Common Causes of Dandruff in Dogs.DSC01615 

This Holidays 4 Dogs article will provide some information on a few of the most usual causes of dandruff in dogs and what might be done to remedy it.

Dandruff, or dry loose skin, is a common problem in many domesticated dogs and is often associated with being mildly dehydrated.  With many pet dogs being fed on processed foods, many of them the dried varieties, the skin is often the first indication that the dog is not taking in enough fluid.

However, there are other reasons why a dog might develop signs of flaky skin, so if your dog develops dandruff and/or a poor coat condition, you may consider some of these possibilities and, where necessary, discuss them with your veterinary surgeon.

  • Lack of essential fatty acids – commercially prepared dog foods are often too low in certain fatty acids, such as Omega 3’s that are beneficial to a healthy dog.  Because fatty acids are considered to be fragile in their consistency, they easily break down if they are over heated or extruded, or if they are stored incorrectly.  However, the average pet diet is usually rich in Omega 6’s such as corn oil, olive oil or safflower oil, so supplementing any of these on top of your dog’s ordinary diet can actually cause skin problems due to the dietary imbalance.  In other words, an excess of Omega 6 oils have the potential to be inflammatory.
  • Additives and preservatives – as well as a lack of certain nutrients, some processed pet foods contain additives and preservatives which can cause dandruff.  There are some specific ingredients which also might be responsible for dry and itchy, flaky skin.
  • Allergies – some dogs are prone to allergic reaction which can affect the skin.  Allergens can be from diet or the environment, including pollen or household cleaning materials for example.
  • Parasites – fleas, mange, ringworm and mites can all cause itchy, dry skin as well as possible hair loss.
  • Lack of grooming – without regular grooming long haired dogs especially will accumulate a lot of dead skin amongst the hair, which will build up and create dandruff.  Daily grooming for all dogs helps to distribute oils throughout the coat.
  • Low humidity – centrally heated, insulated homes, can strip the dog’s skin of moisture irritating the skin and causing the dog to scratch.
  • Underlying health condition – some medical conditions related to the hormonal or endocrine system, such as hypothyroidism or cushings disease, can cause the dog to present with more serious signs of skin flaking.

All dogs can be affected by dandruff at some time in their life, but some breeds are more susceptible than others.  West Highland White terriers can be particularly prone to skin conditions, including dry flaky skin, as can Cairn terriers, Pugs and Dalmatians, to name a few. 

Natural Remedies for Dandruff. 

  • Diet – changing to a more natural diet for your dog can frequently clear up dry skin and lacklustre coats – see our other Holidays 4 Dogs article about feeding a natural diet.  Vegetables either cooked or raw can be added to your dog’s diet to help hydrate the skin.  However, always change your dog’s diet gradually to ensure there are no upset tummies!
  • Supplements – adding fatty acid supplements can help dog’s with skin conditions.  You can buy proprietary products from any good pet shop, but you can also try adding fish oils such as mackerel or tuna to your dog’s diet once a week.  Beware of over supplementing with Omega 6’s.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar is a popular natural remedy for treating dandruff and protecting the skin from infection.  Dilute apple cider vinegar with equivalent quantities of water and apply to the dog’s skin with a sponge or cotton wool.
  • Vitamin E – either in tablet form or topical cream, Vitamin E is said to alleviate dry skin.
  • Humidifiers – if low humidity might be a problem in your home, consider installing a humidifier to add moisture to the air, especially where your dog sleeps.
  • Grooming – brush your dog daily to help distribute essential oils throughout the coat and invigorate the skin.
  • Exercise – sometimes dandruff can be caused by mild stress which can be alleviated by making sure your dog has enough exercise to help stimulate his brain as well as helping to strengthen his immune system.

Before treating your dog for dandruff, it is very important to rule out parasite or skin infections, particularly if the skin is red and inflamed, as well as considering the possibility your dog might have an underlying medical condition, such as those outlined above.

However, for simple dry skin and dandruff it is well worth trying some, or all of these measures, to alleviate your dog’s itchy skin and make him more comfortable.