Has your pooch been leaving behind white flakes on their favorite spot on the couch? Your canine companion might have dandruff, which could be a sign of health problems. Join our Pico Rivera vets to learn about signs and treatments for dandruff in dogs. 

Do dogs really get dandruff?

They definitely do! Dogs, like humans, develop dandruff when dead skill cells flake off faster than usual, settling on your pet's fur or hair. These dry flakes accumulate on dogs' backs (particularly near the tail), and you may notice them while petting or scratching your dog.

Your dog's skin, like yours, has glands that produce iul (sebum), which helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple. If the glands produce too much sebum, it can cause imbalances and dandruff. Dogs are susceptible to both types of seborrheic dermatitis: seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea (oily).

Why do dogs get dandruff?

Dandruff can affect any breed of dog and be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic conditions (for example, primary seborrhea in Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels), but it is most commonly caused by environmental or health factors.

Although not exhaustive, here are some common causes of dandruff in dogs:

Dry Air

Dogs are more prone to dry skin in winter months, just like their human families; in areas where central ('forced') heat is the main source of warming the home, the issue can be worsened. If your pooch seems to be flaky in the winter, dry air could be the cause. 

External Parasites

Dogs may itch due to dry skin, but there are also a number of external parasites that can live on your dog's skin and cause significant distress. Well-known Cheyletiella mite parasites are large enough to be seen without a microscope and resemble white dandruff flakes, earning them the nickname 'Walking Dandruff.' If your dog's 'dandruff flakes' begin to move on their own, contact your veterinarian right away for parasite prevention. Some parasites, such as mites, are easily transmitted to other pets in the household.

Nutrition Issues

An improper or unbalanced diet can affect your dog's skin and coat. Fatty acid-rich foods (such as omega-3s and omega-6s) are essential for your pet's skin and hair health, but only your veterinarian can tell you whether your pet requires additional nutrients.

Skin Infections

Dog dandruff can also be caused by skin bacterial and fungal infections, which are adept at exploiting cracks or weaknesses in your dog's skin. To resolve the dandruff problem, these underlying conditions must be addressed.


Skin problems are often the first sign of an allergy to food or something in your dog's environment. In addition to other symptoms such as recurrent ear and skin infections, dogs with allergies may become flakier and more itchy at different times of the year. Dandruff is also commonly found.

Hormonal Conditions

Diseases like Cushing's or hypothyroidism can affect your dog's skin health, which, along with a compromised immune system, can make them more susceptible to secondary infections.

Idiopathic (Spontaneous) Seborrhea

If the cause of your dog's dandruff cannot be determined, it may be classified as 'idiopathic,' which means that while treatment for symptoms of dry, flaky skin in dogs can be effective, the underlying cause may not be identified. Your veterinarian can provide you with more information on how to manage your pet's condition.

Although dandruff is annoying and can be uncomfortable for many dogs, it is usually not a cause for concern if it is mild or seasonal. If your pet exhibits signs of dry, flaky skin in addition to these symptoms, take him or her to the vet for a physical examination:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin odor
  • Excessive dandruff
  • Loss of hair/fur
  • Irritated, red skin
  • Excessive licking of paws or legs
  • Signs of feeling unwell or being uncomfortable

Your dog's symptoms and your vet's findings will determine the next course of action, which could include further diagnostic testing to confirm any issues such as underlying health problems, allergic reactions, or potential parasites. 

Treatment for Dog Dandruff

Luckily, most milder cases of dog dandruff can be treated at home with a combination of instructions and guidelines from your primary vet, and these helpful tips:

  • Groom your pet regularly to ensure their skin isn't overly oily and removes dead hair. Check with your vet before using grooming products on your dog.
  • Bathing your dog can help with dandruff outbreaks as well as bacterial and fungal skin infections. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo for your dog; carefully follow the directions. Don't over-bathe your dog, as this could aggravate the dandruff!
  • Supplements can be helpful, but be aware that many commercial supplements are not heavily regulated for pets. Ask your vet for recommendations.
  • Use a humidifier in your home if the air is dry. During winter months especially, your dog (and your family!) could find this helpful for preventing dry skin.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has dry, flaky skin, contact our Pico Rivera veterinarians to book an examination today! Our compassionate, skilled vet team will do all they can to have your canine companion feeling their best again.