How to Get Rid of Dog Dandruff: What Will Help?

dog dandruff
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dandruff is a skin condition which is more often than not accompanied by skin irritation and itching. It is a very common condition in humans, and similarly, your dog is also susceptible. If you have suffered a case of dandruff, it is not an experience you would wish on your pooch. Arming yourself with information on how to get rid of dog dandruff is the first step towards alleviating your furry companion’s misery.

According to our in-depth research, the aesthetically displeasing condition is totally treatable without causing serious complications to your pet. We have also established that for some dog breeds, spotting dandruff is quite easy, but for those with long hair, it may require closer evaluation. Simply put, your dog could suffer in silence if you didn’t know where or how to look. Not to worry, though; we’ve got your back.

Besides taking you through various approaches to use when dealing with dog dandruff, we will also fill you in on everything else you need to know concerning dogs and how to get rid of dog dandruff fast below.

Understanding the Dandruff Condition in Dogs

dog dandruff

When your dog’s skin becomes dry, there is an overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands. These are the glands responsible for producing the oils that nourish and protect his skin. When in excess, the oils irritate your dog’s skin, leading to flaking or shedding of old skin cells. This eventually leads to dandruff, also commonly referred to as seborrhea.

The terms are often used interchangeably by veterinarians, but seborrhea is actually the cause of dandruff. The dandruff is visible on your dog’s coat as white flakes evident after brushing. Doggy dandruff in itself is not a serious problem to your pooch, but it definitely compromises your pup’s quality of life.

Types of Dog Dandruff

Dandruff in dogs has different classifications depending on the cause or condition. Let’s dive in:

#1: Primary Seborrhea

American Cocker Spaniels

This is dandruff that results from genetic (inherited) diseases or systemic conditions like hypothyroidism, adrenal disease, or diabetes passed down your pup’s family tree.

The dog’s cells mostly have defects in cornification or keratinization. However, dandruff resulting from primary seborrhea is very rare. Dog breeds that are most susceptible to primary seborrhea include:

#2: Secondary Seborrhea

dog itching

This one is actually more common and the major cause of doggy dandruff. All dog breeds can get dandruff from secondary seborrhea because they are all exposed to external factors. It is often caused by things like allergies or other underlying diseases. We will have more details about this later.

#3: Dry Dandruff


Also referred to as seborrhea sicca, this is a type of dandruff caused by the drying of your dog’s skin. Dog breeds that are more susceptible to develop dry dandruff include:

#4: Oily Dandruff

Basset Hound

Also referred to as seborrhea oleosa, this is characterized by oiliness and an odor. Naturally, there are dog breeds that are more likely to inherit this condition, and they include:

Surprisingly enough, both the dry and oily dandruff may co-occur.

What Causes Dandruff in Dogs?

There are numerous causes of dandruff in dogs. Almost all of them involve allergen-related triggers. Below, we explain each.

#1: Climate (Weather)

dog in snow

This cause is very interesting; each dog copes and responds to drastic weather changes differently. Naturally, during the cold months, the temperatures fall quite low. The result? Dry air or low humidity. This can deny your pet’s skin essential moisture. Consequently, his skin becomes flaky, dry, as well as sensitive.

Your canine friend can also be affected in the warmer summer months, particularly because of seasonal environmental allergies.

#2: Grooming

brushing a dog

How you do the grooming and the frequency can determine whether your dog gets dandruff or not. For example, regular brushing helps to shed flakes and distribute the natural oil evenly on your dog’s coat.

On the other hand, excessive grooming should be avoided too; bathing your dog too frequently can strip away the oils, leading to dry skin. Use of harsh cleaning products can also lead to irritation or drying out of the skin, leading to dandruff and other skin issues.

#3: Allergies

dog allergy

Allergies cause a condition called atopic dermatitis, which causes dandruff and its associated symptoms. Your canine friend may be allergic to toxins or substances that cause skin irritations. Such may include food ingredients, household cleaning products, chemicals, dust, or even things like spring pollen.

A common allergy in dogs is flea allergy dermatitis. It makes your dog allergic to flea saliva, which results in dandruff.

#4: Dog Diet

dog and water

Feeding your dog the wrong diet can lead to dandruff. This is because they mostly get skin and coat nourishing nutrients from it. Some processed foods contain irritants such as soy, yeast grain, and dairy, which increase dandruff. Also, diets low in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to dandruff.

To help your dog avoid dandruff, you can supplement his diet, and most important of all, give him enough water.

#5: Parasites


This includes both internal and external parasites. External parasites like biting lice, sucking lice, cheyletiella mite, Demodex, and lesions cause skin irritation which makes your dog nibble, scratch, and also lick his skin, potentially leading to further irritation and secondary infections.

#6: Bacterial and Fungal Infections


Fungal as well as bacterial infections like ringworm on the skin often result in increased flaking. Puppies are more susceptible to contagious bacterial infections because of their weaker and developing immune systems. For bacterial infections that lead to dandruff, you should visit a holistic veterinarian for further medication and advice.

#7: Skin Infections and Disorders

puuppy itching

Skin disorders like hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormone) and Cushing’s Disease (excessive cortisol production) can make your dog have irritations and itchiness that result in dandruff.

#8: Underlying Medical Disorders

dog is ill

Lastly, your furry family member could be getting dandruff because of unknown underlying medical disorders. Often, it happens when the dog develops metabolic conditions which inhibit the turnover rate of skin cells. Examples include diabetes, kidney, or liver diseases.

How to Identify the Causes of Dandruff on Your Dog’s Skin

checking dog's coat

The key to freeing your pet from dandruff is identifying the cause. A correct diagnosis helps to unmask other medical conditions like mange or skin disorders that are related to doggy dandruff.

  • First, you can check whether the dandruff is localized or affecting your dog’s whole body. If your dog has itching, dry, irritated skin without the presence of white flakes, that could indicate a more serious condition called mange. It is caused by Demodex mites or Sarcoptes.
  • If you happen to notice movements on his coat, it may be an indication that your dog’s dandruff is caused by cheyletiella mites. These mites are actually too small to see with your eyes; chances are you will only spot their eggs.
  • If your dog is getting dandruff at certain times of the year, the climate or weather may be the cause. You can put humidifiers if he gets dandruff in the winter, and if you notice improvement, the dandruff is surely related to weather.
  • If you notice dandruff levels lowering after switching to a high-quality well-rounded diet, the dandruff problem must have come from irritants in your dog’s food.
  • You can also check if there are springy little wingless insects on your dog’s skin. They can have different colors from reddish-brown to black. These are fleas which cause dandruff and may indicate that your dog has the flea allergy dermatitis condition.

Dog dandruff diagnosis can sometimes be tricky. If you get confused or concerned, this is where the input of a vet becomes necessary. The vet will take an oral history of your pup’s condition and do a physical examination.

The vet might ask you questions related to your dog’s diet, behavior, activity levels, and how frequently he hydrates and urinates. These and other factors will help the vet to easily narrow down on the underlying cause of dandruff.

If this proves unhelpful, the vet carries out widespread testing. This can be skin scraping to look at the dog’s hair and skin cells for any indication of mites. The vet can also get samples of your dog skin, hair, as well as any potential pest by combing your dog with a flea comb. In addition, the vet may carry out blood tests.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Dandruff

dog licking a paw

There are obvious signs and symptoms that can indicate your dog is having dandruff problems. Below, we have listed the most common signs you should be on the lookout for when examining your pooch.

  • Dry, flaky skin. Depending on your dog’s breed, the skin can be either dry or oily.
  • You see your dog itching and getting irritated. This makes him scratch and lick his skin for relief.
  • Baldness and hair loss on the skin. This often results from constant itching and scratching.
  • Bumps, scabs, or raised pimples on your dog’s skin. This also happens when your dog keeps scratching and licking himself.

How to Get Rid of Dog Dandruff

We all want to see our dogs looking healthy and adorable. Here are the different ways you can relieve your dog from the dandruff problem.

#1: Grooming Your Dog Properly

bathing a dog

Your dog should be kept clean. Bathe him using moisturizing dog shampoo to remove and keep away any toxins and contaminants. For oily dandruff, look for a shampoo that contains sulfur, iodine, or systolic acid.

On the other hand, look for a dog shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide or selenium sulfide to treat dry dandruff. As mentioned above, do not overdo the bathing as it can work against him.

#2: Brushing Your Dog Regularly

brushing a dog

Use a dog brush to give him a good daily rub, once or twice a day. This will help to remove skin flakes as well as loose hair. It will make his coat shine and also make him feel good. Beyond that, brushing him will stimulate his skin and help in the distribution of natural oils that protect and nourish him.

While at it, use the right type of dog brush; one that is too soft won’t bring results while a hard one will aggravate him. Choose a brush that fits the type (breed) of your dog, his type of coat, and his tolerance for brushing.

See Also: Best Dog Brush

#3: Administering Anti-Parasitic Medications

pill for a dog

This is an effective way to treat flea allergy dermatitis and other types of dandruff caused by parasites. This method requires the input of a vet who can recommend the right medications. You can also spray your home and areas that your dog frequents to eliminate any fleas or mites.

#4: Run Humidifiers During the Cold Months

dog playing in snow

Winter is a period when the air becomes dry, and your dog’s skin doesn’t benefit from much-needed moisture found in the air. Humidifiers will help prevent the formation of dandruff.

#5: Improve Your Dog’s Diet

omega-3 fatty acid

If the dandruff is linked to poor diet, you can start feeding your dog with high-quality, nutritionally balanced food. The food should contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these help your dog to maintain healthy skin. In addition, they improve your dog’s skin and coat. You should consult a vet on which food to switch to.

#6: Provide Your Dog with Plenty of Drinking Water

dog drinking water

The water should be fresh and clean. This will help him maintain his hydration which reduces skin dryness and flakiness. When it is cold, your dog will most likely refuse to drink; you can warm the water a little to encourage him.

#7: Provide Your Dog with Supplements

vitamins for a dog

The supplements should contain things like zinc, vitamins A, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acid. These help his body to deal with any arising skin conditions. Supplements, such as zinc, help to boost your dog’s immune system. Vitamins A and E help in skin nourishment. Fish oil and coconut oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

#8: A Quick Solution

washing a dog

Sometimes, a dog’s dandruff condition may call for a quick fix. Follow these steps to get rid of dandruff in about 20 minutes.

  • Thoroughly wet your dog with water
  • Apply dog shampoo directly on him. Alternatively, you can dilute with some warm water
  • Massage and work it into his coat from the head, legs, to his tail
  • Wait 10 minutes
  • Re-lather and rinse your pooch thoroughly
  • Finally, apply moisturizer

The above steps will help remove dandruff from his skin momentarily. But remember that this won’t prevent or control dandruff formation in the future. It is preferable to explore all the other methods mentioned above to completely deal with dandruff.

#9: Treating Walking Dandruff

treating a dog

Walking dandruff, which is also called Cheyletiellosis, is highly contagious and severe. It is characterized by excessive shedding of a dog’s flaky skin.

It is recommended that you keep other animals away from your dog if he has it. It is caused by Cheyletiella mites which burrow into a dog’s skin and coat. They lay their eggs there, and this becomes very irritating for your dog.

Besides other tell-tale signs of dandruff, this type of dandruff shows visible movements on the skin. Walking dandruff is an indication of serious underlying conditions. It is wise to visit the vet rather than do home dandruff treatment. This is because your dog will need medication to help him cope.

Treatment for Cheyletiellosis is quite different from regular dandruff treatment since it is caused by mites. To kill off the mites and any eggs that may have been laid on your dog’s coat, your pooch will need to undergo regular weekly treatments. The treatment involves a lime sulfur dip. In addition, you may be advised to use sprays and pyrethrin shampoos.

If the condition is really bad, your vet will recommend some flea control medications such as a drug called Ivermectin. It is administered subcutaneously or orally. However, you should note that this drug is not recommended for all dog breeds as it can be toxic to some of them. That said, don’t try it without your vet’s permission.

Finally, you should clean your dog’s kennel, wash all his linen and beddings, as well as scour all surfaces he visits to eliminate any possible future infestations.

#10: Homemade Dog Dandruff Treatments

lime juice

There are a few home remedies for treating dog dandruff. Most have been proven to be effective and safe. However, each dog is unique and may react differently. If you observe that the irritation is getting worse, you should cease the natural treatment immediately.

Lime juice is rich in vitamin C. Since vitamin C is good for treating dandruff, consider rinsing your dog with lime juice mixed with an equal amount of water. First, you should bathe him with all-natural dog shampoo and follow it up with the rinse.

Fenugreek helps your dog by providing relief from itchy, dry, flaky skin. To prepare the paste, soak some fenugreek seeds in several cups of water. This will soften them up. The next day, add more water and mix to make a paste. Apply the paste on your dog’s skin and wait for about one hour. Lastly, wash it off and shampoo your dog.

Coconut oil and olive oil help act as natural moisturizers for your dog’s itchy flaky skin. Despite their purpose being similar, their method of use is quite different. When it comes to olive oil, you can rub it directly into your dog’s fur and skin on a daily basis.

As for coconut oil, you should use it as a rinse. It is recommended that you use 100% organic, human-grade and cold-pressed coconut oil. The rinse should be a concession made by mixing it with equal amounts of water. After rinsing your dog, wait for a few minutes then wash it off with a dog shampoo. The frequency of use should be once a week.

Apart from using coconut oil topically, you can supplement your dog’s food with it. Both coconut oil and olive help your dog by boosting his skin’s resistance to yeast and making it much healthier.

See Also: How Much Coconut Oil Can I Give My Dog?

Apple cider vinegar helps prevent and treat itchiness and dandruff on your dog’s skin. It shou

ld also be mixed with equal parts of water to make a solution. It should be applied after bathing your furry family member.

Alternatively, it can be applied using a soft cloth for spot treatment (localized dandruff). You can use it daily until you notice the desired improvement.

Another way to treat dandruff is rinsing your dog with Listerine mouthwash. Listerine mouthwash contains ingredients such as thymol, menthol, and methyl salicylate. These ingredients are very helpful in treating fungal infections and yeast, both of which are culprits in causing dandruff.

The Listerine should be mixed with equal parts of water. Use the solution as a rinse after bathing your pooch. After around 10 minutes, you can wash it off.

Although the homemade remedies above use natural products and should be quite safe, it’s still best if you could consult a vet before administering any medication.

Wrap Up

happy dog

Dandruff affects dogs as much as it affects humans, and needless to say, our canine friends also need relief. Understanding the cause of your dog’s dandruff helps you to choose the best method of dealing with the condition.

While some types of dandruff can be identified and controlled at home, you may need the intervention of a vet for others. With the above information, you can choose the option that best suits your pooch.

The sooner you deal with dandruff, the sooner your pooch will look, smell, and feel his best. Some of the methods of getting rid of dog dandruff require consistency and patience, but that shouldn’t keep from you being there for your dog.

Have you dealt with a case of dog dandruff before? We would like to hear about it. Did you find this article helpful? Share your comments with us below and don’t miss out on our next article related to dog skin problems.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.