Dog Dandruff: Causes, Symptoms, And How to Get Rid of It

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My dog Maggie has a lot of adorable habits.

She takes a stuffed animal with her to bed every night and spins in circles after she hears the words “dinner time.”

Her habits are the cutest, so when I noticed that she started scratching herself frequently one day, I started thinking about dandruff.

Can dogs even get dandruff?

I checked her all over, but didn’t notice any of the white flakes that accompany human dandruff.

It led me to research the facts behind dog dandruff and what I can do to help Maggie if it were an issue for her.

Dandruff isn’t the only reason why your dog might be scratching itself. Have you checked for fleas lately?

Can Dogs Get Dandruff?

You may think that dandruff is something teens only have to deal with during their awkward middle school years, but it can happen more frequently than that.

The good news is that humans and dogs often share the same dandruff causes.

What Causes Dandruff in Dogs?

Dog scratching itself constantly could it be dandruff how to tell itchiness
Gotta scratch that dandruff itch!

Like any condition, the causes for dog dandruff will be different for each dog.

Varying factors will affect each dog differently, which is why you should take your dog to the vet to find out what exactly is making your furry best friend so itchy.


Canine seborrhea is a very common cause of dog dandruff[1].

It comes in two forms:

  • Oily
  • Dry

Dry seborrhea creates the itchy skin and flakes you may easily recognize.

Oily seborrhea creates a buildup of oils in the armpits, ears and even elbows. It often leads to a constant bad odor and itching that causes hair loss.

Dry Skin

Dogs need to drink water daily, since they consist of 60 to 80 percent water[2].

Sometimes dogs forget to drink their water, like if they’ve had a slow day on the couch or they aren’t feeling good.

Keep an eye on your dog to make sure they drink water throughout the day. Coax them to drink more by playing with them or treating them to ice cubes.

Sometimes all they’ll need is a bit more water to rehydrate their skin.

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Cold Weather

Every year, I notice my hands getting dry when the weather gets cold.

How to identify dog dandruff seborrhea white flakes in under fur hair
If your dog is absolutely covered in white flakes then that might be snow, not dandruff!

I just get some lotion at the store and the problem’s solved, but dogs can’t share the same easy fix.

If your dog experiences dandruff when the weather gets cold, try to not bathe them as frequently and brush them every night.

You’ll save their natural oils and rehydrate their skin, and the brushing will stimulate the hair follicles to produce even more oil.

What Does Dog Dandruff Look Like

From a visual perspective, dog dandruff looks similar to human dandruff.

When you pet your pup, you’ll see white flakes at the base of their fur.

There are other symptoms too that may be more noticeable on your dog and are red flags you can spot earlier.

What about black dots and flakes? Those might be signs of fleas!

Dog Dandruff Symptoms

There’s more to dog dandruff than meets the eye.

If your dog is itching but doesn’t have the white flakes that accompany most cases of dandruff, they could still have it.

Dog chewing self constantly itchy dandruff signs symptoms causes treatments
Photo by Roban Kramer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Other symptoms may be:

  • Scratching/chewing
  • Redness
  • Thinning hair
  • Hair loss
  • Oily skin
  • Bad odor

Pay attention to how often your dog scratches to determine whether their symptoms may point to a case of dog dandruff.

Constant scratching followed by any of these symptoms may mean a trip to the vet.

Breeds Prone to Dandruff

Certain breeds will be more prone to diseases than others, and the same goes for dandruff.

Different breeds will be more susceptible to one of these two kinds of dog dandruff.

Oily Dandruff

What breeds get oily dry dandruff basset hounds genetic predisposition causes

Oily dandruff most commonly presents itself as more oil in the hair than usual and produces a bad odor.

The following breeds are more prone to oily dandruff:

  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Basset Hounds
  • Shar-Peis
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • English Springer Spaniels

Dry Dandruff

If your dog has dry dandruff, they’ll be itchy and flaky.

This is the more common dandruff, and these breeds will be more likely to struggle with it:

  • Irish Setters
  • Dachshunds
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans

How to Treat Dog Dandruff

Dog dandruff is not the end of the world.

It can be easily treated, even if you aren’t able to take them to a vet.

Try some of these treatments to see if they help your dog before making them an appointment.

Fight doggy dandruff with omega 3 fatty acids supplement Zesty Paws Omega Bites
You can also try supplements

Change Their Diet

You may not want to change your dog’s food, but it could be what they need.

Look for a brand that advertises omega-3 fatty acids or fish oils in their food. The oils soothe itchy skin and heal dandruff by regulating skin oils.

Dogs with dry skin could benefit from additional dietary oils[3].

CBD oil isn’t meant to help supplement your dog’s diet but it might be useful to help treat the stress of dandruff.

Groom Them Regularly

Brushing your dog’s fur on a regular basis will stimulate the hair glands to produce their natural oils.

This treatment is especially great for dogs that struggle with both dry skin and matted fur.

Buy a Humidifier

When the weather gets cold, the air dries out, which is why do many dogs experience dandruff in the winter.

Buying a humidifier and placing it where your dog spends the most time in your home will balance out the humidity in your home and ease their itchy skin.

Exercise Them Daily

Another way to jumpstart your dog’s natural oil production is to exercise them daily.

Their bodies will balance out their exercise with oil production to protect the skin and keep them ready for fun.

Pro Pet Works Oatmeal Pet Wash Shampoo for itchy scalp skin shampoo dandruffInvest in Dandruff Shampoos for Dogs

While your dog is trying to recover from dandruff, bathe them in the best dandruff shampoos.

Look for something that’s for sensitive skin and oatmeal-based.

It’ll calm your dog’s irritated skin while washing the dry flakes or overproduction of oil away.

Make a Homemade Dog Dandruff Remedy

Curing your dog’s dandruff could be as easy as adding some sunflower oil to their normal food[4].

A tablespoon per meal can go a long way.

You can also rub a few drops of olive oil on dry skin as an all-natural lotion.

Try a MedicationDog allergy relief Sentry antihistamine diphenhydramine HCl Benadryl medicine

Your vet may recommend that you give your dog allergy medication for their dandruff.

Dry or oily skin could be a reaction to an underlying allergy.

Typical allergy medication is a small dose of Benadryl or other over the counter antihistamines like Zyrtec.

The key is to look for a product that contains only antihistamine and not any other additives.


I monitored Maggie for a few days and found that she probably didn’t have dandruff.

She had just been shaved down at the groomers, so she was probably itching at her short summer shave.

In the future, I’ll know what symptoms to look for when it comes to dog dandruff, so I can treat it at home before worrying if it’s a more serious condition.


Is Dog Dandruff Contagious To Humans?

Most likely, no.

Your dog’s dandruff is probably related to seasonal allergies, a change in diet, or a change in the weather.

The only time dog dandruff is contagious is if it’s caused by the walking dandruff mite, but humans are still not the preferred host.

Can Stress Cause Dandruff in Dogs?

Stress does not cause dandruff in dogs, although it can easily be a symptom of their dandruff.

Constant itching will make them uncomfortable and cause their natural stress levels to rise.

Does Coconut Oil Help Dog Dandruff?

Yes, coconut oil can be a very helpful moisturizer for dogs with dry skin.

It can be given with food or applied to the skin as it’s a safe, all natural alternative.



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