Your dog’s skin is its largest organ, just as it is for us humans. Therefore, skin health is a high priority and an essential prerequisite for soft and shiny fur.
This is also how you can tell at first glance that a dog is in top shape. However, dog owners sometimes can observe small white-skin flakes, known as white dandruff, in their favorite coats. What is this all about? What are the causes of dandruff in dogs? Is dandruff regular, or is there something wrong?
If your dog has white dandruff in their fur, it may or may not be a sign of a health problem. Here’s some insight into common causes and treatments for white dandruff in dogs.
Shortcut To Useful Tips
- 1 How does dandruff develop in dogs?
- 2 My Dog has White Dandruff in the Fur – Is a Special Shampoo a Quick Solution?
- 3 Dog has White Dandruff in the Fur – what can be the Causes of Dandruff in Dogs?
- 4 My dog has dandruff – What can I do now?
- 5 My dog has Dandruff – When should you go to the Vet
- 6 What examinations will the doctor perform on dogs with dandruff?
- 7 What are the treatment options for dogs with dander?
- 8 What can you do yourself to help in the treatment of dandruff?
- 9 Nutrients for healthy coat and vital skin in dogs
- 10 Conclusion
How does dandruff develop in dogs?
The skin of all of us – dogs, cats and humans – is constantly renewing. New skin cells grow from the bottom, while the upper cells die and fall off. This happens all the time and is entirely normal. In healthy dogs, however, the cells detach individually – and are thus so small that we cannot see them.
Only when the individual cells “stick” to each other do they form structures so large that we can see them as scales with the naked eye. For example, this can occur if the skin renewal process is disturbed.
My Dog has White Dandruff in the Fur – Is a Special Shampoo a Quick Solution?
You may know it from yourself or your surroundings: dandruff is widespread in humans, and we usually give little thought to where it comes from.
You just buy one of the many anti-dandruff shampoos, and the problem is usually solved after a short time. One thing right away: if your Dog has white dandruff in his fur, please do not use a shampoo made for humans under any circumstances. Only buy Anti Dandruff Shampoos specific for Dogs!
Dogs’ skin has a completely different pH value, and you could unintentionally increase the damage. Because with our four-legged friends, dandruff is often a little trickier.
Dog has White Dandruff in the Fur – what can be the Causes of Dandruff in Dogs?
Causes of dandruff in dogs at a glance
- Wrong diet – under or oversupply of nutrients
- Allergies and intolerances
- Coat change
- Parasite infestation
- Psychological problems in dogs
- A disturbed gastrointestinal environment
- Dry heating air
- Frequent bathing – thus disturbed pH-value
- Diseases like seborrhea
When a dog has dandruff, there can be a wide variety of causes behind it – Here’s a summary of the most common causes of dandruff in dogs:
- Dry air
Just like with us humans, dry (heating) air can also lead to dry skin and dandruff in our four-legged friends.
- Excessive shampooing
But also, too frequent bathing and shampooing or using too “sharp” drying shampoos can trigger dandruff in dogs.
- Systemic diseases
In addition, many systemic diseases (i.e., diseases that affect more or less the whole body) can also lead to dandruff. The most common of these are two diseases that are not uncommon in dogs: hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition that classically (but not always) occurs in middle-aged dogs of medium to large breeds. In this case, the thyroid gland can no longer produce sufficient thyroid hormones. Sometimes fine dandruff in the trunk area is the only symptom, but often the dogs are also somewhat listless and tired and – although not fed more than usual – gain weight. There may also be hairless areas.
On the other hand, Cushing’s syndrome is the “typical” hormonal disease in middle-aged to old dogs of small breeds. This is usually due to a (usually benign) tumor in the pituitary gland (hypophysis) to a pathologically increased production of the stress hormone cortisol in the adrenal glands. However, a so-called “Iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome” can also occur. This is, in a sense, an “artificial” form of the disease. It can occur when a dog is given a lot of cortisone from the outside, usually over a long period of time, e.g., in the form of tablets for allergies.
In most cases, the affected dogs show other symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome, such as increased thirst/drinking a lot, frequent passing of large amounts of urine (polyuria/polydipsia), an abnormally increased appetite (polyphagia), a fat, barrel-shaped belly with slender legs, panting and often hairless areas.
However, in addition to these two common diseases, other systemic diseases may also cause dandruff, such as diabetes mellitus (diabetes), liver and kidney diseases, leishmaniasis, intestinal parasites and other intestinal diseases.
Unfortunately, many of our dogs are now plagued by allergies – and dandruff can be part of the symptoms. All types of allergies – flea saliva, food allergies and environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis), and contact allergies – are possible causes.
A wrong and not species-appropriate diet also includes ingredients that can trigger allergies in the dog. Common symptoms of allergies or intolerances are also itching and dandruff in dogs.
Especially cereals, attractants, protein substitutes, and preservatives are not healthy for the organism of the four-legged friend. They can trigger immune reactions, which then express themselves in intolerances or allergies.
Therefore, we always recommend a purely natural food for dogs, which is free of artificial additives and covers your dog’s nutritional needs. If you want to change the food of your favorite, make sure that the change does not happen too suddenly – because the change from old food to new can be exhausting for your dog. In addition, physical reactions such as diarrhea in the dog, skin problems with dandruff or general malaise can result.
- Skin parasites
Tiny parasites that live in and on the skin can also cause dandruff in dogs. One species of a parasite called Cheyletiella is called “walking dandruff” because of the scaling that typically occurs when they infest (and because of their appearance). The little pests are highly contagious (even to cats, rabbits and humans!) and are usually manifested by scales on the back. Some dogs also show itching, while others do not scratch more than usual.
If your dog scratches extremely hard and the scales appear, especially on the ears, elbows and possibly on the belly, it could very well be an infestation with Sarcoptes mites. This mite can also cause itching in humans.
Demodex mites (hair follicle mites) are also a possible cause of dandruff. Usually, only smaller, restricted areas are affected, where the hair also falls out. Itching usually only occurs if the areas are additionally infected with bacteria or yeast fungi. The disease is not contagious to other animals or humans.
- Skin fungus (dermatophytosis)
Skin fungi (dermatophytes, e.g., Microsporum canis) can also be responsible for dandruff and manifest themselves classically as demarcated, round, hairless, scaly and possibly reddened skin areas. However, “only” a scaly coat may occur. The disease is contagious to humans and other animals, such as cats.
- Congenital disease
Some breeds tend to have dandruff in their blood, e.g., Doberman, Yorkshire Terrier, Pinscher or Cocker Spaniel. However, in this often mild, congenital form, no other cause for dandruff can be found (nevertheless, one should first examine these breeds to see if there is another disease behind dandruff!)
A particularly severe congenital form is the extremely rare Ichthyosis. Here the puppies are usually born with massive dandruff.
- Unbalanced food
A feed that is not balanced and contains too high or low amounts of certain nutrients (few essential fatty acids or amino acids) can also lead to a brittle coat and dandruff, especially in the trunk area.
My dog has dandruff – What can I do now?
- Too frequent washing – especially with shampoo dries out the skin and causes white dandruff in the dog’s coat. Therefore, use mild and natural shampoo for dogs with a pH of 7.5. Humans have a pH of 5.5.
- Dermatophytes are skin fungi that typically lead to the formation of white dandruff in the dog’s coat. They also sometimes bring round hairless patches and red, dry and scaly skin. Since there is a risk of infection for humans and other animals in the vicinity of the sick dog, you should visit the vet as soon as possible.
- Parasites are found on the dog’s skin just as they are on our own, and to a certain extent, they are completely normal and harmless. Cheyletiellen is a type of parasite that has even been nicknamed “walking scales” because of the scaling they cause. The small parasite looks precisely like a skin scale. Unfortunately, several skin parasites are also highly contagious and manifest in dogs by causing dandruff on the back. Cheyletiellen can cause dandruff and itching in dogs, but not every dog scratches more than usual when it has a Cheyletiellen infestation.
- Another cause of white dandruff in a dog’s coat is mites, especially Demodex mites, which attach to the hair follicle. Often only certain areas are infested, which can be recognized by the dog’s hair loss and dandruff or scaly skin on the back. Demodex mites, after all, are not contagious to humans or other animals. And they only itch your dog if the affected skin areas are infected with fungus or bacteria.
- If the dog food is not balanced and contains too much or too little of certain essential nutrients, this can lead to white dandruff on the coat. Does my dog have dandruff or mites? This can usually only be clarified by a veterinarian.
My dog has Dandruff – When should you go to the Vet
If your dog’s dandruff development coincides with the onset of the cold season and the cranking up of the heat, you probably have nothing to worry about – assuming that he’s otherwise fine.
And even if you shampoo your dog regularly or have recently switched to a new shampoo, the cause could easily be here.
On the other hand, if dandruff only appears on pressure points such as the elbows or hocks, relatively harmless recumbent calluses could be behind it. The same applies to dandruff in areas where a collar or harness might rub.
You should have your dog checked by a veterinarian if the following symptoms occur:
- Hairless areas
- Drinking and peeing a lot
- Pathologically increased appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- the scales are rather crusty or adherent
- the skin is additionally changed (e.g., reddened, weeping, smelly, ulcerated)
- only single, delimited areas are affected, e.g., ear edges, areas in the face
- other animals or people in the household are affected, e.g., with itching or hairless/reddened areas (indication of infectious disease)
What examinations will the doctor perform on dogs with dandruff?
As with every visit to the vet, the first step is a preliminary consultation and a general clinical examination. Here, the veterinarian will look to see if the dog is otherwise well and if he notices any other changes besides dandruff (e.g., enlarged lymph nodes).
Your veterinarian may also perform blood and urine tests, depending on the dog’s age, previous report, and general examination results. This can provide clues to many diseases, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome.
Of course, in the case of dandruff, the veterinarian must also take a closer look at your dog’s skin. Depending on the suspected cause, various examinations may be considered:
- Parasite search
As described above, various parasites can be responsible for dandruff. And if your dog has such small lodgers, they should be found – because they are very unpleasant for dogs and possibly also contagious for other animals and humans.
The vet can perform various examination methods depending on the suspected parasite species. In the simplest case, your veterinarian simply presses a piece of adhesive tape onto the skin or fur of your dog. This will leave some skin cells and possibly parasites stuck to it, which can then be examined under a microscope.
Sometimes (for example, if Sarcoptes or Demodex mites are suspected), it may also be necessary to perform skin scraping. This is where the veterinarian carefully scrapes your dog’s skin with a scalpel (don’t worry, it’s less nasty than it sounds). The tiny parasites can then often be discovered in the skin samples obtained in this way.
Unfortunately, in some cases (e.g., Sarcoptes mites), these tests are only conclusive in positive cases – a negative result does not exclude an infestation. Therefore, even with a negative result, a trial treatment with an agent against mites is often carried out as a precaution.
- Cytological examination
To find out if there is an infection with bacteria or yeast fungi, a piece of adhesive tape or a microscope slide (a small glass plate) can be pressed onto the skin, as described above.
In both cases, the veterinarian can then see under the microscope whether an infection is present and which pathogens are present. This is important to know – because, of course the infection must be fought (and as targeted as possible).
- Skin fungus examination
Especially in the case of relatively demarcated, hairless areas with dandruff (and even more so if other animals or humans are also affected), it is essential to investigate whether a skin fungus is behind it.
The simplest and quickest methods are examining some plucked hairs under the microscope (so-called Trichogramma) and examining them with a special UV lamp. Unfortunately, both examinations are not 100% conclusive. They can only give first hints.
If a skin fungus is suspected, a so-called fungal culture should always be initiated. Here, the fungi are cultivated on a special nutrient medium. This examination is very reliable, but unfortunately, it takes some time (up to 4 weeks) until a result is available.
- Further examinations
Depending on the veterinarian’s suspicion, other examinations may be necessary, e.g., a determination of the thyroid hormones, an ultrasound examination of the abdomen or the removal of a tissue sample from the skin (biopsy).
Of course, you can very well go to your family veterinarian if your dog has dandruff. Nevertheless, I would like to mention here, for the sake of completeness, that there are also specialists for skin diseases in veterinary medicine. Especially in very severe cases or when the family veterinarian is stuck, they can be of great help.
In the “American College of Veterinary Dermatology,” you will surely find an expert near you.
What are the treatment options for dogs with dander?
In most cases, dandruff in dogs is not a disease but a symptom – that is, it is caused by something. So the best way to get rid of dandruff is to treat or fix the root cause.
However, there are a few additional measures that are often very supportive for dogs with dandruff:
Often special, medicinal shampoos are used. These contain special active ingredients such as sulfur, salicylic acid or ethyl lactate and often work very well. Your vet will recommend a shampoo that exactly matches your dog’s skin condition and will also tell you exactly how and how often to use it.
There are also conditioning sprays. Here, however, a disadvantage is that they are often not easy to get on the skin when the coat is thick.
Another option are special spot-on preparations like, e.g., Allerderm® Spot On from Virbac or Dermoscent® Essential 6 Spot On from Selectavet). These contain many caring ingredients (such as ceramides) and essential fatty acids and, according to experience, often work very well. They are simply applied to the dog’s skin in several places, similar to a tick/flea repellent, and from there, spread over the entire surface of the body.
In some cases, adding essential fatty acids (such as in the form of fish oil or linseed oil) to the dog’s food can also help.
Please be sure to consult your veterinarian when choosing a suitable product (especially shampoos). For example, some products are more suitable for oily skin than for dry skin. A wrong choice can then quickly have an opposite effect and aggravate the problem!
If, on the other hand, an underlying condition (e.g., parasites, hypothyroidism, bacterial infection) has been discovered, this must, of course, be treated in accordance with the doctor’s recommendations.
What can you do yourself to help in the treatment of dandruff?
If you suspect that dry heated air is behind your dog’s dandruff or at least exacerbates it, setting up a humidifier could be a simple solution. On the other hand, if you shampoo your dog frequently, you might try reducing the frequency, switching to a mild, conditioning shampoo, or using a grooming product afterward.
If you find the white scales almost exclusively on the neck or in the chest and belly area, you should look for another collar or harness. We also advise you to wear harnesses and collars only for walking so that skin and fur are not exposed to permanent friction.
If your dog suffers from scaly calluses, a caring cream or ointment like a Natural Dog Company Paw Soother Stick may be helpful.
And finally, of course, good, balanced food is important that contains all the necessary vitamins, trace elements and essential fatty acids.
My Dog has white dandruff in the fur: Am I doing the right coat care?
If you yourself have contributed to the problem with white dandruff in your Dog’s fur by frequent bathing or shampooing, the motto is: less is more! Sure, it’s great when your Dog smells great after an extensive shower with a fruity shampoo. But honestly, it’s only for you! Because dogs don’t like it at all when they can’t detect their own scent. And although many of these dog shampoos or bath products are touted as being optimal for dogs, they’re not.
Perfumes and surfactants irritate the sensitive, thin dog skin and not infrequently cause the formation of white dandruff in the Dog. Often, your dog is not so dirty that you have to lather him with a lot of shampoos. Clear water or a very mild and caring shampoo is the best alternative. All-natural ingredients do not irritate the skin in any way. For a dog with dandruff, coconut oil massaged into the skin is also good.
My Dog has white dandruff in the fur: Optimize digestion
Occasionally, white dandruff appears on a dog’s coat after prolonged use of medications. These bring, namely, not rarely the milieu in the intestine confused. Since health comes from within, it makes sense to rebalance your pet’s intestines. A Probio intestinal cure for dogs is ideal for this purpose.
Also, 100% natural plant substances ensure that intestinal functions are rebalanced and the functions of the digestive system are regulated. A valuable contribution to increasing the defense of your best friend. And at the same time a great way to give white dandruff in your Dog’s coat no chance at all!
My Dog has white Dandruff in the fur: target Food and Nutritional Supplements.
A key position, however, often takes the diet. A healthy immune system and a top-fit gastrointestinal tract are basic requirements for your Dog’s resistance. Remember, if your Dog has white dandruff on his coat, allergies or an unbalanced diet are often to blame.
Therefore, make sure that you give high-quality food that is as natural as possible. Even snacks should always be free of chemicals. If your Dog suddenly shows increased white dandruff in the fur, you should definitely support him with high-quality essential fatty acids.
Nutrients for healthy coat and vital skin in dogs
If diseases are ruled out in your four-legged friend, you can bring the skin and coat of your favorite back in order with a nutritional adjustment. If your dog has dandruff. Then the following food supplements can help:
- Brewer’s yeast: this natural product is known for its high vitamin B content and positive effect on skin and coat. Brewer’s yeast is extracted from beer sludge, the waste product of beer production, and then dried. The yeast cultures contained in it have an effect on the gastrointestinal tract and thus provide important microorganisms for the structure of the intestine. As a side effect, brewer’s yeast for dogs contributes to a shiny coat and vital skin due to its ingredients.
- Salmon oil: Salmon oil for dogs contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which support the natural metabolism of the dog. The fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are present in the cell membrane and contribute to the elasticity and fluidity of the membranes. Salmon oil is also widely used as a dietary supplement in the human sector. As an alternative, salmon oil capsules can be fed to the dog.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil for dogs has also proven its worth in feed supplements and coat care. It contains the important lauric acid, a fatty acid that is up to 53% in coconut oil. Medium-chain fatty acid is important for energy metabolism and the immune system.
- Propolis: This natural bee product is used by insects as a building material to seal the hive. It protects against germs and promotes wound healing. Especially dogs that scratch more often should be additionally fed with propolis powder. It strengthens the immune system and maintains healthy skin.
- Other proven food supplements for healthy skin and vital coats are hemp oil, linseed oil and seaweed meal. If you are not sure which supplements are suitable for your dog, simply contact a veterinary practitioners, a animal nutrition experts and your veterinarian.
If your dog has dandruff, this is no reason to panic immediately. Some flakes in the coat of your dog are quite natural and are simply part of cell renewal and coat growth. However, if the dandruff is long-lasting, other causes may be responsible.
Underlying diseases, incorrect diet, or even psychological stress lead to increased scratching in the dog and can be manifested by dandruff in the fur. Then you should schedule a visit with your trusted veterinarian to determine the exact cause.
In addition, you can provide valuable vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to the skin and coat of your favorite with natural food supplements.