Dog dandruff can be an itchy and bothersome skin condition. It’s marked by flaky, white pieces of dead skin. This condition alone isn’t considered serious. But if the small, flaky pieces of skin are accompanied by other symptoms, it may be worth checking out with a veterinarian.
Here’s what you need to know about why your dog may have dandruff, when to be worried, and how to best care for your itchy pup.
Dandruff occurs when your dog’s dead skin cells flake off at a higher rate than normal. This can cause a buildup of dead skin cells on their skin and fur, which can cause irritation and itching.
Even if your dog’s dandruff isn’t caused by anything serious, it’s important that you address the irritation. If your dog is scratching a lot, they may be at risk for an infection or hair loss, which can lead to greater health concerns.
A variety of factors can cause dandruff on dogs. It may be genetic, environmental, or a symptom of an underlying disease. Let’s look at some of the more common reasons your dog has dandruff.1
Allergies, or atopy, can cause skin irritation like dandruff. Your dog may be allergic to their food, grooming products, carpet, dust, pollen, or the changing of the seasons. Other environmental factors — like sun exposure, humidity, or cold weather — may also be the reason for your dog’s dandruff.
Hyperthyroidism or low hormone levels both affect your dog’s skin and coat. If their thyroid hormones are imbalanced, this can cause their immune system to attack it. This can cause dandruff and other skin problems.1
A healthy dog’s skin should be clear, and their fur should be shiny and thick. Vitamin A, Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and other fatty acids all contribute to a healthy coat. However, a lack of these vitamins can lead to dry skin and fur, causing itchiness and dandruff.2
Bites from parasites — like fleas, lice, ticks, and mites — can cause irritation. If your dog itches too much, this can result in dry skin and dandruff. Ringworm infections can also cause dandruff.1
It’s important to be mindful of parasites that imitate dandruff as well. For example, cheyletiellosis is often mistaken for dandruff because the parasites are tiny, white, and live in your dog’s fur.3 They may look like flaky, white pieces of dandruff, but in reality, they’re a harmful infestation.
This is a genetic condition where your dog’s oil glands malfunction — they either overproduce or underproduce sebum, which leads to flaky skin.4 Primary seborrhea in dogs is typically diagnosed between 1 and 2 years of age, and they either display oily seborrhea or dry seborrhea. As the names suggest, this means their dandruff is accompanied by oily skin or dry skin.
Here are some dogs that are prone to genetic seborrhea:1
Dog breeds prone to oily seborrhea:
Dog breeds prone to dry seborrhea:
When a dog is diagnosed with primary seborrhea, it means the dandruff is its own condition. Secondary seborrhea occurs when the dandruff is a symptom of a larger health concern, like allergies or lymphoma.4