By Elizabeth Xu
Dog dandruff can be distressing—it’s not only unsightly, but it usually means something’s not quite right with your pup’s skin.
In fact, dandruff could be caused by a variety of things, including allergies, parasites, an illness, or food sensitivities, says Dr. Danel Grimmett of Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Oklahoma. “There are so many causes, but remember, dandruff should never be considered ‘normal,’” she says, noting that your veterinarian is the best person to help you determine why the dandruff is occurring.
Think your dog might have dandruff but you’re not sure? White flakes are one sign, says Jac Ciardella, a groomer and owner of The Pet Lodge in Rivervale, New Jersey. “The concentration [is usually] down the back and around the base of the tail,” he says. “Your pup’s coat can also become oily when it has dandruff.”
The best treatment will be based on what specifically is causing your pup’s dandruff, but these ideas for treating dog dandruff might help.
Whether you’re taking care of your pup at home or prefer to outsource the job to the professionals, grooming is an important part of keeping a dog’s coat healthy and free of dandruff. Talk to your veterinarian and groomer about any special treatments that can help get rid of dog dandruff.
“We like to use a mud bath to reduce the dandruff,” says Teresa Woods, owner and operator of EarthWise Pet Supply in Carlsbad, California. “The mud baths have exfoliants which remove the dead skin and natural hydrants to moisturize the skin. The mud is massaged into the skin and coat for 10 to 15 minutes.”
If your vet suspects food allergies or sensitivities as a possible cause of the dandruff, changing your dog’s diet might help.
“I advise dog owners to speak with their veterinarian regarding the food they give to their dog,” Grimmett says. Options can include hypoallergenic diets, homemade foods (prepared with guidance from a veterinary nutritionist), or commercially-available diets designed to help dogs with skin problems.
You might notice a temporary uptick in dandruff if your dog’s recently been in a stressful situation, Ciardella says.
“Battling stress dandruff is tricky,” he says. “There is no shampoo or diet change that will help that. The only way to help this issue is to work with your dog to help alleviate the stress. A dog trainer or behaviorist could be very useful.”
In addition to regular bathing and grooming sessions, your dog should also receive regular brushing. Brushing can help your pup’s coat stay healthy. “Merely brushing regularly with a medium firm brush can increase oils and remove the dead skin,” Woods says.
Of course, how “regularly” you need to keep up with brushing depends on your particular pup.
“Since dogs vary so much in coat type, it is hard to blanket all dogs with one brushing schedule,” Ciardella says. “A good rule of thumb is the heavier the coat, the more brushing. It is safe to say that all dogs would benefit from a good brushing at least once a week.”
Adding supplements to your dog’s diet can be a relatively easy way to help some common skin issues, Woods says, noting that fatty acids can work to increase oil on the skin and decrease dandruff.
Grimmett says it’s something your veterinarian may recommend, depending on the circumstances. “I often advocate for the dog to take an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement that is developed for dogs,” she says. Your veterinarian can recommend the best products based on your dog’s particular needs.
Yes, dandruff is unsightly, but you don’t want to just remove it—you want to figure out the cause and treat your pet’s overall health. Regular veterinarian visits are an important part of pet health, as are visits when you suspect that something might be wrong.
“[Pet owners] should consider having their dog examined whenever there are any unusual symptoms or something has changed, whether it be dandruff, increased thirst, sleeping more, etc.,” Grimmett says. “Our dogs cannot tell us what has happened and relying on our veterinarians to help us bridge the communication gap is always a vital tool to providing your dog with the best life possible.”