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You probably know some humans who deal with dandruff, but did you know dogs get dandruff, too? You may have noticed your pup scratching more often or seen white flakes on their bedding. Besides irritated skin, these signs can also point to a skin condition called walking dandruff.
When should you visit your vet for your dog’s dandruff? Since the signs of canine dandruff can be very similar to other skin issues, it's important to know what to watch out for and the possible treatment options to consider.
The Facts About Dog Dandruff
Dandruff is the presence of dead skin cells on your dog's coat. Depending on the colour of your dog's fur, it may be difficult to actually see the flakes, but they are often visible when they hop off the couch or put their head in your lap.
There are many ways a dog's skin can get irritated. From excessive licking to a nutritional issue, the root cause of dandruff can sometimes be difficult to identify. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you notice the dandruff all over your pup's coat or just in a particular area. Irritated skin in one concentrated spot could be due to a reaction to something your dog came in contact with, or it could be a more serious problem like an infection or parasite. Once you notice dandruff, consider visiting your vet for help. If you notice additional signs such as itching, reddened skin, irritation, or scaly patches of hair loss, then the best advice would be to consult with your vet immediately for further help. Since skin issues can have genetic, environmental, nutritional or parasitic causes, sometimes several different treatment options have to be explored.
Preventing & Treating Dandruff
There are a few things you can do to prevent dog dandruff and other skin problems. Blue Cross recommends that pet parents start by grooming their dogs regularly. Frequent brushing removes matted hair, leaves less of a breeding ground for parasites, and helps to stimulate the natural oils in the skin and fur. It also gives you the chance to spend a few minutes checking your dog for any unusual lumps, bumps, fleas, ticks and other potential issues.
Your vet might suggest bathing your dog more frequently to prevent dandruff. If you’re going to use a shampoo, the PDSA advises asking your vet to recommend one specially formulated for dogs. Make sure you dry your pet thoroughly after their bath, too.
If simple preventative measures like grooming and bathing are not getting rid of your dog’s dandruff, discuss special food options or intolerance tests with your vet. They can help you find a dog food with ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E that promote a healthy coat and immune system.
The Difference Between Dandruff and Walking Dandruff
A more serious possible cause for your dog's flaky, itchy skin is a condition called walking dandruff. The Kennel Club UK clarifies that walking dandruff is a parasitic infection called cheyletiellosis that is caused by mites. The Kennel Club notes that walking dandruff doesn’t typically cause itching, with the main sign being what seems like excessive dandruff. The condition is extremely contagious and can be easily spread to other pets in your household like cats and rabbits, so it’s important to see your vet as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for walking dandruff. Your vet will likely administer a topical treatment called a dip that coats your dog's fur in a mite-killing medicine. Dips and other treatments may need to be repeated once or twice every week for up to six weeks. You should also bring any other household pets to the vet for mite treatment, and you may need to treat your home with a pesticide designed for killing mites and fleas.
No one likes to see their pup itchy and uncomfortable. Once their dandruff or other skin issues are addressed, hopefully you and your dog can enjoy more time doing the things you love, itch-free.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA