Canine dandruff is no fun, for you or for your dog. There are a lot of factors that can exacerbate dandruff, but it’s not necessarily something your dog has to live with. Let’s talk about what causes it and more pressingly, what to do about it.
What Causes Doggy Dandruff?
Dandruff can actually have a lot of causes. For the most part it’s actually a secondary condition brought on by another cause such as allergies (food or environmental), skin problems, or even genetic disorders. The most common causes of dandruff in dogs include allergic reactions, bacterial infections, yeast infections, parasitic infections, and endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism. For dogs who are predisposed to dandruff, environmental factors like temperature and humidity levels make a big difference in how bad the condition gets.
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When to Call the Vet About Dandruff
A few flakes from time to time, particularly in the winter months, aren’t really anything to worry about. Even stress can cause mild dandruff! That said, it’s important to call the vet if your dog’s dandruff fits any of the following qualifications as something more serious could be going on:
- There are an excessive number of flakes that come on suddenly
- Your dog is itchy or their skin seems to be uncomfortable
- The skin is very red underneath the flakes
- You notice an odor associated with the dandruff
What to Do About Dog Dandruff
If your vet has determined your dog’s dandruff is due to a treatable condition such as infection, she’ll start your pup on a course of treatment and will monitor the results over a series of weeks.
Once you and your vet have ruled out anything more serious and the dandruff persists, there are a lot of at-home remedies you can try to curb the flakes.
New Food: Food allergies are perhaps the number one cause of doggy dandruff and general skin discomfort. Work with you vet to identify the ingredients in your dog’s current food that may be causing trouble (gluten? poultry?) and select a new food to try instead. Remember that switching food should be done gradually and that your dog will need to be on the new food for at least a couple of months to fully determine whether it’s helping. You may have to go through several foods that include (and don’t include) certain ingredients to determine what’s actually causing your dog’s skin issues.
Better Grooming: Dirty skin and hair can exacerbate dandruff in your dog. It’s critical to find your dog’s balance point when it comes to baths – too often and their skin will become dry and flaky…too infrequent and the same thing can occur! Try washing once every two weeks with daily brushing in between. If flakes persist, try washing every 10 days (with vet-recommended oatmeal shampoo) to see if you notice a change.
Get a Humidifier: The humidity in your home plays a huge role in the heath of your dog’s skin. In general, your home should stay around 50% humidity for maximum comfort for both dogs and humans. The weather outside, the age of your home, and even your HVAC system can all throw this out of whack. If you suspect your humidity is low, place a small humidifier in the room(s) your dog uses most often, particularly where they sleep.
Try Supplements: A lot of pet parents have good luck incorporating Omega-3 fatty acids into their dandruffy dog’s diet. The supplements can be given in pill form or as an oil drizzled over food.
Dog dandruff got you down?