Dandruff in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Has your dog been leaving behind white flakes on their favorite spot on the couch? Your canine companion might have dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Join our Rochester vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs. 

Do Dogs get Dandruff?

Yes, they do! Dogs can experience dandruff, just like their human companions. It occurs when dead skin cells flake off at a higher rate than usual and settle on your pet's fur or hair. In dogs, these dry flakes tend to accumulate on the back, especially near the tail, and you may notice them when you pet or scratch your dog.

Similar to human skin, dogs have glands that produce sebum, which is a natural oil that helps keep the skin hydrated and supple. If these glands produce sebum excessively, it can result in imbalances and lead to dandruff. Dogs can have both forms of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea oleosa (oily).

Causes of Dog Dandruff 

Any breed of dog can experience dandruff, and it can stem from several causes including genetic conditions (e..g primary seborrhea, seen in Basset Hounds and Cocker spaniels), but is often caused by factors impacting the dog's environment or health. 

Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like their human families; in areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your dog seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

Dogs can experience itching due to dry skin, but there are also external parasites that can cause significant discomfort for your furry friend. One such parasite is the Cheyletiella mite, which is large enough to be visible without a microscope.

They closely resemble white flakes of dandruff, earning them the nickname 'Walking Dandruff.' If you notice that the 'dandruff flakes' on your dog are moving, it's important to visit your vet promptly for parasite prevention measures. Some parasites, including mites, can easily spread to other pets in the household, so swift action is necessary to protect all furry companions.

Nutrition Issues

An unbalanced or improper food or overall diet can affect your dog's skin and coat. To keep your pet's skin and hair in good shape, foods with fatty acids (e.g. omega-3s, omega-6s) are important - but only your veterinarian is qualified to let you know if your pet requires supplemental nutrients. 

Skin Infections

Skin bacterial and fungal infections can also be the cause of dandruff on your dog, as they are adept at taking advantage of damage or weaknesses in your dog's skin. These underlying conditions will have to be treated appropriately to address the dandruff issue. 


Skin problems are usually one of the first signs of an allergic reaction to food or something in your dog's environment. Dogs with allergies may be flakier and itchier at different times of the year, and dandruff usually appears alongside other symptoms like recurring ear and skin infections. 

Hormonal Conditions

Diseases like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can affect your dog's skin health, which, along with a compromised immune system, can make them more susceptible to secondary infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the cause of your dog's dandruff can't be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dogs with dry, flaky skin can be effective, the underlying cause might not be identified. Your vet will be able to give you more advice on the management of your pet's condition.

Although dandruff is annoying and can be uncomfortable for many dogs if it is mild or seasonal it is usually not a cause for concern. If, however, your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin along with these symptoms, head to the vet for a physical examination:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin odor
  • Excessive dandruff
  • Loss of hair/fur
  • Irritated, red skin
  • Excessive licking of paws or legs
  • Signs of feeling unwell or being uncomfortable

Your dog's symptoms and your vet's findings will determine the next course of action, which could include further diagnostic testing to confirm any issues such as underlying health problems, allergic reactions, or potential parasites. 

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

Luckily, most milder cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home with a combination of instructions and guidelines from your primary vet, and these helpful tips:

  • Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and removes dead hair. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
  • Bathing your dog can help with dandruff outbreaks and bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; follow the instructions carefully. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could make dandruff worse!
  • Supplements can be helpful, but be aware that many commercial supplements are not heavily regulated for pets. Ask your vet for recommendations.
  • Use a humidifier in your home if the air is dry. During winter months especially, your dog (and your family!) could find this helpful for preventing dry skin.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your pooch suffer from dandruff? Contact our Rochester vets today to learn about some solutions.