Dog Dandruff: Causes and Natural Treatments
Dog Dandruff: Causes and Natural Treatments
Those little white flakes you spot on your dog’s coat may not be a serious problem, but they can signal that your dog’s health is compromised beneath the surface. Dog dandruff is usually a secondary condition that springs from a deeper issue. Even if your pup seems perfectly healthy, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it before you be rid of those flakes and dry skin for good.
Dog dandruff (seborrhea) as a primary condition is rare. There’s a small chance that oily, flaky skin is a hereditary issue or the result of a systemic condition like adrenal disease, hypothyroidism, or diabetes. However, it’s more likely that your dog’s dandruff results from one of the following:
There are two types of dandruff: dry (seborrhea sicca) and oily (seborrhea oleosa). The two may co-occur. Identifying dandruff is usually pretty straightforward. Skin dryness or an overproduction of skin cells cause skin to flake off, while excess oil produced by the sebaceous glands produces oiliness and an odor. The itchiness leads your dog to scratch, nibble, and lick its own skin, potentially causing further irritation.
If you suspect the condition is severe and you think there might be a chronic underlying cause, skip the home treatment and visit a holistic veterinarian. Your veterinarian may need to perform skin scrapings or blood tests to diagnose the root of the problem and offer adequate dog dandruff treatment. Don’t wait for your pup to get more and more uncomfortable as her symptoms worsen.
How Do I Know What’s Causing My Dog’s Dandruff?
If the case of dandruff is mild and accompanied by minor itching and no open sores, you may not need to visit a veterinarian to discover the source of your dog’s dandruff. There are a few safe and natural tactics you can try at home to pinpoint the cause and help your pup overcome this uncomfortable, itchy problem. You may want to try these one at a time in the order of “most likely” to “least likely.” That way, you can more easily observe the exact cause of the dandruff, weed out unlikely factors, and prevent the condition from developing again in the future.
First, if you see your dog itching at dry, irritated skin and you don’t see white flakes characteristic of dandruff, your dog may have a different, more serious conditions such as mange, which is caused by sarcoptes or demodex mites. Mange can expose your dog to serious complications, like bacterial infections and sores. Check out our article on dog mites if you’re not sure whether the problem you’re seeing is mere dandruff. If you suspect your dog has mange, visit a holistic veterinarian before the condition worsens.
If you think the climate may be drying out your dog’s skin, try purchasing a humidifier for your home and see if that helps. You can also try a moisturizing oatmeal and honey dog shampoo made with all-natural ingredients. Honey is a natural humectant, which means it helps the skin retain moisture. Regardless of the underlying cause of the dandruff, a gentle shampoo free of harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances is a safe way to help alleviate symptoms.
You may see movement along your dog’s coat, which, as mentioned above, may indicate the presence of cheyletiella mites (again, these are not the same as the mites that cause mange). Mites are too tiny to see with the naked eye, but you may be able to see the eggs if you comb through the dog’s hair with a fine-toothed comb or dab with a piece of clear tape. If you suspect the presence of this type of mite, you don’t need to run straight to a veterinarian’s office. First, wash all of your dog’s bedding and plush toys as well as any furniture, rugs, or sheets she might have come into contact with. Wash your dog with warm water and gentle shampoo. Patiently comb through the hair and rinse again. Dogs contract mites through close contact with other dogs (and cats), so keep your pet away from daycare, dog parks, and boarding facilities while you wait to see if the condition clears up. Humans can contract cheyletiella mites, but they can’t complete their lifecycle on human skin. They may cause momentary and minor skin irritation on you or other people in your household, but that will resolve itself, especially if you wash with warm water.
You shouldn’t bathe your dog more than once or twice a month with a soapy cleanser. Frequent baths can lead to an unbalanced PH and skin irritation, especially if there are harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances in your shampoo. Try a gentler dog shampoo or stop bathing your dog for a few weeks to see if a product may be the source of the irritation. If you regularly make professional grooming appointments for your dog, hold off for a little while and see what happens.
Now, let’s talk about allergies. “Allergies” is such a broad terms covering a host of potential irritants, so it can be intimidating to consider. But the solution may be as simple as upgrading your furry best friend’s diet from processed food containing common irritants (like grain, dairy, and soy) to a natural, organic, and well-rounded diet that supplies the needed vitamins and minerals. Switching to high quality food is an essential step of holistic health treatment, and is preferable to simply treating the surface symptoms of a problem. A healthy diet will in turn help your dog maintain a healthy, shiny coat.
Another possibility is that your dog has flea allergy dermatitis. If you see springy little wingless insects ranging in color from reddish-brown to black, you may need to rid your dog and home of fleas before investigating other potential causes of the dandruff.
If you think your dog may suffer from allergies but don’t see any improvement after switching to quality food, healthier treats, and natural skin care products, you may need to visit a holistic veterinarian who can help diagnose your dog’s allergies and their sources.
Puppies are more likely to have contagious bacterial infections due to their developing immune systems and close contact with other dogs. If your dog is younger than one year old, you may want to visit a holistic veterinarian before you try home remedies.
Some breeds, such as basset hounds, cocker spaniels, labrador retrievers, and dachshunds, are just naturally more prone to dandruff. However, finding that your dog’s breed is prone to this condition doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to alleviate it. A healthy diet and a gentle routine of brushing and bathing with the right skin care products should improve the situation.
Other Dog Dandruff Treatment Tips
It can take some experimenting to find out the underlying cause of your dog’s dandruff. While you wait and make observations, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your dog is healthy and comfortable:
The best way to ensure that your dog won’t repeatedly struggle with dandruff or other skin conditions is to treat your dog holistically and make lifestyle changes. Diet, exercise, and every choice you make about products - from treats to dog shampoo - has an effect on your dog’s overall health. Don’t just tackle the symptoms of dandruff; make sure your pup is living a well-rounded, healthy life.