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How to Deal With Dog Dandruff

Finding little white flakes around the house? Dog dandruff can be caused by multiple factors, including diet, grooming, and parasites.

 |  Jul 29th 2014  |   0 Contributions


If white flakes start appearing around your house, particularly in those spots where your dogs or puppies spend a lot of time, you may have a case of dog dandruff on your hands. While it's not the subject of as many television commercials as human dandruff, dog dandruff can be a problem for our canine friends. If you are prone to dog allergies, then excessive dog dandruff can be problematic for you as well.

Dog dandruff may indicate a range of treatable issues, from simple dry skin to a parasitic infestation. The three most common causes of dog dandruff are environment, diet, and grooming. Let's learn about the causes of and approaches to dealing with dog dandruff!

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Brushing your dog between regular baths can help prevent dog dandruff. Happy Wheaten terrier running outside with a dog brush in its mouth, wanting a groom by Shutterstock.

What causes dog dandruff?

Environmental causes of dog dandruff include dramatic atmospheric shifts or seasonal changes -- from spring to summer or fall to winter -- when natural moisture in the air suddenly decreases. Dog dandruff may also be caused by more localized environmental changes, including exposure to allergens or household cleaning products. Dietary causes of dog dandruff include dehydration or a lack of healthy fats in a dog's food.

Grooming causes of dog dandruff include infrequent brushing or bathing, as well as unsanitary living conditions. On the other hand, dry skin and flaking can be the result of too much grooming. If your dog is being bathed too often, say, more than once or twice a month, the natural oils present on an otherwise healthy dog may not get a chance to accumulate.

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Dog dandruff accompanied by excessive scratching may be a sign of a fungal or parasitic infestation. dog sitting and scratching itself on the grass by Shutterstock.

Less common causes of dog dandruff include opportunistic fungal or parasitic infestations. A condition known as seborrhea in dogs occurs when a dog's skin produces excessive amounts of oil. The common fungal cause of dog dandruff related to seborrhea in dogs is a variety of yeast called Malassezia.

The parasite associated with dog dandruff is the Cheyletiella mite, which disproportionately affects puppies. Similar to the cause of mange in dogs, the mite is naturally occurring, but when conditions are right, the mites that cause Cheyletiellosis become too numerous for a dog's immune system to contain. These mites can live for several days away from a host, and their eggs can remain in dog bedding even longer.

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Walking dandruff, or Cheyletiellosis, isn't dandruff at all, but an opportunistic parasite that tends to affect puppies. portrait of a cute purebred puppy chihuahua in front of white background by Shutterstock.

Symptoms of dog dandruff

Identifying the symptoms associated with dog dandruff may help you narrow down the cause and determine a course of action. The iconic symptom of dog dandruff is, of course, small white flakes. These flakes are usually dead skin cells, and are particularly noticeable on dogs with darker coats, or may be conspicuous on a dog's bed or other places around the home.

In cases of fungal or parasitic dog dandruff, you may be alerted by your dog's excessive scratching or biting and the skin lesions that these repetitive actions yield. Where cheyletiellosis, also called "walking dandruff," is concerned, you may notice that the little flakes are moving. Walking dandruff, like mange in dogs, relies on dogs and puppies who have weak or underdeveloped immune systems. Also like mange, walking dandruff typically occurs where unsanitary conditions prevail.

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A veterinarian can help you determine the cause of and appropriate treatment for dog dandruff. Veterinarian examining the ear of a cute dog by Shutterstock.

Treating dog dandruff

If your dog has a standard form of dandruff, caused by sudden atmospheric change, diet, or irregular grooming, the solutions can be relatively simple. In cases of seasonal change or irregular grooming, the solution may be as simple as putting your dog on a more regular bathing schedule, brushing your dog between baths, or altering your dog's grooming habits to fit the season. Dogs with excessive dandruff can be treated with specially formulated dog dandruff shampoos. You should never use human dandruff shampoos or treatments, which contain chemicals harmful to a dog's skin.

Is the cause of dog dandruff dietary? Since dehydration can cause dog dandruff, make sure your dog has ready access to fresh water at all times. Perhaps your dog's food has insufficient fat content; you may consider dietary supplements or changing your dog's regular food for one that contains more of the healthy fats that your dog's skin health requires.

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There are dandruff shampoos specially formulated for a dog's fur and skin. Never use human dandruff shampoos to treat dog dandruff. A sweet Bulldog puppy sitting in a bath tub in a flower garden by Shutterstock.

When the cause of dog dandruff is fungal or parasitic, and the symptoms are clearly causing your dog discomfort or pain, you should consult with your veterinarian. Walking dandruff caused by mites should be of special concern. Cheyletiellosis is a zoonotic disorder, meaning it can spread to other pets as well as to humans. Homes that are afflicted by walking dandruff should be rigorously disinfected, and any bedding disposed of properly to destroy mite eggs and prevent recurrence.

How do you deal with dog dandruff?

Have you ever been troubled by a flaky dog or puppy? What caused your dog's dandruff? Were you able to successfully determine and treat dog dandruff? Have you found that certain dog breeds are more prone to dog dandruff than others? Share your experiences, home remedies, and best dog grooming habits in the comments!

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