin Infections

Skin infections result in several secondary problems, like flaky, itchy skin. Skin infections often come from dogs with allergies or eczema, after they scratch the itch, a skin infection starts. Dandruff tends to show up if your dog’s infection has staph in it. 

Endocrine Disorders

Dogs can have problems with their thyroid glands, and the resulting health problems can cause dandruff. Hypothyroidism, which produces too much steroid, can cause dogs to have itchy skin and dandruff. Hypothyroidism is known as Cushing’s disease. 


Dogs can have skin issues related to their diet. If they aren’t enough omega-3 fatty acids, their skin and coat can suffer. Not all dog food contains nutrients that keep their coats lustrous and thick. 

Treating Primary and Secondary Causes of Dog Dandruff

Veterinarians will treat underlying health problems, and dandruff often stops. 

For allergy-related dandruff, veterinarians will first do allergy testing. Depending on the results, veterinarians will offer medication for environmental allergies, or they might suggest diet changes for food allergies. 

Veterinarians will treat skin infections with oral antibiotics or topical treatments. Usually, those take care of dandruff and other skin problems. 

Dogs with parasites usually need a medicated shampoo and an oral or injected medication to kill the parasite. Some vets prescribe antibiotics. 

If dogs have endocrine problems, veterinarians treat the issue with an oral thyroid supplement to change the way the body creates cortisol. 

Treating Dog Dandruff Caused By Environment or Genetics

If your dog has dandruff caused by environmental or genetic factors, you can take several steps to reduce it and give your dog relief from any itching or discomfort. 


Since some dogs have dandruff because of changing weather conditions, you can help your dog find relief with regular grooming. Just like humans benefit from washing and brushing their hair, dogs benefit, too. When you brush your dog’s coat, you move the natural oils and massage the hair follicles. Regularly give your dog a bath to help remove dead skin and prevent dandruff. 

You don’t need to take your dog to a groomer for regular brushing, but an occasional trip won’t hurt. Your veterinarian can help you set a bathing schedule, as dogs do not need baths every day. 


Since some dog foods don’t include all of your dog’s necessary vitamins and minerals, adding supplements can help your dog’s coat stay healthy. If your dog’s food does not include omega-3 fatty acids, you can give your dog a supplement of the missing nutrient. Your veterinarian can suggest the best dosage for your breed. 

Turn on a Humidifier

As dogs frequently develop dandruff in dry winter months, using a humidifier can help. 

Watch your home’s humidity. If it drops below 40%, you need a humidifier. Put it near your dog’s crate or wherever your dog sleeps most nights. Adding moisture will make your dog’s coat healthier in those dry months.

Use a Gentle Shampoo

When you bathe your dog, use a gentle shampoo designed to fight dandruff. Look for ingredients like soothing oatmeal, and avoid using products designed for humans. The pH of human skin is different from a dog’s skin, so human shampoos can irritate a dog’s skin. 

Feed Your Dog a Nutritious Diet

Your dog needs a balanced diet with the necessary nutrients. Veterinarians might have favorite brands, but most just tell their customers to find formulas that include proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals from whole foods, rather than from chemicals and by-products. 

Final Thoughts

With observant care of your dog, you can help get rid of dog dandruff. If you cannot resolve the problem on your own, your veterinarian is the best resource. 

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor